AMY WINEHOUSE, BRITISH SOUL SINGER WITH A TROUBLED LIFE
Amy Winehouse at a music festival near Madrid in 2008. More Photos »
By BEN SISARIO
Published: July 23, 2011
Amy Winehouse, the British singer who found worldwide fame with a sassy, hip-hop-inflected take on retro soul, yet became a tabloid fixture as her problems with drugs and alcohol led to a strikingly public career collapse, was found dead on Saturday in her apartment in London, the police said. She was 27.
An Appraisal: For Winehouse, Life Was Messier Than Music(July 25, 2011)
Times Topic:Amy Winehouse
Matt Dunham/Associated Press
Ms. Winehouse in 2007. Her album “Back to Black” established her as a fresh voice in music. More Photos »
Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Amy Winehouse with Blake Fielder-Civil in 2007. More Photos »
The cause was not immediately known. The police said that they were investigating the circumstances of the death, but that “at this early stage it is being treated as unexplained.”
With a husky, tart voice and a style that drew equally from the sounds of Motown and the stark storytelling of rap, Ms. Winehouse became one of the most acclaimed young singers of the past decade, selling millions of albums, winning five Grammy Awards and starting a British retro-R&B trend that continues today.
Yet, almost from the moment she arrived on the international pop scene in early 2007, Ms. Winehouse appeared to flirt with self-destruction. She sang of an alcohol-soaked demimonde in songs like “Rehab” — whose refrain, “They tried to make me go to rehab/I said, ‘No, no, no,’ ” crystallized Ms. Winehouse’s persona — and before long it seemed to spill over into her personal life and fuel lurid headlines.
The interplay between Ms. Winehouse’s life and art made her one of the most fascinating figures in pop music since Kurt Cobain, whose demise in 1994 — also at age 27 — was preceded by drug abuse and a frustration with fame as something that could never be escaped. Yet in time, the notoriety from Ms. Winehouse’s various drug arrests, public meltdowns and ruined concerts overshadowed her talent as a musician, and her career never recovered.
On Saturday, as the news of Ms. Winehouse’s death spread, many musicians took to Twitter with deep sadness but no surprise. Lily Allen, who rose through the British pop scene shortly after Ms. Winehouse, called her “such a lost soul.” The singer Josh Groban wrote: “Drugs took her gift, her soul, her light, long before they took her life. RIP Amy.”
As much as her misfortunes eventually took on a sense of predictability, when Ms. Winehouse arrived with her breakthrough second album “Back to Black,” which was released in Britain in late 2006 and in the United States the next year, she was a fresh voice with a novel take on pop history. She spoke of her love for Frank Sinatra, Thelonious Monk and Motown, as well as Nas, the hard-core New York rapper with a sharp eye for narrative detail.
Her greatest love, however, was the 1960s girl groups, something that was evident from the instantly recognizable beehive hairdo and Cleopatra makeup that she borrowed from the Ronettes. In an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 2007, Ms. Winehouse explained how a breakup had inspired the songs on “Back to Black,” and described her state of mind in terms of music and alcohol.
“I didn’t want to just wake up drinking, and crying, and listening to Shangri-Las, and go to sleep, and wake up drinking, and listening to the Shangri-Las,” she said. “So I turned it into songs, and that’s how I got through it.”
Amy Jade Winehouse was born in Southgate, London, on Sept. 14, 1983. Her mother, Janis, was a pharmacist, and her father, Mitch, was a cab driver who nursed a love for music. They both survive her, along with a brother, Alex.
Ms. Winehouse showed an early talent for performing, as well as an eclecticism that would characterize her later work. She loved her father’s Sinatra records, but she also liked hip-hop; at age 10 she and a friend formed a rap group called Sweet ’n’ Sour that Ms. Winehouse later described as “the little white Jewish Salt-N-Pepa.” (Ms. Winehouse was the “sour” half.)
She attended the Sylvia Young Theater School in London and later went to the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology, a free performing arts school there that counts several other recent female pop stars among its alumnae, including Ms. Allen and Adele, another young singer who is sometimes seen as picking up the neo-soul mantle from Ms. Winehouse.
