Today marks five years since the world tragically lost one of its greatest musical talents, Amy Winehouse, at the young age of 27.
In March 2011, Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick conducted what turned out to be the final ever interview with the Back to Black singer.
Despite her well publicised struggles with addiction, McCormick noted in his article that ‘we didn’t talk about drugs, or rehab, or her unhappy love life’, but about her music, her passion for singing, and her love of jazz.
McCormick met Winehouse while she was recording a duet with legendary crooner Tony Bennett in Abbey Road studios and, although she was incredibly nervous to be working with one of her heroes, Winehouse also ‘looked good, healthier than I had seen her in years’ – a revelation which only goes to make her death due to alcohol poisoning just four months after this meeting all the more tragic.
The two musicians were working on a duet version of the classic Body And Soul, with Winehouse – who hadn’t been in the studio for a while – telling McCormick: “It’s good to be in the studio with Tony. That’s the only reason I’m here.”
McCormick wrote of how Winehouse insisted on doing multiple takes, as she strived for the perfect vocal performance.
I’m my own worst critic and if I don’t pull off what I think I wanted to do in my head, then I won’t be a happy girl. I’ve got Tony’s voice right in my ear and that’s so much for me that I can’t look up and see Tony the person as well. I sound so stupid but it’s hard.
This led to a discussion about how nervous she was as a performer:
I’m not a natural born performer. I’m a natural singer, but I’m quite shy, really. You know what it’s like? I don’t mean to be sentimental or soppy but its a little bit like being in love, when you can’t eat, you’re restless, it’s like that. But then the minute you go on stage, everything’s OK. The minute you start singing.
McCormick also wrote about how she had grand plans for the future, including the possibility of studying music and learning to better play guitar or trumpet – “If you play an instrument, it makes you a better singer,” she explained.
Recalling the meeting with Winehouse, McCormick concluded: “She may have had a hedonistic and self-destructive streak, and she was an addict battling deep problems, but at 27, I think Amy really believed in her own future.”
You can check out McCormick’s fascinating full interview with Winehouse here.
RIP Amy. Your supreme talent is still missed.