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Police: Singer Amy Winehouse dies

By Sylvia Hui

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, July 23 2011 11:20 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2007 file photo, British singer Amy Winehouse poses for photographs after being interviewed by The Associated Press at a studio in north London, Friday, Feb. 16, 2007. British police say singer Amy Winehouse has been found dead at her home in London on Saturday, July 23, 2011. The singer was 27 years old.

Matt Dunham, File, Associated Press

LONDON — Amy Winehouse, the beehived soul-jazz diva whose self-destructive habits overshadowed a distinctive musical talent, was found dead Saturday in her London home, police said. She was 27.

Winehouse shot to fame with the album "Back to Black," whose blend of jazz, soul, rock and classic pop was a global hit. It won five Grammys and made Winehouse — with her black beehive hairdo and old-fashioned sailor tattoos — one of music's most recognizable stars.

Police confirmed that a 27-year-old female was pronounced dead at the home in Camden Square northern London; the cause of death was not immediately known. London Ambulance Services said Winehouse had died before the two ambulance crews it sent arrived at the scene.

An ambulance could be seen parked beneath the trees outside her London home, and the whole street was cordoned off by police tape. Officers kept onlookers away from the scene.

Last month, Winehouse canceled her European comeback tour after she swayed and slurred her way through barely recognizable songs in her first show in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Booed and jeered off stage, she flew home and her management said she would take time off to recover.

"I didn't go out looking to be famous," Winehouse told the Associated Press when "Back to Black" was released. "I'm just a musician."

But in the end, the music was overshadowed by fame, and by Winehouse's demons. Tabloids lapped up the erratic stage appearances, drunken fights, stints in hospital and rehab clinics. Performances became shambling, stumbling train wrecks, watched around the world on the Internet.

Born in 1983 to taxi driver Mitch Winehouse and his pharmacist wife Janis, Winehouse grew up in the north London suburbs, and was set on a showbiz career from an early age. When she was 10, she and a friend formed a rap group, Sweet 'n' Sour — Winehouse was Sour — that she later described as "the little white Jewish Salt 'n' Pepa."

She attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School, a factory for British music and acting moppets, later went to the Brit School, a performing arts academy in the "Fame" mold, and was originally signed to "Pop Idol" svengali Simon Fuller's 19 Management.

But Winehouse was never a packaged teen star, and always resisted being pigeonholed.

Her jazz-influenced 2003 debut album, "Frank," was critically praised and sold well in Britain. It earned Winehouse an Ivor Novello songwriting award, two Brit nominations and a spot on the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize.

But Winehouse soon expressed dissatisfaction with the disc, saying she was "only 80 percent behind" the album.

"Frank" was followed by a slump during which Winehouse broke up with her boyfriend, suffered a long period of writer's block and, she later said, smoked a lot of marijuana.

"I had writer's block for so long," she said in 2007. "And as a writer, your self-worth is literally based on the last thing you wrote. .. I used to think, 'What happened to me?'

"At one point it had been two years since the last record and (the record company) actually said to me, 'Do you even want to make another record?' I was like, 'I swear it's coming.' I said to them, 'Once I start writing I will write and write and write. But I just have to start it.'"

The album she eventually produced was a sensation.

Released in Britain in the fall of 2006, "Back to Black" brought Winehouse global fame. Working with producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi and soul-funk group the Dap-Kings, Winehouse fused soul, jazz, doo-wop and, above all, a love of the girl-groups of the early 1960s with lyrical tales of romantic obsession and emotional excess.

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