Amy Winehouse's family and fans keep her legacy alive
Intimate exhibit touring the world tells a different tale of the late singer.
A beehive-clad, tattooed British soul sensation named Amy Winehouse had just taken the stage in Belgrade, Serbia, on June 18, 2011. For the 20,000 Serbian fans who lined up to see the Grammy award winner perform in their capital city, they were ready for the concert of a lifetime. For Winehouse, it would turn out to be the most humiliating performance of her career.
Clearly intoxicated, Winehouse stumbled about the stage, mumbling lyrics for an hour to her perplexed fans. The crowd began to boo and throw paper cups as she walked off the stage and returned several times to attempt another classic from "Back to Black," her 2008 album that won a record-tying five Grammy awards.
Five weeks later, Winehouse was found dead in her North London apartment. She was 27 years old.
Now, three years after her star flamed out so spectacularly, Winehouse's family is showing a different side of the troubled singing sensation, the side only those closest to her knew – loving and devoted daughter, sister, friend and proud Londoner.
The traveling "Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait" exhibition that began in London and stopped in Tel Aviv, is now touring museums around the world. Among the artifacts on display are a suitcase, filled with photographs of family and friends, that Winehouse toted around as she traveled the world. Visitors can see part of her wardrobe, including the Luella Bartley dress she wore to perform at the 2008 Glastonbury Festival; her Grammy awards; her guitar; and her collection of refrigerator magnets.
The Israel museum aimed to take visitors "beyond the hype," according to chief curator Dr. Orit Shaham Gover. "Amy Winehouse was a very talented singer and music creator whom Israelis love, like the rest of the world," Gover told From the Grapevine.
Winehouse's brother, Alex, who helped curate the Tel Aviv exhibit with his dad, Mitch, knows there's much more to Amy than the way she died. He was to excited to show fans and museum visitors a side of Amy that only those closest to her knew.
"I am very happy to see this exhibition about my sister go on ... in Tel Aviv," Alex Winehouse said in a statement provided by the museum. "No more than a month after her passing in 2011, I came to Israel and was blown away by the warmth and love shown to myself and my wife, and of course Amy, whilst we were here. It is fair to say that the openness and empathy shown by the people of Tel Aviv helped us through what was an incredibly traumatic and sad time. Therefore, when the opportunity came to take the exhibition to this wonderful city, we were delighted to be able to say, 'yes.'"
Winehouse's iconic sound and throwback style ushered in a resurgence of the American jazz genre, channeling the funky soul girl groups of the 1950s and '60s such as The Supremes and The Ronnettes. Her death, however, thrust her into another, more infamous category – the "27 Club." There's only one requirement for membership into this ominous club: being dead at age 27. It's populated, among others, by Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.
As fans shuffle into the museum to view the last remnants of Winehouse's life, their memories of the troubled singer and her tragic end are brought to bare. "The morning after [Winehouse's death], all the top headlines of the newspapers were filled about the details and the questions about her death," Michal Israeli, who visited the exhibit recently, told From the Grapevine. In 2011, she had just flown to London to see another favorite musician, Mark Ronson, who produced Winehouse's smash-hit "Back to Black" album. As soon as her plane landed, her friends began tweeting news of Winehouse's death.
"I remember that we went to her house, and saw the spontaneous memorial site which her fans made with several flowers, notes and a lot of cigarettes and liquor bottles," Israeli said. "My most emotional experience was when Ronson dedicated his playlist to Winehouse, and her songs. I felt I was in a historical moment in music history.”
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