Amy Winehouse's sound, in her words, reflected the music she listened to. Known for her eclectic style — a mish mash of soul, jazz and classic rock, we decided to explore some of the usual suspects in Amy's record collection to gain better insight on what inspired her music.
Known as the Queen of the Blues, Amy was said to favor Dinah Washington over fellow competitor for the crown Billie Holiday. Take a look at Washington's gestures and overall stage presence in this performance video for "Send Me To The Electric Chair": she's got plenty of sass, sincerity, and soul. Kinda reminiscent of Miss Winehouse herself, don't you think? It would have been a killer song for Amy to cover.
It's easy to see why Sarah Vaughan was Amy's favourite jazz singer of all time. Described as having "one of the most wondrous voices in the 20th century," Vaughan was also awarded the most prestigious title in the jazz community when The National Endowment for the Arts gave her the NEA Jazz Masters Award in 1989.
Watching Vaughan's performance of "The Sassy One," it's hard not to think of Winehouse's stellar stage presence as well. Like Vaughan, Amy had the ability to evoke experiences of ecstasy as well as pain and tenderness well beyond her years: a trait that, depending one's sensitivity, can make you or break you.
Amy claims she had a thing for "proper girl groups", and that's the exact definition of 60's girl-power collective The Shangri-Las. One of their best songs, "Give Him A Great Big Kiss", totally resonates with Amy because she had a thing for bad boys. I mean, how dangerously cool is the guy frontwoman Mary Weiss is swooning over? "Big bulky sweaters to match his eyes / Dirty fingernails, oh, boy, what a prize / Tight tapered pants, high button shoes / He's always looking like he's got the blues". Miss Winehouse, I completely concur with your 60's girl group love affair.
Ronnie Spector, the frontwoman of this classic 1960's girl group, inspired Amy's famous beehive and winged out eyeliner. It was such a successful imitation, albeit definitely exaggerated, that Spector was quoted as saying (after seeing a photo of Winehouse in the New York Post) "...When I saw that pic, I thought, 'That's me!' But then I found out, no, it's Amy! I didn't have on my glasses." Amy's image arguably resonated as much with the public as her sound did; it said "take notice, I'm not like everybody else".
Alice Cooper was Amy's favourite female singer (her words, not ours). In "I'm Eighteen," Cooper sings about being in limbo between boyhood and grown up life: "Well, I'm in the middle without any plans / I'm a boy and I'm a man". Eighteen is that age when you can no longer run amok in the world, it's time to buckle down and start thinking about your ~*future*~.
The 27 Club holds a similar theory about the age 27 as well. It's a time in one's life where jobs and relationships should play a huge role in who you are, and many musicians taken away at that age couldn't handle or simply weren't ready for that kind of pressure. Either way, it's a transition we'll all go through one day so rather than resist it, adopt Alice Cooper's attitude instead as he sings at the end of the song, "I'm eighteen and I like it."