A young woman, simple, shy, seems somewhat nervous, she puts on a clip to push her hair back and begins to sing. The faces of those who listen are astonished. Finish and they start clapping. It is the Amy Winehouse’s first audition, at eighteen, before the producers of Island Records. It was the year 2002. She would die just nine years later a legend that today, a decade later, finds accommodation in an exhibition at the London Design Museum.
Amy Beyond the Stage (Amy, beyond the stage) presents, with help of personal belongings given by your family, the story of a girl who grew up surrounded by music and wrote songs since she was a teenager. It was clear to her that she wanted to be a singer, you can read it in her diary, in which she confesses that she would love to be photographed by David Lachapelle. He fulfilled both dreams: he became a musical icon and his video clip Tears dry on their own was led by his idol.
“Music is where I can be completely honest and sometimes I don’t want to sing some of my songs because they are so raw,” Winehouse commented at one point.
Stronger than me (stronger than me) was the first song on his album Frank (frank, sincere). It was by no means his first composition, some, many unpublished, can be seen written in his own hand, with a round, neat, orderly calligraphy.
Texts in notebooks that he decorated with hearts like the ones he later tattooed on his upper arm. Love like the one he had for his first guitar, the Fender Stratocaser blue, Daphne blue, always his favorite although he had others that are also exposed with the quote: “I’m not Amy, the star. I’m the girl with a guitar.”
There are more personal items such as the jukebox he had at home or his prizes, with special attention to the five grammys he won in 2008 por el disco ‘Back to Black’ with the one who sold 50 million copies worldwide. There are also his platinum records.
Amy had an unmistakable voice and her own style that draws from jazz, soul, ska, hip-hop, pop. The music he listened to, the one that influenced him, has an important niche reserved. Sarah Vaughan, John Coltrane, Frank Sinatra, Salt-N-Pepa, Dinah Washington, Aretha Frankling, Ella Fitgeralz, The Ronettes, The Supremes, Lauryn Hill, The Specials … the list is long as long is the footprint that her short but meteoric career has left in others, especially British women: Adele, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish. It was a pioneer.
From vintage to haute couture
Amy Winehouse was also a style icon that is intended to stand out. Her particular way of combing her hair in public, putting on makeup, and dressing created a trend. Here you can see a good handful of dresses, the looks that he wore in his big public appearances, at galas, concerts and festivals. Its striking accessories, its bags and its large earrings. Everything seemed exaggerated about her.
His overwhelming personality was defined in the markets of Camden, the London neighborhood in which he lived; and in the haute couture designs that he began to wear, his career consolidated. His retro style never changed and was taken into account by great designers such as Karl Lagardfel, Channel, Jean Paul Gaultier who made her their muse.
The diva and her ghosts
One of the treasures of the exhibition is the plaque in Camden Square where after learning of his death his fans gathered to pay tribute to him. In that neighborhood that was her home, today there is a statue of the artist.
Amy Winehouse died at just 27 years old. It was a short, but intense life in which there were also demons that took up newspaper articles, especially the tabloid. In this retrospective at the London Design Museum, wants to remind her smiling, funny, alive. Through dozens of photographs his most intimate portrait is built. You tiptoe past the ghosts of your life, but they are not skipped.
As soon as you arrive you can read: “Although the objective is to honor the musical heritage that he left us, one does not want to ignore reality, the problems he had: addictions to alcohol or drugs, eating and mental problems.” He made efforts to recover on several occasions, but finally, it was substance abuse led him to the silence of his voice and his guitar.
His family has a foundation named after him to help people who are going through similar situations with music as an important part of the healing process. Both in the room and on the exhibition website, those who require it can request information on where to ask for help if they feel identified with the most conflictive part of a woman, and a legend with a work, with a legacy, that can never be overshadowed his demons.
Amy, Beyond the Stage (Beyond the stage). From November 26, 2021 to April 20, 2022 at the Design Museum in London.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.