Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Amy Winehouse: Amazing talent blew us all away

Amy Winehouse
Singer Amy Winehouse sits looking out the window of her North London home on June 11, 2008 in London, England.
Amy Winehouse attends the 2009 Q Awards held at the Grosvenor House Hotel on October 26, 2009 in London, England

She only ever visited Northern Ireland twice - to promote her album Back to Black and, later, to play the Ulster Hall.

But Amy Winehouse and her incredible vocal talent left a lasting impression on those who met her on her fleeting trips to Belfast.

The 27-year-old singing superstar - who was found dead at her London home on Saturday - came to Belfast in 2006 for a whistle-stop promotional tour for her second album Back To Black. She returned in March 2007 to play a sell-out show at the Ulster Hall.

But a concert due to take place at the Waterfront Hall later that year never happened when Winehouse - by now heavily addicted to booze and drugs - cancelled her tour on doctor's orders.

Among those who did meet her during her promotional trip of 2006 was Radio Ulster presenter Ralph McLean, who described her as "an amazing talent".

"There was a lot of hype around her then," he recalled. "Because of Back to Black, she had come to the fore and was well on her way to being a superstar.

"I remember thinking her quite petulant and narky, especially with her poor guitarist. To be honest, she acted a bit like a spoilt child and I thought she was one of those stars who wouldn't quite live up to the buzz around her.

"But when she pulled up a seat, nodded at the guitarist and began to sing Love Is A Losing Game, I was completely blown away. She was an amazing talent.

"She just sat there, with her hands in the pockets of her leather jacket, chewing gum the whole time, but singing effortlessly.

"At the time I remember thinking she was very skinny and the trademark tattoos and big hair was already in place. But she was clean at the time. In fact, after the session, she told me she was heading over to the gym in the Holiday Inn."

Ralph said that she came alive during the interview when they bonded over similar music tastes.

"She completely lit up when she was talking about music. She loved all the old '60s girl groups and really knew her stuff. She was a massive fan of The Specials and when I told her I was too, she was delighted. She could have talked forever about music.

"It's so sad that such a brilliant talent has been wasted and I think it's a real pity that in this day and age, more couldn't have been done to help her get back on track."

U105 presenter Maurice Jay also spent time with Winehouse that day and was impressed by her talent.

"She came into the studio, grabbed a seat and pulled up a mike. I asked her if she needed anything else, but she told me not to fuss, that she was fine, and that was that. She started singing and this incredible soulful voice came out.

"She sang with such raw emotion, the talent just oozed out of her.

"When she started talking about Back to Black, there was a real brightness in her eyes.

"I touched on her personal life and she said it had been a hard struggle, but she was reluctant to talk about it. All she wanted to talk about was her music."

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