16:00 EST 23 June 2012
My mobile rang. The caller ID said ‘Andrew – Security’, so I thought it must be Amy, who often borrowed his phone.
‘Hello, darling,’ I said. But it wasn’t Amy, it was Andrew, her security guard. I could barely make out what he was saying.
All I could decipher was: ‘You gotta come home, you gotta come home.’
My world drained away from me. ‘Is she dead?’ I asked. And he said ‘Yes.’
Amy learned to walk on her first birthday, and from then on she was a bit of a handful. Janis was a wonderful mother, and still is. Amy and her older brother Alex could read and write before they went to school, thanks to her.
I was a hands-on father but more for rough-and-tumble than reading stories.
Alex and I would play football in the garden, and Amy would want to join in – ‘Dad! Dad! Give me the ball.’ I’d prod it towards her, then she’d pick it up and throw it over the fence.
Despite her charm, ‘Be quiet, Amy!’ was probably the most-heard sentence in our house during her early years. She just didn’t know when to stop.
Once she started singing that was it. And if she wasn’t the centre of attention, she’d find a way of becoming it – occasionally at Alex’s expense. At his sixth birthday party, Amy, aged two, put on an impromptu show of singing and dancing. Naturally, Alex wasn’t best pleased and poured a drink over her.
She would deliberately get herself lost at the vast Brent Cross Shopping Centre in North-West London, causing us to search high and low.
Then there was the choking game. One Saturday afternoon we were shopping in Selfridges. Suddenly Amy threw herself on to the floor, coughing and holding her throat. I knew she wasn’t really choking but she was creating such a scene that I threw her over my shoulder and we left in a hurry.
After that she was ‘choking’ everywhere, friends’ houses, on the bus, in the cinema.
I was devoted to my family, but as Amy and Alex got older, I was changing. In 1993, Janis and I split up. I waited until after Alex had had his bar mitzvah. Telling them was the hardest thing. Alex took it very badly – who can blame him? – but Amy seemed to accept it.
She started at Ashmole secondary school in Southgate, North London, in September 1994. From the start she was disruptive. Amy was good at maths: she would do mathematical problems for hours on end just for fun. She was brilliant at the most complex Sudoku puzzles and would do them in a flash.
The pity was that she wouldn’t do it at school.
By the time she was 12, Amy wanted to go to a drama school full time. Janis and I were against it but Amy applied to the Sylvia Young Theatre School in Central London without telling us.
How she even knew about it we never figured out. She decided to sing The Sunny Side Of The Street for her audition and she won a half-scholarship.
Hearing Amy’s music is hard . . . I miss her so much it physically hurts
She stayed for three years, but what a three years it was. Sylvia Young herself said that Amy had a ‘wild spirit and was amazingly clever’.
But there were regular ‘incidents’, for example, Amy’s nose-ring. Jewellery wasn’t allowed, a rule Amy disregarded. She was sent home one day when she’d turned up wearing earrings, her nose ring, bracelets and a belly-button piercing.
Along with other pupils from Sylvia Young’s, Amy started getting paid work around the time she became a teenager. She appeared in a sketch on The Fast Show and stood precariously on a ladder for half an hour in Don Quixote at the Coliseum in St Martin’s Lane.
Contrary to what some people have said, including Amy, Amy was not expelled. In fact, Janis and I decided to remove her as we believed she had a better chance with her exams at a ‘normal’ school.
Amy cried when we told her we were taking her away. Sylvia tried to persuade us to change our minds. She stayed in touch with Amy after she’d left, which surprised Amy, given all the rows they’d had over school rules.
Our relationship with Sylvia and her school continues to this day.
From September 2012, Amy’s Foundation will be awarding the Amy Winehouse Scholarship, whereby one student will be sponsored for their entire five years at the school.
Although Amy was smoking cannabis, she had always been against Class A drugs. Blake Fielder-Civil changed that. Amy first met him early in 2005 in a pub in Camden.
