Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning in July 2011 at age 27, with only two studio albums to her name. The troubled singer recorded demos for a third LP, but those tracks will never be heard – since they were destroyed by David Joseph, chairman/CEO of Winehouse’s label, Universal Music U.K. “It was a moral thing,” the exec told Billboard. “Taking a stem or a vocal is not something that would ever happen on my watch. It now can’t happen on anyone else’s.”
Winehouse’s friends, admirers and collaborators, including co-writer/producer Mark Ronson, spoke to Billboard for a feature on the singer’s tragic life and musical legacy, timed around Asif Kapadia’s new documentary, Amy, which hits select theaters on July 3rd.
Before her death, Winehouse had discussed forming a jazz/hip-hop supergroup with Roots drummer-producer Questlove, Raphael Saadiq and Mos Def. She’d also reportedly “mapped out” a new solo album and even booked studio time with both Ronson and Salaam Remi, who co-produced her acclaimed second (and final) album, 2006’s Back to Black.
“She probably finished the writing process a few weeks before she passed,” said Remi. “As far as I could see, we had 14 songs. Whatever needed to happen, it was right there.” The producer allowed the Amy crew to use a recording of Winehouse reciting lyrics to an unreleased song titled “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love.”
Five months after Winehouse’s death, Island Records released Lioness: Hidden Treasures, a set of unreleased tracks that could wind up as the last album issued under her name.
Ronson told Billboard about the origins of Winehouse’s ubiquitous smash “Rehab,” which was inspired by an incident with her father, who told the singer she “absolutely [did] not” need to attend rehab for alcohol abuse. Winehouse shared that story to an amused Ronson, who encouraged the singer to write a song about the experience. She did – and it only took three hours.
“If I’d known all the stuff that was going on, I don’t know if I would have thought it was so amusing,” Ronson said. “But she said it in such a light way.”
Sam Smith, who broke out last year with his soulful hit “Stay With Me,” talked about Winehouse’s influence on his music. “Her song ‘You Sent Me Flying’ is the reason why I sing,” he said. “At 11 years old, I was belting out ‘Fuck Me Pumps’ and soaking in all the language and honesty.”