In 2003, at age 19, Ms. Winehouse released her first album, “Frank.” Influenced by jazz, it established her as a rising star in Britain. But “Back to Black,” recorded with the producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, and the Brooklyn retro-soul band the Dap-Kings, made her an international sensation. With thick horns and club-ready hip-hop beats, the album was a darkly stylish update of classic 1960s R&B, and it was adored by critics and the public alike.
According to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks music sales, Ms. Winehouse has sold 2.7 million albums and 3.4 million tracks in the United States.
Yet, while “Rehab” was still climbing the charts, Ms. Winehouse made headlines for drug binges and arrests that left her hospitalized and forced her to cancel concert dates.
In October 2007, Ms. Winehouse and her husband at the time, Blake Fielder-Civil, were arrested in Norway on charges of marijuana possession. A month later, Mr. Fielder-Civil was arrested and accused of perverting the course of justice by trying to bribe the victim in a bar fight not to testify against him. (Ms. Winehouse and Mr. Fielder-Civil divorced in 2009.)
Perhaps the peak of Ms. Winehouse’s career was the 2008 Grammy Awards. She was nominated for six prizes and took home five, including Best New Artist. Yet even days before the show, her appearance there was uncertain because of visa problems. In the end, she performed by satellite from London.
Although Ms. Winehouse has not made an album since “Back to Black,” she tried to revive her career several times. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Ms. Winehouse’s father, who released a jazz album this year, said she had been in good health lately. (Mr. Winehouse was scheduled to perform at the Blue Note jazz club in New York on Monday, but canceled after learning of his daughter’s death.)
Yet Ms. Winehouse’s most recent comeback attempt faltered badly. Last month, she canceled a European tour after a performance in Belgrade on the first night, during which she appeared to be too intoxicated to perform properly.
James C. McKinley Jr., Ravi Somaiya and Julia Werdigier contributed reporting.
Ms. Winehouse, the British singer who found worldwide fame with a sassy, hip-hop-inflected take on retro soul, became a tabloid fixture because of addiction problems.
By JON PARELES
Under better circumstances, Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” would have been a foundation for a maturing catalog.
JOE LEE WILSON, A LEADER OF THE ’70S LOFT-JAZZ MOVEMENT
By PETER KEEPNEWS
Published: July 22, 2011
Joe Lee Wilson, an acclaimed singer who was also a leader of the loft-jazz movement in the 1970s, died on Sunday at his home in Brighton, England. He was 75.
Sherry Brown/Tulsa World
Joe Lee Wilson last fall.
The cause was congestive heart failure, his wife, Jill, said.
Mr. Wilson, a baritone with a resonant, seductive voice in the tradition of Billy Eckstine and a style rooted in the blues of his native Southwest, seemed destined for big things when he signed with Columbia Records in 1969. But for reasons that remain unclear, most of the recordings he made for Columbia were not released, and although he went on to record for various small labels, and to enjoy critical praise and some success — especially in Europe, where he spent the last three decades of his life — he stayed largely under the radar for most of his career.
In the early 1970s Mr. Wilson became closely associated with the jazz avant-garde, working with the saxophonist Archie Shepp and other exponents of free jazz. In 1972 he was among the organizers of the New York Musicians’ Jazz Festival, featuring avant-gardists who felt snubbed by the Newport Jazz Festival, which was presented in New York for the first time that summer. A year later, Mr. Wilson was on the Newport-New York bill.
At around the same time, Mr. Wilson opened the 100-seat Ladies’ Fort in a basement on Bond Street in NoHo. It quickly became one of the most noteworthy of the do-it-yourself musician-run performance spaces in Lower Manhattan, known generically as jazz lofts, which served as valuable showcases and workshops for more experimental types of jazz at a time when musicians were finding employment opportunities scarce and nightclubs were going out of business.
The Ladies’ Fort was a shoestring operation, generating more enthusiasm than money. “Since we were turned down for a grant, we pay the musicians by giving them two-thirds of the receipts we take in at the door,” Mr. Wilson told The New York Times in 1977. “The other third goes for the rent. Which is two months behind.” The Ladies’ Fort closed in 1979.
Joseph Lee Wilson was born on Dec. 22, 1935, in Bristow, Okla., to Stella and Ellis Wilson. He moved to Los Angeles when he was 15 and attended the Los Angeles Conservatory, where he studied opera, and Los Angeles City College. He began singing with local bands in 1958 and moved to New York in 1962, where he worked with Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard and others.
