A full decade has passed since the late Amy Winehouse‘s debut LP Frank was first released in the UK/Europe. When Winehouse first appeared she was considered an extremely young Nu Jazz vocalist devoid of the social grace and seasoning that most other UK artists had who were considered for a huge push overseas.
For that reason, even though she was managed by Simon Fuller, the man who brought the UK show Pop Idol to America and rebranded it American Idol, it was the British teen Soul singer Joss Stone who was instead chosen to get the international push. Joss Stone’s album The Soul Sessions was released the month before Amy Winehouse’s Frank was and it became very popular stateside. The push from online music communities like Okayplayer led the way in getting the word out about the album initially. In Boston, the response to Joss Stone was pretty overwhelming. Let me tell you the story about the first time I ever heard Amy Winehouse.
It was late October 2003 and I was working the register at my new overnight job at CVS when just past midnight a girl who was an Emerson College student and a regular customer entered the store with her friend. As they were making their purchases at the counter the girl’s friend sighed and remarked how sad it was that no one in America even knew what Grime was. I then said, “If someone else besides The Streets or Dizzie Rascal can make a classic album that makes American music journalists take notice of it, they’ll make it point find out.” She shot me a puzzled look and asked “How did you hear about Grime?”.
I told her that it went back to my record stores days hanging out with DnB heads & Junglists back when UKG (UK Garage) slowly morphed into Grime thanks to So Solid Crew and Wiley’s Pay As U Go Cartel. I explained that I had to get my Grime tracks from Kazaa and LimewireWe then struck up a conversation about the UK urban music scene and the subject turned to Joss Stone. She said “I like Joss but I LOVE Amy!”
I said “Amy who?” She looked at me and smiled then said “I’ll be right back!” and ran out of the door. She returned to the store smiling holding a CD player and she said “I’m going to change your life forever. You get me, yeah?” She then put the headphones on my head as “You Sent Me Flying” started up. Once the beat dropped I gave her a look that was the precursor to the one Jaden Smith gave when Drake took the stage during the MTV Video Music Awards. I pressed the button on my register which produces the paper receipts are printed on & wrote down “AMY WINEHOUSE FRANK” on it immediately.
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Photo: Rolling Stone/Max Vadukul