Pop Culture

Singer Amy Winehouse found dead in London home

Amy Winehouse, the beehived soul-jazz diva whose self-destructive habits overshadowed a distinctive musical talent, was found dead Saturday in her London home, police said. She was 27.

"Everyone who was involved with Amy is shocked and devastated. Our thoughts are with her family and friends," said Chris Goodman, a spokesman for her publicity representatives. He said her family will issue a statement when they are ready.

The British singer's record label, Universal, confirmed her death.

"We are deeply saddened at the sudden loss of such a gifted musician, artist and performer," the statement read. "Our prayers go out to Amy's family, friends and fans at this difficult time."

Her father, Mitch Winehouse, himself a musician, had just flown to New York to perform two shows at the Blue Note jazz club, but learned the news upon arrival and immediately flew back to the U.K.

Singer and actress Kelly Osbourne, who helped Winehouse check into a drug addiction treatment facility in 2008, was one of many who grieved for the singer on Twitter. "I cant even breath right now im crying so hard i just lost 1 of my best friends. i love you forever Amy and will never forget the real you!" she tweeted.

Winehouse shot to fame with the album "Back to Black," whose blend of jazz, soul, rock and classic pop was a global hit. It won five Grammys and made Winehouse — with her black beehive hairdo and old-fashioned sailor tattoos — one of music's most recognizable stars.

Police confirmed that a 27-year-old female was pronounced dead at the home in Camden Square northern London; the cause of death was not immediately known. London Ambulance Services said Winehouse had died before the two ambulance crews it sent arrived at the scene. TMZ.com later reported that there may have been some signs of life when the crew arrived, but that Winehouse died before she could be taken to the hospital.

An autopsy is scheduled for Sunday, TMZ.com reports.

Photographs show that her body was taken out of the home under a red blanket.

"I didn't go out looking to be famous," Winehouse told the Associated Press when "Back to Black" was released. "I'm just a musician."

But in the end, the music was overshadowed by fame, and by Winehouse's demons. Tabloids lapped up the erratic stage appearances, drunken fights, stints in hospital and rehab clinics. Performances became shambling, stumbling train wrecks, watched around the world on the Internet.

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    Image: Mitch Winehouse, the father of deceased British singer Amy Winehouse, arrives at Golders Green Crematorium in London

    Amy Winehouse

    Grammy-winning British soul singer was a musical talent with a troubled life off stage.

  • Image: Mitch Winehouse, the father of deceased British singer Amy Winehouse, arrives at Golders Green Crematorium in London

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    Father's farewell -

    Mitch Winehouse, the father of the late British singer Amy Winehouse, arrives at Golders Green Crematorium in London for a ceremony for his daughter on Tuesday, July 26.

    Amy Winehouse died at her London home on Saturday, July 23, at the age of 27. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

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    Remembering a friend -

    Winehouse friend Kelly Osbourne, sporting a beehive style hairdo in tribute to the deceased singer, leaves after a cremation ceremony in London on Tuesday, July 26.

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    Always a story -

    Photographers angle for a shot of guests at the ceremony for Winehouse outside the Golders Green Crematorium in London on July 26.

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    Fade to 'Black' -

    Mark Ronson leaves the cremation of Winehouse in London on July 26. The music producer worked on Winehouse's smash album "Back to Black."

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    A family mourns -

    Amy Winehouse's father, Mitch; brother Alex; former boyfriend Reg Traviss and mother Janis look at memorabilia left by fans of the singer outside of her London flat on Monday, July 25. Mitch Winehouse thanked admirers of his daughter for showing their support, saying "it means so much to me and my family."

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    Showered with flowers -

    A mourner adds to the floral tributes outside Winehouse's home in London on Sunday, July 24.

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    Sharing sorrow -

    Fans gather outside Winehouse's home on Sunday, July 24.

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  • Image: Fans place flowers and tributes outside the home of Amy Winehouse in London

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    Leaving tributes -

    Fans place flowers and tributes in memory of the singer on Sunday, July 24.

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    A sad farewell -

    Winehouse's body is carried into a private ambulance on Saturday, July 23.

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    Paying respects -

    An Amy Winehouse fan puts a note outside Winehouse's home in London. It reads in part: "Dearest Amy. I'm glad u made it home."

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    Mourning Winehouse -

    British singer and filmmaker Reg Traviss, who reportedly dated Winehouse, looks on as a member of the public passes to lay flowers near the late singer's home.

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    Final turn in the spotlight -

    In this June 18, 2011 file photo, Amy Winehouse performs on stage during her concert in Belgrade, Serbia on June 18, 2011. The singer slurred her way through a set as the crowd of 20,000 booed, then left the stage early while her band played without her to fulfill the contract.

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    An early end -

    Winehouse performs on stage at the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, Britain, on June 28, 2008.

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    In court -

    Winehouse arrives at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court north of London on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010. The singer pleaded guilty to assaulting a theater manager who asked her to leave a family Christmas show starring Mickey Rooney because she had too much to drink.

