Amy Winehouse's early, troubled performances
July 24th, 2011
12:02 PM ET

Amy Winehouse's early, troubled performances

It was March 19, 2007. Amy Winehouse's album, "Back to Black," had just dropped in the U.S., and this was our first up-close and personal look at the talented, but obviously troubled star we'd heard so much about.

As the music from her borrowed band, the Dap-Kings, filled The Roxy in West Hollywood, she somewhat demurely stepped out onto the tiny stage. She was petite - sporting a teal strapless dress, exaggerated cat-eye make-up and an impressive beehive that looked like it could easily house a whole family of crows.

At 23, Winehouse was endearingly awkward, like a newborn colt - all bony elbows and unsure movements. But the girl could sing.

We watched her from underneath the Crow's Nest - where the soundboard is, and where they stash celebrities who don't want to be seen. The music was infectious, an appealing throwback to '60s girl groups like The Shangri-Las, The Ronettes and The Shirelles. As the show progressed, Winehouse's behavior became more erratic. She left the stage several times and started stumbling around, leading to a couple of wardrobe malfunctions involving her ample tattooed bosom.

Her single, "Rehab," was gaining traction on American radio, and when she finally launched into it, a tall blonde woman in front of us said to a man standing next to her, "It was genius for her to do a song called 'Rehab.'"

"Do you think she'll ever go?" asked the man, who had pink hair.

"No, she's not ready yet," replied the woman in a somewhat matter-of-fact tone. Her speaking voice sounded oddly familiar.

I looked up. The woman was Courtney Love, and her companion was Perez Hilton, who was an early Winehouse champion in the States.

The next year, Winehouse won five trophies at "The 50th Annual Grammy Awards" - including "Best New Artist," "Song of the Year" and "Record of the Year." But the days leading up to the live telecast were a cliffhanger of sorts: Would Amy Winehouse be in good enough shape to attend?

"You use the word 'excitement,' but I remember a tremendous amount of drama, uncertainty and anxiety," Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow told CNN's Kareen Wynter Saturday afternoon.

The first step was getting her from London to Los Angeles for the ceremony, and it involved teams of lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic.

"She didn't have a visa. It was denied," Portnow recalls. "It became a 'Will She or Won't She' scenario. But how long could we hold out? Two days before the show, 'Okay, we have a visa' - but it was too late to get to L.A., rehearse, etc. We ended up having to find a studio in London."

Surrounded by family and friends at Pinewood Studios in London, Winehouse performed two songs on the Golden Anniversary of the Grammys. The first tune was "You Know I'm No Good." The second was "Rehab" - but this time, it was more of a joyful sing-along than a defiant gesture about addiction.

Immediately after her performance, "Rehab" was named "Record of the Year." Winehouse had beat out Beyonce, Foo Fighters, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake for the trophy. She was stunned. Mouth agape, she fell into the arms of her backup singers. Her father, Mitch, piled on. The crowd in London chanted, "Amy! Amy!"

With her arm around her mother, Janis Winehouse managed a few emotional words of thanks - even giving a shout-out to her husband at the time, "my Blake incarcerated." Even at her most triumphant, Amy Winehouse was woefully inarticulate. But as a singer, she was something else. Unfortunately for Amy, she was a human being, as well.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Truth Hurts

    Sometimes I question the validity of the "Christian" commenters on here. Seems to me like these are the people who have had too much exposure to the loonies in the subways.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kelley Sharp

    Any had a classic stagefront anxiety.People are afraid of hieghts, airplines, crowds. Some get to the point where they can barely leave the house becuase of panic. Amy has a mixture of performances, those where shes stone cold sober (letterman (grammys) and those where she loosened up a bit and some a bit too much. With the wrong medicine. Had sweet Amy gotten treatment, with a low dose of a mild sedative, she might sill be alive today. I don't think she wanted to die. Alcohol is not the choice for stagefright when you have a job. Sadly she may have rejected help, but she was a brilliant performer, and her death was a tracic accident.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dew4/6/82

      If my memory is correct, Michael Stipe developed severe 'stage fright' when REM began playing larger venues, often singing in the dark (to Bill Berry!) with his back to the audience.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. pusycato

    I wonder if she is telling the boogerman nooo noooo nooooo right now? I bet that pitchfork is mighty pokey !

