As London police continued their inquest into the death of Amy Winehouse on Saturday, tributes to the troubled singer poured in from friends, admirers and perfect strangers in awe of a major talent gone too soon. From Lady Gaga, Russell Brand and Kelly Clarkson to longtime producer Mark Ronson, the condolence notes paid homage to the 27-year-old crooner’s prodigious gifts as well as her haunted soul and the demons that chased her for much of her public life.
At press time, there was still no word on a cause of death, though an autopsy was planned for Monday, according to reports. Shortly after Winehouse’s body was found in her London apartment on Saturday, officials said the death of the singer, who long struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol, was “unexplained” pending further investigation, though foul play was not suspected.
Upon hearing of Winehouse’s death, Gaga posted the following: “Amy changed pop music forever. I remember knowing there was hope, and feeling not alone because of her. She lived jazz, she lived the blues.”
One of the most touching and personal tributes to Amy Winehouse came from actor Russell Brand, who also famously struggled with substance abuse before finding sobriety in 2003. Brand wrote a lengthy post on Saturday in which he touched on the dangers of addiction and sadness over an artist he called a “genius.”
“When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call,” he wrote of the dreaded ring in the night with bad news. “The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they’ve had enough, that they’re ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it’s too late, she’s gone.”
He recalled his long friendship with Winehouse, joking that he’d first heard her described as a “jazz singer” and how that struck him as odd in this modern age. “I chatted to her anyway though, she was after all, a girl, and she was sweet and peculiar but most of all vulnerable,” he recalled.
Brand, then fresh out of rehab, said he could discern the taint of addiction in Winehouse, and went on to describe the first time he saw her perform live. “I arrived late and as I made my way to the audience through the plastic smiles and plastic cups I heard the rolling, wondrous resonance of a female vocal,” he wrote of the gig he ended up at by coincidence.
“Entering the space I saw Amy on stage with [Paul] Weller and his band; and then the awe. The awe that envelops when witnessing a genius. From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie [Holiday] and Ella [Fitzgerald], from the font of all greatness. A voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine. My ears, my mouth, my heart and mind all instantly opened … So now I knew. She wasn’t just some hapless wannabe, yet another pissed up nit who was never gonna make it, nor was she even a ten-a-penny-chanteuse enjoying her fifteen minutes. She was a f—ing genius.”
Admittedly, he paid more attention to her now that she was famous and she came on several of his TV and radio shows. Sadly, though, he saw how she became more defined by her addiction than talent, as the media focused more on her downfall than her gift. The combination of that coverage and his personal interactions with Winehouse brought the severity of her addiction into focus for Brand, who reached sobriety at 27, the star-crossed age at which she joined a dubious club of musical tragedies that includes Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
“Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease,” he wrote. “Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call.”
Many other stars including Rihanna, Usher and Nicki Minaj — most of whom had never even met Winehouse — were touched by her passing and took to Twitter to express themselves.Read Saturday’s Celebrity Twitter Reactions To Winehouse’s Death.
And then there were those who knew her intimately and helped craft her career. Former producer Mark Ronson, who produced such hits as “Rehab,” “You Know I’m No Good” and “Love Is a Losing Game” from Winehouse’s breakthrough 2006 Grammy-winning album, Back to Black, was devastated by the loss.” She was my musical soulmate and like a sister to me,” he said. “This is one of the saddest days of my life.”Winehouse In Memoriam: “More Haunted Than Troubled.”
The other producer who helped bring Winehouse to prominence through is work on such tunes as “Me & Mr. Jones” and “Tears Dry on Their Own,” Salaam Remi, tweeted, “Very Very Sad Day. Just lost a Great Friend and a Sister … RIP my baby SiS Cherry Winehouse. Love ya always.”
Ageless crooner Tony Bennett, 84, one of the last people to work in the studio with Winehouse when he recorded the standard “Body and Soul” with her in March, called her “an artist of immense proportions,” and told US Weekly that he was “deeply saddened to learn of her tragic passing.”
Newer British stars, such as Jessie J, also weighed in: “The way tears are streaming down my face. Such a loss.”
The New York-based soul band the Dap-Kings, who were featured on Back to Black and toured with Winehouse in 2007, said in a statement, “We are very sad to have lost Amy Winehouse today. She was one of a kind and we were fortunate to have had the chance to make music with her. She was always gracious and a pleasure to work with in the studio and on the road. She brought a lot of people joy with her voice and her irreverent personality. It is a tragedy that she was taken from us so soon when she had much more music to give.”
Other celebs who paid tribute include:
Mary J. Blige: “Rest in peace Amy Wine House. I hope the after life brings u the piece u were searching 4 on earth. Love MJB”
Kelly Clarkson: “I’m incredibly sad. I didn’t know her but I met her a few times and got to hear her sing before she blew up. She was a beautiful and talented girl. I’m angry. What a waste of a gifted person. What a shame she saw no hope and continued living her life in that manor [sic]. I have been that low emotionally and mentally and that is overwhelming. I keep asking myself why some of us are spared and the others are made examples. I’m very angry and sad. I don’t know why it’s bothering me so much. Sometimes I think this job will be the death of us all, or at least the emotional death of us all … My thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family. I am so sorry for your loss. I pray for peace in your hearts.”
Paramore’s Hayley Williams: ” Just read about Amy Winehouse. Can’t believe it. She’ll never truly be gone cause have you heard that voice? Rest In Peace Amy.”