When Amy Winehouse died on July 23, 2011, at the age of 27, some called the tragedy “unavoidable”. Whether or not you agreed with that particular sentiment, you can’t deny that on that day one year ago, music lost one of the most unique and soulful voices of our time. Russell Brand said it best in his tribute to his late friend: “Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today.”
Then the industry gathered to collectively grieve in the manner most natural to them: in song. Through live performances both premeditated and impromptu, her contemporaries honored the British singer and her otherworldly talent with a series of touching tributes that continue even today. Below we’ve included the seven standouts that moved us most of all.
Mark Ronson & The Business Intl., “Valerie”
Mark Ronson worked closely with Winehouse over the course of her career, producing six of the 11 songs on her second studio album, Back To Black. The collaboration yielded multiple Grammy wins, including Producer of the Year and Record Of The Year (which he shared with Winehouse) in 2008. Only four days after Amy’s death, Ronson dedicated a performance of “Valerie” – their final collaboration and her last notable recording — to Amy, saying: “She is my sister, wherever she is.” One YouTube commenter described his tribute best: “awkward and messy and ultimately heartwrenching and lovely. just like amy.”
During a three-song encore at a Los Angeles concert in August, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin broke into Winehouse’s signature single, “Rehab.” Though not a full cover, Martin’s slowed down version of the chorus proved particularly elegiac as he transitioned it into an emotional and oddly appropriate performance of “Fix You”.
George Michael, “Love Is A Losing Game”
At the opening night of his Symphonica Tour, George Michael took a break from his set to pay special attention to the late singer. “In 30 years of making music, I was never actually in awe of anybody new that came along on the British scene until this lady arrived,” he said to introduced his orchestra-backed performance of “Love Is A Losing Game”, the last single released in Winehouse’s lifetime.
Florence Welch, “Back to Black”
Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine traded ethereal for elegance when she led an Amy Winehouse tribute at the VH1 DIVAS Celebrates Soul concert last December. The British chanteuse called Winehouse “the most incredible artist”, then dazzled on Amy’s forlorn torch song “Back To Black”.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings And Wanda Jackson, “You Know I’m No Good”
Soul/funk singer Sharon Jones and pioneering rockabilly artist Wanda Jackson also lent their voices to the VHI DIVAS Celebrates Soul concert, performing a lively version of Winehouse’s self-referentially tongue-in-cheek single “You Know I’m No Good”. Rapper Nas prefaced the performance with a heartfelt dedication to his friend, calling her “his soul sister”.
Bruno Mars, “Valerie”
Bruno Mars was tasked with properly commemorating the late artist without dampening the lively spirit of the MTV Video Music Awards just a little over a month after her passing. But he did just that with a rousing performance of “Valerie”, which was much more a celebration of Winehouse’s life and gift than a eulogy for the fallen star.
Adele, “Make You Feel My Love”
Adele hasn’t shied away from commending Amy Winehouse for making British music exciting again. “I was so inspired by her, and she never took it seriously just how inspired I was by her,” she told audiences last September. She dedicated Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” to the late singer, knowing how much she loved it. And during her performance, she had the crowd use their cameras and phones to illuminate Royal Albert Hall like a star-filled sky, saying, “She can see us now. For Amy.”