A post-mortem is expected today after Grammy-winning chanteuse Amy Winehouse, who drew as much attention for her struggles with drugs and the law as she did for her soulful, tough-as-nails contralto voice, was found dead Saturday in her North London home. The circumstances surrounding the death of the 27-year-old singer are not yet clear.
“I am aware of reports suggesting this death is the result of a suspected drugs overdose but would like to re-emphasize that no post-mortem has yet been done and that it would be inappropriate to speculate on the cause of death,” said Superintendent Raj Kohli of the Metropolitan Police.
Her American record label, Universal Republic, issued a statement saying: “We are deeply saddened at the sudden loss of such a gifted musician, artist and performer. Our prayers go out to Amy’s family, friends and fans at this difficult time.”
With her distinctive beehive hairdo and frequent run-ins with the law, she provided tabloid fodder while filling out the top of the pops with her hit “Rehab,” which was named the No. 1 song of 2007 by Time magazine.
Born in the Southgate area of Enfield, London, Winehouse was introduced to a wide range of music at an early age. She attended Susi Earnshaw Theater School and then began training at Sylvia Young Theater School until her expulsion at age 14. She began playing guitar at age 13 and then began writing music. Quietly developed by Simon Fuller’s 19 Management, she later inked a deal with Island/Universal.
Winehouse’s jazz-influenced debut album, “Frank,” released in 2003 when she was 20 years old, propelled her to success in Britain, with a nomination for the Mercury Prize.
Her follow-up album, “Back to Black” in 2006, added elements of rock and R&B via producer Mark Ronson and Sharon Jones’ backing band the Dap-Kings. The album spawned such tart-edged, autobiographical singles as “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good” and made Winehouse a cross-platform star in the U.S., setting the stage for fellow retro-leaning Brit divas such as Lily Allen, Duffy and Adele. It was the bestselling album of 2007 in the U.K., and went on to win five Grammys, including best new artist and record and song of the year for “Rehab.”
She toured heavily during the summer of 2007, performing at Lollapalooza, Coachella and Glastonbury, although several scheduled appearances were cancelled or truncated due to the singer’s ill health — a pattern that would become a constant in her performing career. Due to visa troubles, the singer was able to perform at the 2008 Grammys only via satellite, and a 2009 headlining stint at Coachella was called off for similar reasons.
From 2007 to 2009, she was involved in a number of highly publicized legal scuffles due to various arrests for drug possession, assault and disorderly conduct, and in June 2008 she was diagnosed with early signs of emphysema, as well as an irregular heartbeat, which her father blamed on her addictions to cigarettes and crack cocaine. Her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, whom she married in 2007, was sentenced to 27 months in prison in July 2008 for his part in obstructing justice in an attack on a pub owner.
Winehouse and Fielder-Civil were divorced in 2009, and the singer was largely quiet through 2010. A planned series of European comeback concerts got off to a rough start last month, with Winehouse widely booed during a wobbly performance in Belgrade.
“Amy Winehouse is withdrawing from all scheduled performances,” said her manager Tim Gatt at the time. “Everyone involved wishes to do everything they can to help her return to her best, and she will be given as long as it takes for this to happen.”
No information about funeral or burial was immediately available.
Winehouse is survived by her father and mother as well as a brother.
(Associated Press contributed to this report.)