With the news that British R&B star and tabloid target Amy Winehouse has died from as yet undisclosed causes, two things are clear: the music world lost one of its most passionately soulful voices, and this is a tragedy that has surprised no one. Winehouse's struggles with drugs and alcohol were often in the public eye and even addressed in her own music, like her best-known hit "Rehab."
Throughout her colorful, troubled life, Winehouse fought many demons: addiction, an eating disorder, and a particularly tumultuous love life.
Her struggles to stay sober
Although she first broke through to international audiences with a song that found her saying "no, no, no" to her record company's claims that she belonged in rehab, it didn't take long for fans to realize she did have a problem with alcohol abuse, frequently appearing in what appeared to be a drunken state while onstage (one time she exited the stage to vomit) and during TV appearances. Hospitalizations, allegedly related to drug or drinking binges, were frequent. A leaked video of a woman alleged to be Winehouse smoking what appeared to be crack pipe and snorting cocaine caused a tabloid sensation and caused police to investigate the matter, though charges weren't brought against her.
Winehouse was aware of her problems: while she initially resisted her record company's attempt to put her in rehab, she willingly checked in to a center around that time. And in 2009, Winehouse's father Mitch-who had frequently voiced his concerns over her healthto the media-said she had entered a program to deal with her drug addiction, but he admitted that there were "slight backward steps -- not drug backward steps, more drink backward steps if you follow my drift."
Her father wasn't so coy about her addiction issues: he once told UK reporters that his daughter had lung damage from smoking crack cocaine and cigarettes and that her body was giving signs of what could lead to early stage emphysema.
Also in the smoking rotation was marijuana: in 2007, Winehouse and her then-husband were arrested in Norway and fined for marijuana possession.
Winehouse herself resisted confessional 60 Minutes-type interviews, but she didn't exactly try to hide her history with drugs and alcohol either. When asked by Rolling Stone in 2006 what her worst vice was, she simply responded, "Mainly that I'm quite reckless and always throw caution to the wind."
Her friend and fellow British bad girl singer Lily Allen once had this to say about her:
"I know Amy Winehouse very well. And she is very different to what people portray her as being. Yes, she does get out of her mind on drugs sometimes, but she is also a very clever, intelligent, witty, funny person who can hold it together. You just don't see that side."
Even before she gained the international celebrity that probably helped enable her addictions, Winehouse was open about other health problems, admitting to struggling with an eating disorder, self-cutting and depression on numerous occasions. Photos of an emaciated Winehouse were always popping up over the years, causing fans to worry she wasn't taking good care of her fragile body-a fear once again publicly validated by her own father when he spoketo the media about her bulimia in 2007.
As for her cutting problems, Winehouse seemed to have moved past that as she grew up: However, during an interview with a reporter from Spin magazine, Winehouse inexplicably began carving her the name of her then-boyfriend (and future ex-husband) Blake Fielder-Civil into her stomach with a piece of glass.
As with many of those who abuse alcohol, Winehouse had a tendency toward physical fighting. In 2008 she admitted to slapping a man in public and apologized for the common assault, receiving just a police warning. But a few months later, she descended into the audience tothrow a punch at a fan who had allegedly grabbed at her breasts.
Similarly violent was Winehouse's long-time flame Blake Fielder-Civil. It was breaking up with him that fueled much of her songwriting on her acclaimed Back to Black album, so it was a surprise to family and friends when she secretly married him in 2007. But married life hardly helped settle down her tumultuous life. Not long after tying the knot, the couple were photographed arm-in-arm, each of them bloodied and bruised amid reports that they had been fighting the night before. Winehouse defended her husband and said the wounds were self-inflicted, a claim that was met with public skepticism.
Fielder-Civil was jailed from July 2008 to February 2009 after pleading guilty to assaulting a bartender, among other charges. The two divorced not long after his release, with Winehouse claiming: "Our whole marriage was based on doing drugs." Before Fielder-Civil initiated divorce proceedings, Winehouse had allegedly began dating a younger actor for a short period.
Her father, who recently cancelled a jazz performance in New York of his own to fly back to London, has been expressing alarm and concern over his daughter's well-being for years now, publicly referring to her heroin, cocaine and alcohol problems when Winehouse's publicists remained mute. He even took issue with her smoking, saying in an interview with Sky News (via Access Hollywood) earlier this month: "She has got a serious health problem. My biggest fear is that she would die and she won't die from an overdose, she will die from emphysema. We would be talking about a very slow and painful death, gasping for air."
As recently as last month, however, Winehouse unwittingly revealed that all was not well. Video captured of her performing in Belgrade-at a show that was to launch her immediately cancelled European tour-showed her forgetting lyrics, stumbling around and being booed by disgruntled fans. Whether she was intoxicated or not, it was clear that Winehouse hadn't released herself from the demons that plagued her. Hopefully now she has found some peace.
For a sad look at where she was just one month ago, here's a clip of her performing "Tears Dry On Their Own" from her ill-fated concert in Belgrade:
[Photo: Winehouse at her final performance. Samir Hussein/Getty Images]