September 14, 2013
“Do I look like Russell Brand?” asked AMY WINEHOUSE (1983–2011) on BBC television’s Never Mind the Buzzcocks show, incredulous at the idea that she’d become known for decadence and promiscuity. “Yes, actually”, came the response. Winehouse first came to our attention with her Sarah Vaughanish debut album Frank. (Theories of what the title referred to ranged from the confessional nature of some of its songs to the name of her vibrator; in fact, the album was named for Frank Sinatra.) The liner notes to the original release of Frank contained an interview in which Winehouse described her true self as an old woman chain-smoking on a front step; this was removed from the later edition, released at a time when her popularity hinged on being the tattooed and wild young sybarite with whom the tabloid press had become obsessed. The soulful voice and marriage of jazz to hip-hop present in Frank was met by the critics with praise, but Winehouse didn’t set the world on fire until her second — more in tune with her ultimate image — album Back to Black. Around this time she began to publicly struggle with her fame and mental health, her name becoming almost synonymous with undignified decadence and with a young celebrity gone off the rails. Increasingly unable to perform at her concerts, she spent much of her stage time bellowing about her incarcerated husband, inebriated almost to the point of incapacity. She died of accidental alcohol poisoning at the age of 27.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Christopher McCulloch aka Jackson Publick, Margaret Sanger, Ben Cohen.
READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Revivalist (1974-83) and Social Darwikian (1984-93) Generations.