Ten years on and we still miss Amy

She was a year older than me and I felt an affinity to her, as a lot of Millennial Jewish women did


D 32808-16 Amy Winehouse Mark Okoh SPECIAL PRICE. Jazz and soul singer Amy Winehouse poses for photos at her home in Camden, London. Her debut album 'Frank' won an Ivor Novello award and was released in October 2003. 2004

Anyone who loved Amy Winehouse remembers where they were when she died, 10 years ago today. I was in a café with my mum in Islington’s busy Chapel Street when her phone suddenly rang. She gasped and looked straight at me: “Amy Winehouse has been found dead.”

Few of us can even imagine the impact Amy’s death must have had on her family and loved ones. While her fans’ grief is obviously incomparable with theirs, it felt like a great light had been extinguished. We were heartbroken and still are. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since we lost her.

She was a year older than me and I felt an affinity to her, as a lot of Millennial Jewish women did. She was from Southgate, not far from where I grew up. Looking at old photos of her, she could have been one of my school friends. There was something so heart-warmingly familiar about those photos: Amy in primary school with her wavy black hair styled in bunches, bits sticking out all over the place like mine used to do (Jewish hair never seems to grow at the same length for some reason); later, as a 90s teenager with her overplucked eyebrows, nose rings, beaded bracelets, and a bemused, awkward grin that I’d seen so many times on the faces of my closest friends.

Yet Amy was also a one-off. Her attitude, music and iconic look were what set her apart from her contemporaries. Just before the height of her global fame, one of my favourite clips of her was on the Saturday morning show Popworld in 2004. Tucked into a Nissan Micra with presenter Simon Amstell, the pair drove around London campaigning for her to win the Brit Awards for which she was nominated that year. Two naughty Jewish kids, yelling out the window through megaphones at unwitting passers-by, Amstell’s eager Estuary accent contrasting with Amy’s cockney, nicotine-laced cackle, making an endearing double-act. She eventually lost out to Dido (I know… who?) but would go on to win in 2007.

Two years later, 2006’s Back to Black would shake the musical landscape. Influenced by 60s girl groups such as The Ronettes and the Shangri-Las, it had a retro sound that Amy managed to make all her own, through her spine-chilling vocals and lyrics that hit like a punch to the gut, not least on its title track (“We never said goodbye with words / I died a hundred times”) . It became one of the most influential and important albums of the century and paved the way for other female artists such as Adele, Florence Welch, Jessie Ware and Laura Mvula, as well as cementing the career of DJ and producer Mark Ronson, who produced the album as well as Amy’s famous cover of Valerie by the Zutons. But the album of hers I love the most is her first, Frank, recorded during her jazz phase. Despite its dark subject matter on tracks such as What Is It About Men, the lyrics were often cheeky, the melodies catchy and slightly hopeful, in contrast to Back to Black’s haunting, heart-breaking sound.

Amy’s look also set her apart and made a lot of young Jewish women feel seen. In the video for Rehab she sported chunky gold earrings, baby-pink lipstick and Disney villain eyeliner swept all the way back to her hairline, her formerly straightened black hair styled into haphazard curls (it would later morph into her signature messy beehive). Amy was the embodiment of north London Jewish glamour and a world away from the gushy, plummy-voiced English rose types that this country normally exports. She often wore her chunky gold Magen David necklace which contrasted with her many tattoos — a taboo in our culture, yet on Amy an inextricable part of who she was. Amy’s Jewishness and artistic expression never seemed at odds. She was equally proud of both.

I visited her statue in Camden the other day. At a time when it’s particularly worrying to be Jewish in the UK, it stands lioness-like and proud, her Magen David displayed prominently around her neck. Rather than a tragic victim, Amy Winehouse was an icon of both the music world and Jewish community. Today, I will be blasting out Rehab at full volume in her memory. While wearing lots and lots of eyeliner. We love you, Amy.

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