Amy Winehouse – September 24, 1983 – July 23, 2011
Jim Adams, our host for Song Lyric Sunday, has prompted us with “Members of the Died at the Age of 27 Club”. We are to choose a song by an artist who, you guessed it, died at the age of 27. Surprisingly there are quite a few. I picked Amy Winehouse and her memorable and fitting song, “Rehab”.
The Song & Artist
This song is autobiographical. Many successful musicians are haunted by their own personal demons of drink and drugs, and Winehouse is no exception. In February 2007 her father gave a candid interview to the Sun newspaper in which he denied that his daughter was an alcoholic, although he admitted that like many single women of her age she sometimes overdid the drink. On one occasion, after splitting up with her boyfriend, she fell over and hit her head.
Her previous management company wanted her to go into rehab but she said she didn’t need to. Her father agreed, adding that she wasn’t an alcoholic but had been drinking too much because she was lovesick, and “You can’t go into rehab for that.” Alcoholics drink everyday, he said, and his daughter didn’t. Hence the line: “They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no.”
Amy Winehouse was asked by The Daily Mail on August 3, 2007 how she writes songs. Said Winehouse: “With ‘Rehab’ I was walking down the street with Mark Ronson, who produced my last album. I just sang the hook out loud. It was quite silly really.”
She was then asked, “Did you sing the ‘no no no’ bit as well?'”
“Yeah, I sang the whole line exactly as it turned out on the record! Mark laughed and asked me who wrote it because he liked it. I told him that I’d just made it up but that it was true and he encouraged me to turn it into a song, which took me five minutes. It wasn’t hard. It was about what my old management company (run by former Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller) wanted me to do.”
On August 14, 2007, Winehouse entered The Causeway Retreat, a rehab center in Essex, England, with her new husband (and fellow addict), Blake Fielder. Addiction specialists know that admitting a couple to rehab together is a bad idea, but The Causeway was not an ethical institution: it was shut down amid a host of violations in 2010.
In the documentary Amy, Fielder is shown at the facility badgering Winehouse, putting a video camera to her face and asking her to sing “the new, updated version of ‘Rehab,'” presumably making a joke out of it. She refuses.
Winehouse did a few more stints in rehab to treat her drug and alcohol addiction, but it was ultimately unsuccessful. She was found dead in her London home on July 23, 2011.
This won the 2007 Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song.
At the 2008 Grammy awards, this won for Song Of The Year, Female Pop Vocal Performance and Record Of The Year. Winehouse also won for Best New Artist, and performed a medley of songs that were televised from London. Ronson won for producer of the year.
Backstage at the Grammy ceremony Mark Ronson recalled to Billboard magazine what it was like playing “Rehab” for Winehouse’s A&R for the first time. “About the first 15 seconds in, he said ‘Rewind, rewind!’ I didn’t think there would be dollar signs lighting up.”
The lines, “I’d rather be at home with Ray” and “There’s nothing you can teach me that I can’t learn from Mr. Hathaway” are references to two of Winehouse’s soul music inspirations: Ray Charles and Donny Hathaway. Hathaway is best known for his duets with Roberta Flack: “Where Is The Love?” and “The Closer I Get To You.”
Winehouse’s label Island Records originally didn’t foresee this song’s success. Island Records president Darcus Beese explained in a Genius annotation:
“When ‘Rehab’ dropped it was just like a newspaper being lit. I wasn’t expecting this song to be the one that did it. We wanted to come in with a cool angle. We thought putting Ghostface Killa on ‘You Know I’m No Good’ would be the big hit. It wasn’t until people heard ‘Rehab’ that they really got it.”
[Chorus] They tried to make me go to rehab I said, "no, no, no" Yes, I been black But when I come back, you'll know, know, know I ain't got the time And if my daddy thinks I'm fine He's tried to make me go to rehab I won't go, go, go I'd rather be at home with a Ray I ain't got seventy days 'Cause there's nothing, there's nothing you can teach me That I can't learn from Mr. Hathaway I didn't get a lot in class But I know we don't come in a shot glass [Chorus] The man said, "why do you think you here?" I said, "I got no idea." I'm gonna, I'm gonna lose my baby So I always keep a bottle near He said, "I just think you're depressed." This, me, yeah, baby, and the rest They tried to make me go to rehab But I said, "no, no, no" Yes, I been black But when I come back, you'll know, know, know I don't ever want to drink again I just, oh, I just need a friend I'm not gonna spend ten weeks Have everyone think I'm on the mend And it's not just my pride It's just till these tears have dried [Chorus] Written by Amy Winehouse Learn more about Amy Winehouse's life here Courtesy of Songfacts