It was only about a month after they’d met that she had his name tattooed over her left breast. He became the centre of Amy’s world and everything revolved around him.
I found out later that Blake had been dabbling in heroin when Amy had first met him. As if the drug use wasn’t bad enough, Amy soon found out that Blake was cheating on her with his old girlfriend. Amy ended the relationship but took the break-up hard.
Not long afterwards, Amy and I were walking on Primrose Hill. She loved our walks there. That afternoon I could tell she was miserable. She squeezed my hand. ‘It’s me, isn’t it, Dad? I always pick the wrong boys, don’t I?’
In March 2006, she met the talented young Mark Ronson, a British producer/arranger/songwriter/DJ in New York. She knew very little about him and, on first seeing him, she said: ‘Oh, the engineer’s here.’ Later she told him she’d thought he would be an older Jewish guy with a big beard.
They met again the following day, by which time Mark had come up with a piano riff that became the verse chords to Back To Black.
Amy was supposed to be flying home a few days later, but she was so taken with Mark that she called me to say she was going to stay in New York to carry on working with him. Her trip proved fruitful, with Amy and Mark fleshing out five or six songs. Amy would play Mark a song on her guitar, write the chords down and leave him to work out the arrangements.
She told Mark that writing songs about Blake was cathartic and that Back To Black summed up what had happened when their relationship had ended: Blake had gone back to his ex and Amy to black, or drinking and hard times.
In the end, Back To Black was made in just five months. The album astonished me. I knew my daughter was good, but this was something on another level.
Back To Black was released in the UK on October 27, 2006, and during its first two weeks it sold more than 70,000 copies.
It reached No 1 in the UK Albums Chart. By December 2011 Back To Black had sold 3.5 million copies in Britain and more than 20 million copies worldwide.
I was blown away, beyond proud. But deep down I never wanted Amy to write another album like it. The songs are amazing but she went through hell to write them.
I don’t like Back To Black as much as I like her first album, Frank; I never really did. And that’s for one reason only: all the songs on Back To Black, apart from Rehab, are about Blake.
It occurred to me recently that one of the biggest-selling UK albums of the 21st Century so far is all about the biggest low-life scumbag that God ever put breath into. Quite ironic, isn’t it?
While the album’s success altered Amy’s career in every way imaginable, it came with a high price tag. Whereas people might walk along the street humming Love Is A Losing Game, to Amy it was like a knife in the heart, a reminder of the worst of times.
My first impression was that Blake seemed to be a decent guy, if a bit scruffy. I wondered about his age, as his hair seemed to be receding. We had a bit of a chat and he told me that he was working as a video production assistant and wanted to get into pop videos.
In May 2007 Amy and Blake went on holiday to Miami. Before they left she called me. She wanted to know how I felt about her and Blake getting married. I wasn’t too thrilled.
‘You’re both adults,’ I told her. ‘It’s for you and Blake to decide.’
Amy promised me that Janis and I would both be invited. But we weren’t. On May 18 Amy called me, all excited. ‘Dad, we’ve just got married!’
I was stunned into silence.
‘Aren’t you going to congratulate us?’
I couldn’t say anything to her. I pretended I couldn’t hear her properly and hung up. I was beside myself with sadness for Janis.
It was later that year, on the evening of Monday, August 6, when Amy had her first seizure. She was alone with Blake. He put her in the recovery position but instead of calling an ambulance, he phoned Juliette, one of Amy’s oldest friends, who drove her to hospital.
At 11pm, a consultant psychiatrist examined Amy. He said she had ‘just’ taken drugs, probably crack cocaine. He warned her that if she continued, she could have another seizure. I had to sit down before I fell. This was a bombshell. Amy had always been dead against hard drugs. Why had that changed?
Now I knew I’d been wrong in thinking Amy was stronger than Blake. It appeared to be the opposite. As the terrible months that followed were to make clear.
We made attempts to install Amy and Blake at the Causeway Retreat in Essex, for rehab. But they left early, choosing instead to check into a £500-a-night suite at the Sanderson Hotel in the West End of London.
