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Exclusive: Ronnie Spector Pays Tribute to Amy Winehouse

Listen to Spector's previously unreleased version of 'Back to Black'

July 27, 2011 1:50 PM ET
Ronnie Spector and Amy Winehouse
Ronnie Spector and Amy Winehouse
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images (Winehouse)

I haven't been this sad in a long time, about anyone in this business. I tried to go grocery shopping for my family, and I was walking like a ghost in the aisles. I could think about nobody but Amy.
 
When I saw her two weeks ago on TV and she was all drugged out, drinking and stuff, I said, "Damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it! Don't become like I was 20 years ago! I cleaned up. You gotta clean up!" And two weeks later, she's dead. I'm devastated.

Every time I looked at her, it was like I was looking at myself. She had my beehive, my eyeliner, my attitude. She had such a great soul in her voice and her lyrics were so amazing that I couldn't help but sing one of her songs. I was so happy to see an artist like Amy, because she reminded me of my youth. And she loved girl groups. Damn it! I thought she would carry on.

When I was in my 20s, I was a lost girl – drinking, not knowing what to do or where to go. I never did drugs – like, "No way, you're not gonna put a needle in my arm!" – but drinking is just as bad. In the Sixties, everyone was doing drugs, and I lost many people in the business. I knew Jimi Hendrix. I used to play with him down in the Village. When I had a Number One hit all over the world, the Rolling Stones were my opening act. I was around all the druggies, but my mother also traveled with us, wherever I was. She was a buffer so I didn't see all of the bad stuff.

You can't go around people who drink or do drugs, even family members. I learned that 20 years ago in A.A. I had two boys, and, when they were four and five, we moved to Connecticut. In New York, there were liquor stores on every other corner, and I didn't need that. I knew enough to leave that. Now I don't drink. I don't do anything but my shows and take care of my kids.

Amy came to my show in London about six months ago, and she was so shy. She was hiding behind somebody, but I could see the hairstyle, and I knew she was there. That was all I needed. When I sang "Back to Black," I could see the tears in her eyes, and there were tears in mine.

As told to Matthew Perpetua.

Click here to listen to Ronnie Spector's cover of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black"

Ronnie Spector is an icon of Sixties girl group pop, and a major influence on the sound and visual style of the late Amy Winehouse. Spector – the lead singer of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Ronettes – performs Winehouse’s hit "Back to Black" regularly in concert. Two years ago, Spector went into the studio to record her rendition with noted songwriter and producer Richard Gottheher and hip-hop producer Phenom. The song, debuting here, will soon be released as a charity single, with proceeds going to Daytop Village substance abuse treatment centers.

Related
Amy Winehouse's Death: A Troubled Star Gone Too Soon
Musicians Respond to Amy Winehouse's Death
Critics Assess Amy Winehouse's Legacy
• Photos: Amy Winehouse Remembered
• Photos: The Tumultuous Life Of Amy Winehouse
The Diva and Her Demons: Rolling Stone's 2007 Amy Winehouse Cover Story
Up All Night With Amy Winehouse: Rolling Stone's 2008 Story
• Video: Behind the Feature: Claire Hoffman on Interviewing Amy Winehouse
• Photos: Not Fade Away: Amy Winehouse and More Rockers Lost Before Their Time
Video: Amy Winehouse: Remembering the Soul Icon
Video: U2 Pay Tribute to Amy Winehouse
Family: Amy Winehouse's Death 'Leaves a Gaping Hole In Our Lives'
Courtney Love on Amy Winehouse: 'I'm Gutted'

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