    July 25, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. pusycato

    Now she can sing to Princess Diana and Hitler !

    July 25, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  5. Me

    It is sad that she died so young, however, it isn't a huge surprise, kind of expected. RIP Amy

    July 25, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  6. LBW

    RIP Amy. A true talent with bad bad demons.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. emnop

    you doodoo head you

    July 25, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  8. emnop


    July 25, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  9. TIM

    I really wasnt trying to be mean. I was just hoping that was the case. That maybe she is really still around just taking it easy out of the spotlight. Was just wishing happy thoughts for her. Im sorry if i sounded rude. Sure didnt mean it that way. It is really sad when someone so young passes away. I always try to hope they really arent gone. ; l

    July 25, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  10. itsamemario

    @tim come on man just stop it. rest in peace amy, i hope your in a better place..

    July 25, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. TIM

    BTW they say he is now living in Jamaica or one of the nearby islands. Good for him.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  12. TIM

    I dont think she is dead. I think iot is a publicity stunt similar to what that black rapper pulled a few years back. All he did was retire and go into hiding and had a fake funeral. TUPAK SHAKUR. T hat was his stage name. This drove his album sales way up. Now he is retired and taking it easy. IM glad he was able to do it.

    July 25, 2011 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. da cutest troll mama

    Ya humans are so silly!! Im a troll & know the reason 4 life & dont try to shoo me in my cave! The whole point is to have fun for as long as your life lasts!! I live in a cave in "Minnesoota" & have cable, phone & a bank account! Ya think we fake, we not! Dont count us out we real as opposed to blog trolls!they are total fakes!!!!

    July 24, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. @ @ another bites the dust

    Don't you have heavy moving traffic you need to go play in? That would be a good way to meet Jesus. I'm sure he will welcome you with open arms because he is a good like that.

    July 24, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. @Jesus Saves

    So your saying kaylee was stupid, dumb a.zz ? You sound like the perfect CHRISTian! Now who's the dumb a.zz!

    July 24, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  16. @another bites the dust

    Its ok because jesus saves. Bahahahahahaha!

    July 24, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Another Bites The Dust

    Maybe now the family can get the much needed rest and peace that they need. I sure it's a relief that the family f*** up is dead. It must have been draining always having to worry about her. People like her are weak, selfish and care only about themselves. Always want someone there to pick the up when they fall which is every week. They care about no one else but themselves and their problems becomes yours. Yes I bet she was draining to her family.

    July 24, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  18. @Jesus Saves

    Dumb az.zes like you that give Jesus a bad name. Please s*tfu and stop preaching bc you don't know sh!t. @ are another dumb a.zz because if you believe in Jesus, or not, we all have to die some day. It's a shame G-d doesn't take stupid people like you out sooner.

    July 24, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  19. @JD

    Yes 2nd dumb azz.. you have nothing to say as well so take your own advice.

    July 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  20. @jesussaves

    If that's true why are amy and kaylee dead ? Rest in peace girls.

    July 24, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  21. JesusSaves

    Poor girl. It's just too darn sad. I pray she's in heaven and no longer suffering. Addiction is death. Bottom line. My condolences to her family.

    She was a HUGE talent with sadness in her soul......just too darn sad. 🙁

    July 24, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  22. fernace

    Is 1st a throw-back to grade school cafeteria lines, perhaps!?Amy Winehouse was a brilliant singer/songwriter & an addict! She was probably not comfortable in her own skin! I don't think she was ready for the fame, the fans, the un-natural life that goes along with being a c-leb, even though she spent her life courting it! We will probably never know what demons ran her life into the ground, but we did get a brief period to be awed by her! Sometimes that's all you can hope for!!

    July 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  23. JD

    Yes, let's pick on that instead of looking at the issue in hand!!

    July 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  24. @matt

    First and you wasted it with just first. if you have nothing to say why type anything dumb azz

    July 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Matt


    July 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |

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