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    Front and center -

    Winehouse attends The Q Awards at the Grosvenor House in London on Monday, Oct. 26, 2009. The singer's father, Mitch Winehouse, said recently that she had breast-enhancement surgery. On the British TV show "This Morning," he said she looks "absolutely fantastic."

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    Back in court -

    Winehouse arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London, on Thursday, July 23, 2009. The British singer faces trial for an alleged assault on a woman at a charity ball last September.

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    For her Blake, incarcerated -

    Winehouse arrives at Snaresbrook Crown Court in London on Monday, June 2, 2009, where her husband Blake Fielder-Civil was appearing on charges of perverting the course of justice and assault.

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    Sip of Winehouse -

    Winehouse pauses for a drink while performing for 90,000 spectators on the main stage of the Rock in Rio Lisboa music festival at the Bela Vista Park in Portugal on Friday, May 30, 2009.

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    Q&A with police -

    Winehouse arrives at Holborn police station after being invited in for questioning on Friday, April 25, 2009, in London. The troubled singer had been accused of assaulting a member of the public during an incident at a pub.

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    Brit diva -

    Winehouse performs at the Brit Awards 2008 in London on Wednesday, Feb. 20. The event is the UK's biggest music awards show.

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    Grammy success -

    Winehouse hugs her mother Janis Winehouse after accepting a Grammy Award at the Riverside Studios for the 50th Grammy Awards ceremony via video link on Feb. 10 in London. Winehouse won five out of her six nominations including record of the year, best new artist, song of the year, pop vocal album and female pop vocal performance.

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    Blonde having less fun -

    Temporarily blond and without her trademark beehive hairdo, Winehouse leaves Snaresbrook Crown Court in London after a hearing for her husband Blake Fielder-Civil on Friday, Jan. 18.

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    Free to bee -

    Winehouse performs at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago on Aug. 5, 2007. The tattooed, beehived soul singer has often had her immense musical talents eclipsed by her struggles off stage.

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    'No, no, no ...' -

    Winehouse performs at the Glastonbury music festival, in Pilton, England on June 22, 2007. "Rehab" became the hit song from the British singer's second album, "Back to Black."

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    Before their troubles -

    Winehouse and husband musician Blake Fielder-Civil arrive at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 3, 2007, in Universal City, Calif.

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    Bursting onto the scene -

    Winehouse arrives at the Earls Court Arena in London for the Brit Awards on Feb. 14, 2007. She won the award for Best British Female Solo Artist.

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    Understanding addiction -

    Actor Russell Brand hugs Winehouse in 2006. Himself a former addict, Brand wrote a touching blog post after Winehouse's death about the struggles of addiction and pleaded for readers to help those in their lives with similar troubles.

    Getty Images file / Getty Images file
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    Pre-bee -

    Looking a bit healthier, and without her trademark hairdo and tattoos, Winehouse poses in the pressroom at the annual Nationwide Mercury Music Prize at the Grosvenor House on Sept. 7, 2004 in London.

    Getty Images / Getty Images

Born in 1983 to taxi driver Mitch Winehouse and his pharmacist wife Janis, Winehouse grew up in the north London suburbs, and was set on a showbiz career from an early age. When she was 10, she and a friend formed a rap group, Sweet 'n' Sour — Winehouse was Sour — that she later described as "the little white Jewish Salt 'n' Pepa."

She attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School, a factory for British music and acting moppets, later went to the Brit School, a performing arts academy in the "Fame" mold, and was originally signed to "Pop Idol" svengali Simon Fuller's 19 Management.

But Winehouse was never a packaged teen star, and always resisted being pigeonholed.

Her jazz-influenced 2003 debut album, "Frank," was critically praised and sold well in Britain. It earned Winehouse an Ivor Novello songwriting award, two Brit nominations and a spot on the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize.

But Winehouse soon expressed dissatisfaction with the disc, saying she was "only 80 percent behind" the album.

"Frank" was followed by a slump during which Winehouse broke up with her boyfriend, suffered a long period of writer's block and, she later said, smoked a lot of marijuana.

Winehouse just latest musician to die at 27

"I had writer's block for so long," she said in 2007. "And as a writer, your self-worth is literally based on the last thing you wrote. .. I used to think, 'What happened to me?'

"At one point it had been two years since the last record and (the record company) actually said to me, 'Do you even want to make another record?' I was like, 'I swear it's coming.' I said to them, 'Once I start writing I will write and write and write. But I just have to start it.'"

'Back to Black' led to fame
The album she eventually produced was a sensation.

Released in Britain in the fall of 2006, "Back to Black" brought Winehouse global fame. Working with producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi and soul-funk group the Dap-Kings, Winehouse fused soul, jazz, doo-wop and, above all, a love of the girl-groups of the early 1960s with lyrical tales of romantic obsession and emotional excess.

