Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Amy' a Painful Look at a Great Talent Lost

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Amy' a Painful Look at a Great Talent Lost

Article excerpt

Everyone knows the ending of this story. And it's not a happy one.

"Amy," the story of Amy Winehouse, plays out like one long death scene, depicting the tragic rise and fall of a divine talent who had no aptitude for stardom and the worst people around to guide her through it.

Tony Bennett, a trusted source on these matters, calls Ms. Winehouse "a natural jazz singer," and a budding talent on the level of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. From an early age, those were the singers the Jewish girl from London was drawn to, rather than "watered-down" Top 40 music favored by the other kids at school.

She was a "very old soul in a very young body," said Nick Gatfield, who signed her to Island Records, and to hear her sing there was no argument. She had a distinctive style of jazz-pop phrasing that was astonishing for a teenager. She was also lyrically sophisticated beyond her years, a rare quality for a nightclub singer, which is all she really wanted to be.

Early on, when her talent is just being recognized, she's asked about fame. "I don't think I could handle it," she says. "I would go mad."

It's remarkable just how much of that was caught on film for director Asif Kapadia's documentary, which combines a wealth of old footage with interviews with friends, handlers, producers, bodyguards and such star collaborators as Questlove and Mos Def.

It is her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, who is pegged as the villain in this story. He's a party boy/druggie who latches onto her and consistently drags her down with him with seemingly little appreciation for the life he is bringing to ruin.

The other man in her life, her father Mitchell, after leaving the family for another woman, is busy exploiting her career for his own ticket to fame and fortune. During one of her many precarious drying-out phases, he brings along a camera crew that's doing a story on him. …

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