In addition to his wife, whom he married in 1976, he is survived by a daughter, Naima Wilson, of Los Angeles.
Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.
MAGNUS MALAN, APARTHEID DEFENDER
Published: July 18, 2011
Magnus Malan, a South African general and defense minister who in the 1980s helped devise and carry out his nation’s last-ditch strategy to preserve its system of rigid racial segregation, including ordering raids into surrounding countries, died on Monday in Cape Town. He was 81.
Gen. Magnus Malan, South Africa’s former defense minister, at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997.
A family spokesman said the cause was heart failure, The South African Press Association reported.
General Malan used the phrase “total onslaught” to describe the threats to apartheid, as the country’s racial laws were known. He saw those threats coming from Communists, neighboring African countries and liberals in the United States. His answer was “a total strategy,” combining elements of the political, economic and psychological spheres as well as the military.
He approved counterinsurgencies in Mozambique and Angola; set up a covert agency responsible for disinformation and assassination; sent troops to control unrest in so-called townships, areas designated for blacks; and declared that political rights were not a relevant concern for blacks. He and his aides regularly used terms like “annihilate” and “exterminate.” He approved a biological warfare program.
He also created programs to win the support of middle-class blacks by easing restrictions on black businesses and opening some hotels, theaters and restaurants to blacks.
General Malan was charged with authorizing an assassination squad that mistakenly killed 13 civilians, mainly women and children, in 1987. He was the highest-ranking apartheid official ever prosecuted. He was acquitted in 1996 after a seven-month trial on the ground that there was no evidence linking him to the massacre. President Nelson Mandela, without commenting on the substance of the verdict, defended the court’s legitimacy.
In 1997, General Malan volunteered to testify before South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated atrocities in the country’s past. He accepted responsibility for the cross-border counterinsurgencies and for setting up the secret police agency, and for the deaths they caused. But he characterized the actions as “legal acts of state.”
The commission condemned General Malan and other top government leaders for using words like “eliminate,” “take out” and “wipe out,” a predilection that it said led to the killing of political opponents. It also condemned the assassination teams. It passed these findings on to prosecutors, who for reasons of “national interest” did not take up the case.
Magnus Andre De Merindol was born in Pretoria on Jan. 30, 1930, and later adopted his mother’s surname, Malan. His father was a biochemistry professor who went on to become a member of Parliament and parliamentary speaker for the National Party, which governed South Africa from 1948 to 1994.
He tried to join the Army at 13, then returned to school after he was rejected. He earned a bachelor’s degree in military science from the University of Pretoria; joined the Navy; and served a stint in the Marines on Robben Island, site of the prison where Mr. Mandela was held. He transferred to the Army as a lieutenant, rising rapidly, and studied at the United States Army’s General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in 1962-63.
By the early 1970s, General Malan had come to epitomize the sort of modern military technocrat whose influence was rising in South Africa. He was named chief of the South African Army in 1973 and chief of the South African Defense Force in 1976. He was the youngest man to hold both positions.
Prime Minister P. W. Botha, who had come to rely on General Malan as chief of the defense force, named him his defense minister in 1980. He rose to become chairman of the minister’s council in the House of Assembly, the lower house of Parliament.
But his real power came from being part of the secretive group of military and political commanders that became known as “securocrats.” He presided over a budget of nearly $4 billion, of which 60 percent was controlled by an inner group of the cabinet. He approved the innocuously named Civil Cooperation Bureau, which became known for assassinations and other covert deeds.
In his testimony to the truth commission, General Malan said: “During these periods we are talking about, 1980 to 1991, we were fighting a war. I had more than 100,000 troops under training or busy with operations. So we were pretty much busy. We had a front approximately as far as London is from Moscow.”
General Malan led the talks that paved the way for Namibia’s independence in 1990, ending its status as a colony of South Africa. In July 1991, President F. W. de Klerk removed him from the defense ministry in the wake of embarrassment over secret government financing of a mainly black party that opposed Mr. Mandela’s African National Congress. He moved General Malan to the ministry for water affairs and forestry. General Malan retired from Parliament in 1993.
He is survived by his wife of 49 years, the former Magrietha van der Walt; two sons; a daughter; and nine grandchildren.