By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Troubled British singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home on Saturday, July 23rd at approximately 3:54PM. An autopsy has since been carried out but was deemed inconclusive. Police are now awaiting the results of a toxicology test to determine the cause of death of the singer who was known to have suffered a long-running and publicly documented battle with drug and alcohol addiction.
Winehouse rose to fame in 2003 with her debut album “Frank,” which was followed by the immensely popular “Back to Black” album in 2006 featuring her hit single “Rehab.” The singer was renowned for her fast living and became a constant feature in many tabloid newspapers as much for her unreliable concert performances as her notorious drinking and drug taking.
Many blame the singer’s problems and early demise on her sudden rise to fame at such a young age, together with bad influences from those around her. These factors have sparked comparisons of the star to the tragic life of American Jazz artist Billie Holiday.
Journalist Karen Heller of the Philadelphia Enquirer wrote that Winehouse was “Crashing headfirst into success and despair, with a codependent husband in jail, exhibitionist parents with questionable judgment, and the paparazzi documenting her emotional and physical distress.”
Winehouse’s fame stretched worldwide and included a huge fan base here in Brazil. In January 2011, she stayed in Rio’s bohemian district of Santa Teresa at the exclusive Hotel Santa Teresa ahead of her highly anticipated Brazilian tour which saw her perform in Recife, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
This one off tour was largely perceived by critics as her long-awaited “come back,” since the artist had seldom made live performances with a full backing band since 2008. Things looked promising for the singer who performed at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro on January 11th looking healthier than she had in previous months and on fine vocal form.
Even British newspaper The Daily Mail printed the headline ‘Amy Winehouse is looking healthier than ever as she prepares to showcase new material in Brazil,’ followed by pictures of the artist appearing fresh-faced whilst relaxing in the hotel grounds in Santa Teresa.
During the concert, Winehouse performed many of her most popular tracks along with some new material that was set to be released on a third album which has, sadly, been left incomplete.
Carioca fan Caroline Rothmuller attended the show and said, “She was clearly a little drunk on stage because she was swaying but her performance was still very good. I think that was all part of her popularity though, she lived on the edge. Even so, the news of her death is just tragic.”
Winehouse spent much of her career in and out of various rehab clinics trying to get on the straight and narrow, even using her experiences to pen hit songs such as “Back to Black” and “Addicted.” The general opinion of a large majority of people is one of sadness, yet tinged with a feeling of inevitability.
Raphael Fraga is a Brazilian fan who also attended the concert in Rio last January. He expressed his sorrow at the death of one of his favorite vocalists. “It was no secret in the news that she was on some kind of collision course, you kind of knew it would happen one day but that makes it no less tragic. She had a unique talent that will be very much missed, both here in Brazil and worldwide.”
Tee Hussein Cardaci, DJ and founding member of Rio’s own Botafogo Social Club offered: “It’s easy to forget, with the current chart success of artists like Adele, that it was really Amy that kicked off the modern soul revival. Her influence in bringing ‘real’ music back to the pop charts should not be forgotten amidst the tabloid headlines she created. I think her Brazilian audience could connect with the raw emotion in her music, despite the language barrier.”