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The Amy Winehouse we knew was a cartoon. In the fall of 2007, her international hit Rehab inspired an untold number of Halloween costumes. All across America, dance floors in spider web-strewn dive bars and dorm rooms were crowded with Amy Winehouses, their hair done up into rats nests, their eyeliner drawn absurdly wide and high. They had shirt-pockets Sharpie-inked on their skin, over their hearts. The purists topped their makeshift tattoos with the name of Winehouse's then-husband, Blake. Amid the ghouls and vampires, sexy nurses and black cats, they inadvertently mimicked her drunk wobbles, belting out the chorus, "They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said 'no, no, no.'"
"Amy, My Daughter," a biography published by Mitch Winehouse a year after she died from consuming a fatal amount of alcohol, tells the story of her life from the perspective of a grief-stricken parent. From her first appearance on the book's cover, Amy is literally fleshed out. With her cheekbones high, her face glowing and full, the often bone-thin and drug-addled singer looks like a star of the silver screen. She stands in profile, the corner of the book tastefully cutting off the top few inches of her enormous bouffant. Her left shoulder is exposed to show a horseshoe tattoo with the words "Daddy's Girl" inked around it. Below it, a tattoo of 60s pin-up girl is cropped below the neckline to obscure a pair of bodacious bare breasts. Here, Amy's signature cat eyes recall the beauty Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra circa 1963. We are shown a pretty girl as her father knew her.
Mitch Winehouse, a former cab driver and jazz vocalist himself, tells Amy's story from her rebellious youth through her drug-induced seizures, overdoses, and self-inflicted wounds. His unconditional love for Amy and her music is present on every page, but he laments that the majority of songs on her soulful final album, Back to Black, were inspired by Blake Fielder-Civil, whom he blames for Amy's drug addiction: "It occurred to me recently that one of the biggest-selling UK albums of the twenty-first century so far is all about the biggest low-life scum-bag that God ever put breath into. Quite ironic, isn't it?" It is out of love, Mitch claims, that he spoke to the press about her drinking and drug problems. When Amy was upset with her father for speaking about her addiction on TV, he told her: "Let me put you straight on something. I'll do whatever I need to do to get you off drugs. Don't you date lecture me about my family loyalty." For a daughter who craved attention, both negative and positive, this may not have been the best idea.
In the telling of his daughter's story, Mitch Winehouse reveals himself as a very permissive parent. For instance, in Amy's early teens, she attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School, where students weren't allowed to wear jewelry. "She was sent home one day when she'd turned up wearing earrings, her nose-ring, bracelets and a belly-button piercing. To me, though, Amy wasn't being rebellious, which she certainly could be; this was her expressing herself," Mitch writes. His support of her fashion sense seemed harmless enough, but later in her life, when her friends suggested for the first time that she needed to check into rehab, Mitch defended her decision that she didn't need to go. This inspired the line in "Rehab" that says, "my daddy thinks I'm fine."
When Amy became a celebrity, he wholeheartedly supported the skimpy attire that often invited some less-than-flattering tabloid press. Describing a dinner in St. Lucia, he writes, "I liked her 'islander' look of sports bra and shorts, but when we went into dinner that night there were a few tuts from the other diners about the way she dressed… Most of our fellow diners were okay with it, but I had to speak to one man who was rude about Amy." And toward the end of her life, during one of her many hospital stays, Mitch recalls the time that Amy sent him out to buy her underwear at the high-end lingerie shop, Agent Provocateur. Embarrassed by this errand (perhaps rightly so), Mitch told the salespeople he was shopping for his wife. Amy was so delighted with his purchases that she sent him back the next day to buy her a "baby-doll nightie."
Inappropriate moments aside, Amy, My Daughter offers an intimate look at a parent and child who loved each other very much. In one of the book's best scenes, Amy takes a break from the Back to Black recording sessions to listen to the finished tracks on a CD in her father's cab. Mitch explains that "she wanted to know how most people would hear her music, which would not be through professional studio systems." In this perfect moment, taxi-driver father and soon to be world-famous daughter sat side by side in a cab on the street, listening to a record that would sell over ten million copies, rocking dance floors and raising hairdos all over the world.