Late Monday night in New York, minutes before a DJ played a few songs Amy Winehouse recorded as a teenager, her father thanked Tony Bennett for supporting the American arm of the foundation the late musician's parents launched last year. Bennett has given $220,000 in seed money to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which benefits music therapy and education programs. Its inaugural gala, set for March 21st, will feature performances from Bennett, Wyclef Jean and Jennifer Hudson, and will represent the first major U.S. fundraiser for the not-for-profit foundation since it launched a year ago.
"We need all the help that we can get," Mitch Winehouse told guests huddled at the Dream Downtown hotel's Electric Room, including Zosia Mamet from HBO's Girls and Charlie Chaplin's granddaughter, Kiera Chaplin, the foundation's world ambassador. The gala had been rescheduled from last fall after scheduling conflicts and Winehouse's recovery from a hernia operation sidelined the event. "We haven't really started it yet, in terms of fundraising," Winehouse said. "We're in 200 schools. We've given 10 scholarships to the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music."
Last month the Amy Winehouse Foundation pledged $25,000 toward grants for the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music's Teen Jazz Program. It was the foundation's second U.S.-based pledge; its first, a $10,000 grant for the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, came on the date of the foundation's April launch.
"A lot of what we do is what we think she would like," Winehouse told Rolling Stone. "She was always helping disadvantaged young people. She took somebody who was homeless into her own home. So it's straightforward: We need to be helping disadvantaged young people – with music. And in the United States, that's what's going to be our focus."
Winehouse added that all proceeds from his memoir, Amy, My Daughter, will benefit the foundation. The book has sold 8,000 hardcover copies since HarperCollins published it in June, according to Nielsen BookScan, which does not track e-book sales.
Before Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning in 2011, she recorded a duet with Bennett. Her namesake foundation will honor the 86-year-old singer with the Inspiration Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Waldorf Astoria in New York in March.
"She was one of a kind. She was a true improviser. She sang in the true tradition of jazz. She was the best jazz singer of all the contemporary artists I've ever heard," Bennett told Rolling Stone during the event. "And 35 years from now everybody's gonna say, 'My God, we had the greatest singer, and we didn't even know it.'"