Amy Winehouse, iconoclastic British singer-songwriter, found dead

Troubled singer Amy Winehouse won five Grammys in her short career and inspired other young artists.

British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse was a phenomenon: a Jewish girl from a London suburb with a retro beehive, a devil-may-care attitude and a voice that channeled Aretha Franklin and Ruth Brown. Music industry figures on both sides of the Atlantic hung their hopes on her, and her breakout album, “Back to Black,” did not disappoint, selling millions of copies.

Less than a decade after her emergence as an original talent, she was more likely to be mentioned in the company of pop music‘s tragedies — artists like Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, whose self-destructive habits led to their deaths at the age of 27.

Winehouse, a five-time Grammy winner whose distinctive fusion of jazz and soul influenced other young artists, was found dead in her London home Saturday. Like Cobain and the others, she was 27.

The cause of death was not immediately known, but she had sought treatment, as recently as last month, for health problems that have been reported to include drug and alcohol abuse and early-stage emphysema.

“We are all heartbroken and saddened beyond words,” her publicist, Tracey Miller, said Saturday in confirming Winehouse’s death.

Outside her home in the Camden district of London, scores of fans gathered, some bearing flowers and other scrawling emotional messages on the sidewalk. Tributes flowed on Twitter and other media from celebrities who included actressDemi Moore and the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood, who said he planned to dedicate Saturday’s reunion performance of his band The Faces to Winehouse.

Her death was not a surprise to many followers of her career. In recent years her musical achievements were overshadowed by reports of run-ins with the police, missed or aborted shows and struggles with addictions. She appeared gaunt and ill-kempt in photos. In early June she had been in a London clinic known for treating psychiatric, drug and alcohol problems. A few weeks ago, after a disastrous performance in Belgrade, she canceled a 12-city European tour.

Her problems with drink and drugs escalated to the point that her managers urged her to enter treatment. Her answer was the song “Rehab,” named song and record of the year at the 2008Grammy Awards and featured on “Back to Black.” Its insistent refrain: “They tried to make me go to rehab, I said ‘no, no, no.’ “


elaine.woo@latimes.com

Times staff writers Randall Roberts, Randy Lewis and Todd Martens contributed to this report.

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