Sunday, May 13, 2007

A friend of mine loaned me a CD 10 days ago and told me I had to listen to this terrific performer. The disc was promptly put into my desk drawer at work.

I didn't give it another thought until Friday night. I sampled a couple of tracks and liked what I heard. It came home with me.

Who is this artist? Amy Winehouse. You never heard of her? Neither did I. At least not until I did some research and listened to her music.

Amy, who has a strong cockney accent and vernacular, was born in 1983 in Enfield, Middlesex, England. The daughter of a taxi-driving father and pharmacist mother, she grew up in the Southgate area in north London.

The British press and tabloids seem to focus on Amy's rowdy behavior and heavy alcohol consumption. Fans and critics alike embrace her rugged charm and brash sense of humor because of her distinctively soulful and jazzy vocals.

Amy's 2003 platinum-selling breakthrough album "Frank" elicited comparisons ranging from Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan to Macy Gray and Lauryn Hill. The album was nominated for the 2004 Mercury Music Prize as well as two Brit Awards. Its lead single, "Stronger Than Me," won an Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song.

In 2006, Amy's management company finally suggested that she enter into rehab for alcohol abuse. Instead, she dumped the company and transcribed the ordeal into the U.K. Top Ten hit Rehab. It was the lead single for her second critically acclaimed album, "Back to Black." This time around the music delved into the sounds of '50s-'60s rock & roll, R&B, and soul.

Amy reminds me of a modern day Janis Joplin, a rock & roll/blues singer who lived fast and died young. Let's hope she lives a long, music-filled life. I would certainly like to see her in concert if and when she puts a Phoenix stop on her tour.