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(Credit: Fionn Kidney)

Music

Why Amy Winehouse never appeared on 'Saturday Night Live'

@TylerGolsen

Not appearing on Saturday Night Live isn’t an egregious oversight for any upstart musician. The legendary American sketch show does have an uncanny ability to promote some of the biggest and most legendary figures, both modern and classic, but it’s still just another television series. Plenty of great acts never appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show or Soul Train either.

But Saturday Night Live is undeniably one of America’s most important programmes. It’s the kind of show that gets extensive scholarly attention and constantly-updated oral histories, even when it’s mostly a goofy insight into flipping burgers and needing more cowbell. One visit to Studio 8H, and you’ve already automatically made television history. As long as you avoid the F-bombs, do your scheduled song, and don’t talk about feminine hygiene, you might even get asked back.

Every once in a while, though, forces beyond most people’s control prevent musicians from taking the stage at 30 Rock on Saturday night. The Grateful Dead were scheduled to make their second appearance on SNL at the end of the show’s disastrous sixth season, but the 1981 Writers Guild Strike forced SNL to take an early break. Nearly three decades later, an eerily similar event would prevent Amy Winehouse from appearing on the programme.

When SNL announced its slate of episodes for the 33rd season, a November 10th episode was planned. The host was going to be Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, and the musical guest was going to be Amy Winehouse, who would have been promoting both the deluxe edition of Back to Black and her recent hit with producer Mark Ronson, ‘Valerie’. On November 3rd, a commercial number announced the Rock-Winehouse episode, along with a Jonah Hill-Kid Rock episode to follow. However, on November 5th, the Writers Guild once again went on strike.

During the work stoppage, the entire cast (minus Maya Rudolph) performed a live episode of SNL at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the same company founded by cast member Amy Poehler. Michael Cera acted as host, while Yo La Tengo were the musical guest. Eventually, the writer’s strike ended on February 12, 2008, SNL scrambled to try and get its previously booked guests into new slots.

Kid Rock had previously been the musical guest on the season 20 finale, so when his schedule precluded him from appearing during the restarted season, it wasn’t a major missed opportunity. Hill hosted the show’s fourth episode after the strike ended, while Johnson had to wait until the following season, when he hosted with musical guest Ray Lamontagne.

However, because of her ever-escalating drug and alcohol problems, Winehouse quickly began to unravel after 2008. Due to her unreliable performance history, lack of touring, and long periods of addiction, Winehouse was never able to reschedule her planned appearance on SNL. Less than three years after her original planned appearance on the show, Winehouse died in her London flat from alcohol poisoning at the age of 27.