I arranged to talk with Blake’s mother, Georgette and stepfather Giles. It was a waste of time: the Civils wouldn’t accept that Blake had introduced Amy to Class A drugs and blamed her for Blake’s addiction.
It was Amy’s 24th birthday on September 14. She wanted to go shopping, just the two of us, at Harrods. I bought her two sweaters that cost £140 each, a big chunk of the money I’d earned that week as a black-cab driver, and we had a really lovely time.
But somehow we got separated. I found out later that she’d jumped into a cab and gone back to the hotel. When I arrived, I found a drug-dealer in her room and kicked him out.
By now, she was drinking heavily, too. The first gig of her UK tour, at the Birmingham National Indoor Arena, was shameful. She slurred her way through the songs and staggered around the stage. The audience booed and jeered, but instead of walking off, Amy responded, saying: ‘If you’re booing, you’re a mug for buying a ticket.’
Standing at the side of the stage, I could hardly believe this was happening. It didn’t feel like I was watching Amy. I was sobbing and there was nothing I could do.
‘Dad, we’ve got married,’ cried Amy. I couldn’t say anything, I was too sad
When I walked into Amy’s dressing room, she was giving a friend’s mother a £20,000 watch. Why?
Because she was drunk. I cleared the dressing room, and the look on Amy’s face told me everything.
‘Give me a cuddle, Dad,’ she said, like a small child, as if somehow I could make everything right again.
Whenever I could, I saw Amy before a show, to gee her up and make sure she was OK. In November, before a gig at the Hammersmith Apollo, the singer Pete Doherty was with her.
They were sitting on the bed strumming guitars. Doherty was always in the news over drink-and-drugs binges so I didn’t want Amy anywhere near him.
I threw him out. Later, some people said I’d hit him over the head with his guitar. I have no further comment to make, but he did leave the room with his head in his hands.
I resolved that 2008 would be the year we helped Amy get clean. By now Blake was in Pentonville prison, sentenced to nearly three years for his part in a vicious assault on a bar owner. So I felt we had a chance of making it happen.
This was what Universal Records wanted, too. Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal, told me he would not allow Amy to perform. Furthermore, unless Amy went into rehab, he would not allow her to perform at the Grammys or the Brit Awards either.
His concern was that Amy would make a laughing stock of herself. Lucian laid down the law, instructing Amy that unless she went into rehab he would stop her working.
Resistant as she was to the idea, she agreed to be admitted to Capio Nightingale, a leading private psychiatric hospital in St John’s Wood.
Rest was a crucial part of the programme for the first few days, and Amy spent quite a bit of time sleeping. She started to eat properly and after a few days made progress.
Amy had an incredible power of recovery, given the quantity of poisonous substances involved. But a few days later, I had a call from the hospital to tell me one of Blake’s friends had smuggled drugs into the hospital, crudely stuffed inside a teddy bear.
On Monday, June 16, Amy had another seizure. She was taken to The London Clinic. We had security guys working shifts to look after her by this time and the next day I took a call from one of them to warn me that a package was on its way.
I jumped in my cab, and reached the clinic just in time to see a known drug-dealer with a bunch of flowers for Amy. The security man searched the bouquet and found a rock of crack cocaine. Amy went mad when she found out we’d intercepted the drug.
Shortly after this Blake was interviewed in a newspaper. He was quoted saying: ‘I dragged Amy into drugs and without me there is no doubt that she would never have gone down that road. I ruined something beautiful.’
Divorce proceedings between Amy and Blake started in January 2009, and on October 5, I could tell Amy that the divorce was now final. She told me two-thirds of her was happy about it, the other third wasn’t.
I never managed to get her to explain exactly what she meant. We had been planning to offer Blake £250,000 in full and final settlement. But in the event he received nothing. He had been renting a flat in Sheffield with the money he had made selling stories to the press.
