Amy Winehouse – the British R&B singer who has struggled with drug and alcohol abuse for many years – was found dead in her north London home Saturday, according to the BBC. The cause of death remains unexplained, although it has been reported that two ambulances were dispatched to her Camden Square flat in a failed attempt to revive her. She was 27.
Just this past January, Winehouse seemed to be on the verge of a career turnaround after a successful appearance at Brazil’s Summer Soul Festival.
But more recently, she called off a 2011 comeback tour after delivering an incoherent performance in Belgrade, Serbia on June 18, where she was loudly booed. Prior to the Belgrade show, she had checked herself into London rehab clinic the Priory.
Winehouse, who broke through with her 2006 Grammy-winning album Back to Black and its unnervingly defiant hit single “Rehab,” has had a very public struggle with addiction over the years. In August 2007, she was admitted to the hospital for a reported overdose of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine. and alcohol. A rep for Winehouse denied the report, and cited “exhaustion” as the cause for her hospitalization.
Winehouse’s one-time marriage to Blake Fielder-Civil was also publicly volatile, earning them comparisons to Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. The couple were photographed bloodied and bruised in 2007 after apparently getting into a fight. They divorced two years later.
The music community reacted quickly to reports of Winehouse’s death. Collaborator/producer Mark Ronson Tweeted: “she was my musical soulmate & like a sister to me. this is one of the saddest days of my life.” Lily Allen, who has mocked Winehouse’s alcohol consumption in the past, posted, “It’s just beyond sad, there’s nothing else to say. She was such a lost soul, may she rest in peace.” La Roux’s Elly Jackson, meanwhile, was quick to blame Winehouse’s management for forcing the singer to perform when she seemingly was still in poor health. “[They] arranged a tour for their own benefit when she wasn’t well and fans who expect too much and boo when you aren’t perfect every time,” Jackson wrote. Others were more bluntly emotional: Rihanna exclaimed, “Dear God have mercy, I am SICK about this”; the Black Lips’ Cole Alexander added, “Never knew the effect she had on me till she was gone; I’m seriously crying right now.”
SPIN editor-in-chief Steve Kandell, who spent time with Winehouse in 2007 for a cover story, recalls that the singer was aloof and dismissive of her newfound fame. “She wasn’t interested in much other then whatever was making her feel good – her soon-to-be-husband Blake and whatever they were doing together, behind always-closed doors,” he said. “And she surrounded herself with people who allowed for that.”
“She was having a career peak that any artist would crave, and she didn’t seem to be particularly enjoying it,” Kandell adds. “That seemed rebellious and intriguing – an idea that seems hopelessly flippant now. She was so confident in her talent; she didn’t even think she needed to nurture it. We convinced ourselves to look at that as darkly romantic, or even as something to celebrate, and for that I feel vaguely complicit.”