"Back to Black" was released in the United States in March 2007 and went on to win five Grammy awards, including song and record of the year for "Rehab."

Music critic John Aizlewood attributed her trans-Atlantic success to a fantastic voice and a genuinely original sound.

"A lot of British bands fail in America because they give America something Americans do better — that's why most British hip-hop has failed," he said. "But they won't have come across anything quite like Amy Winehouse."

British singers Adele, Duffy and even American Lady Gaga have both credited Winehouse with helping pave the way for them, RyanSeacrest.com reports . "Because of Amy, very strange girls like me go to prom with very good-looking guys," Lady Gaga told Popeater.

Winehouse's rise was helped by her distinctive look — black beehive of hair, thickly lined cat eyes, girly tattoos — and her tart tongue.

She was famously blunt in her assessment of her peers, once describing Dido's sound as "background music — the background to death" and saying of pop princess Kylie Minogue, "she's not an artist ... she's a pony."

Scoop: Remembering Winehouse's talent

The songs on "Back to Black" detailed breakups and breakdowns with a similar frankness. Lyrically, as in life, Winehouse wore her heart on her sleeve.

"I listen to a lot of '60s music, but society is different now," Winehouse said in 2007. "I'm a young woman and I'm going to write about what I know."

Personal woes overshadowed her talent
Even then, Winehouse's performances were sometimes shambolic, and she admitted she is "a terrible drunk."

Increasingly, her personal life began to overshadow her career.

She acknowledged struggling with eating disorders and told a newspaper that she had been diagnosed as manic depressive but refused to take medication. Soon accounts of her erratic behavior, canceled concerts and drink- and drug-fueled nights began to multiply.

Photographs caught her unsteady on her feet or vacant-eyed, and she appeared unhealthily thin, with scabs on her face and marks on her arms.

There were embarrassing videos released to the world on the Internet. One showed an addled Winehouse and Babyshambles singer Pete Doherty playing with newborn mice. Another, for which Winehouse apologized, showed her singing a racist ditty to the tune of a children's song.

Winehouse's managers went to increasingly desperate lengths to keep the wayward star on the straight and narrow. Before a June 2011 concert in Belgrade — the first stop on a planned European comeback tour — her hotel was stripped of booze. It did no good.

An addled Winehouse swayed and slurred her way through barely recognizable songs, as her band played gamely and the audience jeered and booed.

Winehouse flew home. Her management canceled the tour, saying Winehouse would take some time off to recover.

Though she was often reported to be working on new material, fans got tired of waiting for the much-promised followup to "Back to Black."

Occasional bits of recording saw the light of day. Her rendition of The Zutons' "Valerie" was a highlight of producer Mark Ronson's 2007 album "Version," and she recorded the pop classic "It's My Party" for the 2010 Quincy Jones album "Q: Soul Bossa Nostra."

But other recording projects with Ronson, one of the architects of the success of "Back to Black," came to nothing.

She also had run-ins with the law. In April 2008, Winehouse was cautioned by police for assault after she slapped a man during a raucous night out.

The same year she was investigated by police, although not charged, after a tabloid newspaper published a video that appeared to show her smoking crack cocaine.

Remember Winehouse on our Facebook page

In 2010, Winehouse pleaded guilty to assaulting a theater manager who asked her to leave a family Christmas show because she'd had too much to drink. She was given a fine and a warning to stay out of trouble by a judge who praised her for trying to clean up her act.

In May 2007 in Miami, she married music industry hanger-on Blake Fielder-Civil, but the honeymoon was brief. That November, Fielder-Civil was arrested for an attack on a pub manager the year before. Fielder-Civil later pleaded guilty to assaulting barman James King and then offering him 200,000 pounds (US$400,000) to keep quiet about it.

Winehouse stood by "my Blake" throughout his trial, often blowing kisses at him from the court's public gallery and wearing a heart-shaped pin labeled "Blake" in her hair at concerts. But British newspapers reported extramarital affairs while Fielder-Civil was behind bars.

They divorced in 2009.

Winehouse's health often appeared fragile. In June 2008 and again in April 2010, she was taken to hospital and treated for injuries after fainting and falling at home.

Her father said she had developed the lung disease emphysema from smoking cigarettes and crack, although her spokeswoman later said Winehouse only had "early signs of what could lead to emphysema."

She left the hospital to perform at Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday concert in Hyde Park in June 2008, and at the Glastonbury festival the next day, where she received a rousing reception but scuffled with a member of the crowd. Then it was back to a London clinic for treatment, continuing the cycle of music, excess and recuperation that marked her career.

Rolling Stone reports that its writer Claire Hoffman visited Winehouse at her London flat in the summer of 2008. She found the singer "living in disarray, with cuts and scratches up and down her arm and garbage strewn all over the house," the magazine wrote in its Web site obituary of Winehouse.

The L.A. Times reports that Winehouse had recorded a song for Tony Bennett's "Duets II," which is scheduled for release in September.

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