It was the following year when she told me she’d met a guy who was gorgeous and she really liked him. Reg Traviss’s parents ran a pub near Bryanston Square in Central London and Reg had been at the bar when Amy walked in. Amy, bold as brass, went up to him and said: ‘I like your shoes.’
They were retro tan loafers, but I think he could have been wearing football boots and she’d have gone over to start a conversation. Reg couldn’t be more different from Blake. He’s a film director but, with his immaculate greased-back hair and stylish retro clothes, he looks like a Fifties American movie star.
Of course I was desperate for her to move on from Blake. Blake hadn’t stopped calling her all the time, but she had told him that they should see other people as their relationship was over. Not only was Amy going on a first date with a new guy, she was seeing Blake off.
Reg was everything Blake wasn’t, and his warm, quiet and polite manner was appealing.
He also seemed to have a fair grasp on how to deal with things relating to Blake. Reg understood that Amy would need to talk about him and was happy for her to do so. Things weren’t going well for Blake so he was bugging Amy; he was living in Sheffield, but whenever he needed help, he called her.
By 2011, Amy was completely clean. Yet the alcohol remained a serious problem.
June brought that infamous concert in Belgrade. It was a shambles. She must have smuggled some alcohol into the gig, or got someone to do it for her, and she was drunk before she went onstage.
Her performance was disastrous and much of the audience were booing. She couldn’t remember the lyrics of her songs, or even the names of her band members. It was one of the worst ever – right up there with Birmingham.
On June 22, Amy came home. She asked: ‘Dad, do you think I’m beautiful?’
‘I think you’re the most beautiful girl in the world,’ I replied. ‘But you’re asking the wrong person. I’m your father.’
‘Just give me a cuddle, Dad,’ she said, and we sat together for an hour, me holding her in my arms.
On Saturday, July 23, 2011, my darling daughter Amy passed away. We cried and cried until it seemed there were no tears left. I had seen Amy the day before I flew to New York and she was fine.
Janis and Reg had seen her the next day and she was fine. And she was still fine later that night – although, according to Andrew, her security man, she was ‘tipsy’.
When Andrew checked on her a bit later, she was singing and playing drums in her room. He had checked on her again in the morning and thought she was asleep. Then he checked again a few hours later and raised the alarm.
A lot of people believe Amy’s life was in turmoil during her last 18 months. But nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, she had lapses back into alcoholism, but those lapses had been getting further apart. There was no doubt that her life was going in the right direction.
I always equated Amy’s neatness, or lack of it, to how well-ordered her mind was at any particular time. During those last 18 months the clothes in her wardrobes were neat and tidy, her books and CDs were organised alphabetically and her sketch books numbered.
I knew that Amy couldn’t have died from a drug overdose, as she had been drug-free since 2008. But although she had been so brave and had fought so hard in her recovery from alcoholism, I knew she must have lapsed once again.
The following morning we went to St Pancras Mortuary to officially identify her. She looked very, very peaceful, as if she was just asleep, which, in a way, made it a lot harder. She looked lovely. Amy’s passing was and is unbearable. Our lives have changed for ever and will never be the same again.
There had to be an inquest into Amy’s death. Toxicology reports later confirmed that Amy’s system had not contained any illegal drugs at the time of her death. The alcohol levels found in Amy’s blood, however, were very, very, high: 416mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
The pathologist who conducted her post-mortem said 350mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood was considered a fatal level. The coroner’s verdict was misadventure.
Hearing Amy’s music – even if we just walk past an open window and hear it playing inside somewhere – is still difficult for me. I miss her so much that sometimes it physically hurts. It’s easy to forget that Amy was only a young woman when she died, as so many people had been touched by her life and her music.
Her legacy is already having a positive effect on many young people’s lives; I have spent much of the time since her death setting up Amy’s Foundation and will spend the rest of my life working for it. Together with my family, my dear friends and the many other people helping us, we will ensure that Amy is never forgotten.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
4 5 5
his primary challenge (MW) and how he lost his heart’s desire (ME) both = 45 = Regret. Pain. Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. Things went horribly wrong. Addiction.
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