To live up to a mononymous standing in music, an artist usually has to have built up an iconic status and legendary catalog to boot. Such criteria holds true when thinking of the Stings, Madonnas, Princes, Stevies, Beyonces, Janets and Michaels of the world. The impact one name can make on a whole culture can be referenced to the who’s who of mononymity that I just rattled off. After all reflection, I’d be hard pressed to not include Amy in that list. Yes, Amy. She of brazen soul and boundless spirit, who already achieved such iconic status within the short, Earth-scorching time she was with us. Though it pains fans such as myself to now celebrate her posthumously, it will not stop us from toasting to her life continually. And so, in recognition of what would have been Amy Winehouse’s 32nd birthday today, we look back at her legendary Record of the Year win at the 50th Grammy Awards, where we were treated to a reaction that breaks all our collective hearts and yet makes them burst with pride for her achievement each time we see it.
The memory of Amy Winehouse winning Record of the Year at the 50th edition of The Grammys is one that I always seem to revisit whenever I find myself on a random binge of all things Amy on YouTube. This moment, only seven years removed from it, is driven home with further heartbreak knowing that it’s only been a mere four years since she passed. Her relevance still in these days speaks volumes to the brevity of her impact, not only in soul music, but in the whole musical world in general. The depth and breadth of Amy’s contributions to music were lead first by that indelible, soul-stirring voice of hers. A voice whose timbre was unmatched and undeniable, one that oozed an old soul, yet carried a sound that was as big as her inimitable beehive hairdo.
There are few moments in award shows these days that stand out as a crowning achievement or live on as an indelible memory, now replaced with instances of infamy that now go for the shock value in this day and age of instant gratification and insatiable appetite for buzzwords and viral glory. That’s why I truly appreciate the wholehearted and honest reaction that Amy gave upon hearing from the legendary Tony Bennett’s lips that she had indeed won record of the year.
It was as if in one swift moment of disbelief over the win, a simultaneous relief washed over all her self-doubts, tragedies and personal demons. The wide-eyed girl from Southgate, London, with the heavy Cockney accent and dichotomous lifestyle of tragedy and triumph had made it. This was her moment where nothing else seemed to matter. Where each heave of the chest and partially-parted lips’ quiver tugged at all of our heart strings forevermore.
There’s few things caught on film that instantly give me the feels and make me flinch to reach for the nearest box of tissues. Of those, I am sure that the Fresh Prince episode of Will’s dad leaving him again (“How come he don’t want me, man?” will make any grown man shed tears), Kevin Durant’s MVP speech (all moms really are the real MVP) and this very reaction of Amy Winhouse are high on that list. And though I have not the time, energy and wherewithal to actually search for a better reaction to winning an award than hers’, I’m quite certain that none is more true, more honest, more heartbreaking and joyous all at once, than this.
Happy birthday Amy.