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Rehab – Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse Back to Black albumEditor’s note: Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27 on July 23, 2011. Sad and quite a waste of raw talent. Sadly, my January 2011 prediction proved prescient.

Going out on a limb on this one. I’m predicting Amy Winehouse will remain a one-hit wonder for her 2007 hit “Rehab.”

Why is that going out on a limb, you ask? Well, with an artist so supremely gifted like Winehouse, it’s possible and even likely she could land another song in the Billboard Top 40. But I don’t think it’s going to happen and here’s why: her exceptional skills and stage presence are matched by an equally exceptional ability to get into regular trouble, whether that’s drugs, alcohol, bad choices, bad guys, bad press, bad clothing choices.

You name a bad decision or bad idea and Winehouse has probably done it more than once.

But that’s her charm and it’s also the inspiration behind her biggest hit, 2007’s “Rehab” from Back to Black.

I adore this song. Her voice is so earthy and authentic. The production is a brilliant update of 1960s soul music. Etta James could have sung “Rehab.” The Ronnettes could have sung “Rehab.” Even Aretha Franklin would have sounded amazing singing “Rehab.”

But it’s Winehouse who made this bouncy 1960s throwback into a hit that should last for decades and never sound old or outdated.

Click to read Rehab lyrics

Perhaps that explains why “Rehab” notched three Grammy wins in 2008 for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Winehouse also took home Best New Artist, which isn’t always a good thing since far too many Best New Artists fast become Best Forgotten New Artist within a year or two of their victory (just ask Marc Cohn who deservedly took home the award for Walking in Memphis back in 1991 and is now remembered primarily as a one-hit wonder).

Winehouse is an exceptional talent. She has an ear for a good song and the good sense to hire Mark Ronson as her producer for Back to Black. She also has a near-unmatched skill at generating controversy, which keeps her in the news but may ultimately prevent her from scoring another Top 40 hit.

I’ll keep listening and hoping for her success. If that’s the case, I’ll happily transmit Winehouse into a two-hit wonder.

But I’m not holding my breath for it to happen, especially since it has been five years since Back to Black was released.

Listen to Rehab by Amy Winehouse

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I'm an obsessive music collector, cataloger, commenter and trivia nut. Sometimes I'm even a listener. One-hit wonders have always been a guilty pleasure.

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2 Responses to "Rehab – Amy Winehouse"

  1. John Wilson says:

    Okay, can I go out on a limb here and say something that may not be politically correct in the music world? Amy Winehouse was not as big of a deal as the media wants us to believe.

    Yes, she had a great voice. Yes, she had some strong talent. And yes, she had a lot of potential. But unfortunately, she never got around to using it.

    I saw a news program today saying she should be included in the “27 Club”. I don’t think so. The other musicians that are usually included in that reference really made a mark on the world of music. Their music is still loved and cherished decades later. Amy Winehouse had a few good songs, and nothing more. The only reason she was as well know as she was is that she made such terrible personal choices. The attention the media gave her was due to her poor choices, not her musical talent. Her most recent attempt as performing live got her booed off the stage, something no self respecting artist would ever let happen.

    While her death is sad and tragic, she will be forgotten in a few years. Her name will be brought up in trivia questions and on some oldies radio stations. But her life and her music will not be remembered. And that is sad. Sad because of the potential she had. Sad because it was wasted away. Another Could Be that will now forever be a Might Have Been.

  2. Michael Waterman says:

    John,

    Great perspective. I tend to agree with you that Amy Winehouse’s influence is a bit overstated as is the mystique of the 27 club. Jim Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain influenced thousands of musicians. They were and are rock stars of the highest order. Janis Joplin was a soulful singer but maybe not as brilliant as people remember. Brian Jones an important founding member of the Rolling Stones but Jagger and Richards are the real story there. But it is remarkable that Hendrix, Joplin and Winehouse are all one-hit wonders. Cobain and Nirvana only placed two songs in the Billboard Top 40 so they were nearly one-hit wonders as well. I need to write about this phenomenon in more detail.

    Amy Winehouse made one really, really good record. She could be great live. And, as evidenced in her most recent concert, absolutely awful. But I don’t think Winehouse will influence thousands of aspiring soul singers. At least not in the way the Aretha Franklin or Etta James or Billie Holiday or Gladys Knight or James Brown or Marvin Gaye or Al Green or Teddy Pendergrass influenced and inspired millions of people over the years. She was great, but not that great.

    But her Back to Black record remains a very strong record. I’ll listen to it many times in future years.

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