AMY, MY DAUGHTER
BEFORE WE START
You’ll understand if I tell you this is not the book I wanted to write. I had been working on one about my family’s history with my friend Paul Sassienie and his writing partner Howard Ricklow. It was due to be published this year.
I needed to write this book instead. I needed to tell you the real story of Amy’s life. I’m a plain-talking guy and I’ll be telling it like it was. Amy’s too-short life was a roller-coaster ride; I’m going to tell you about all of it. Apart from being her father, I was also her friend, confidant and adviser – not that she always took my advice, but she always heard me out. For Amy, I was the port in the storm; for me, she – along with her brother Alex – was the light of my life.
I hope, through reading this book, that you will gain a better understanding of and a new perspective on my darling daughter Amy.
THANKS, AND A NOTE
A huge thank-you to my wife Jane, for being my rock during the most difficult time of my life and for her continuing dedication and support; Alex, my son, for his love and understanding; Janis, for being a fantastic mother to our children; my sister Melody and all my wonderful family and friends, for always being there; my manager Trenton; my PA Megan; Raye and everyone at Metropolis; my agents Maggie Hanbury and Robin Straus, and the lovely people at HarperCollins on both sides of the Atlantic. And special thanks to Paul Sassienie, Howard Ricklow and Humphrey Price for helping me write this book.
I am donating all of my proceeds as author from this book to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which we, Amy’s family, established to help children and young adults facing difficulty and adversity in their lives. I intend to spend the rest of my life raising money for the Foundation.
I believe that through her music, the Foundation’s work and this book, Amy will be with us for ever.
I’d like to say that the first time I cuddled my new-born baby daughter, on 14 September 1983, was a moment that will live with me always, but it wasn’t nearly as straightforward as that.
Some days time drags, and others the hours just fly. That day was one of those, when everything seemed to happen at once. Unlike our son Alex, who’d been born three and a half years earlier, our daughter came into the world quickly, popping out in something of a rush, like a cork from a bottle. She arrived in typical Amy fashion – kicking and screaming. I swear she had the loudest cry of any baby I’ve ever heard. I’d like to tell you that it was tuneful but it wasn’t – just loud. Amy was four days late, and nothing ever changed: for the whole of her life she was always late.
Amy was born at the Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, north London, not far from where we lived in Southgate. And because the moment itself was quickly over, her family – grandparents, great-aunts, uncles and cousins – soon crowded in, much as they did for almost every event in our family, good or bad, filling the spaces around Janis’s bed to greet the new arrival.
I’m a very emotional guy, especially when it comes to my family, and, holding Amy in my arms, I thought, I’m the luckiest man in the world. I was so pleased to have a daughter: after Alex was born, we’d hoped our next child might be a girl, so he could have a sister. Janis and I had already decided what to call her. Following a Jewish tradition, we gave our children names that began with the same initial as a deceased relative, so Alex was named after my father, Alec, who’d died when I was sixteen. I’d thought that if we had another boy he’d be called Ames. A jazzy kind of name. ‘Amy,’ I said, thinking that didn’t sound quite as jazzy. How wrong I was. So Amy Jade Winehouse – Jade after my stepfather Larry’s father Jack – she became.
Amy was beautiful, and the spitting image of her older brother. Looking at pictures of the two of them at that age, I find it difficult to tell them apart. The day after she was born I took Alex to see his new little sister, and we took some lovely pictures of the two of them, Alex cuddling Amy.
I hadn’t seen those photographs for almost twenty-eight years, until one day in July 2011, the day before I was due to go to New York, I got a call from Amy. I could tell right away that she was very excited.
‘Dad, Dad, you’ve got to come round,’ she said.
‘I can’t, darling,’ I told her. ‘You know I’ve got a gig tonight and I’m flying off early in the morning.’
She was insistent. ‘Dad, I’ve found the photographs. You’ve got to come round.’ Suddenly I knew why she was so excited. At some point during Amy’s numerous moves, a box of family photographs had been lost, and she had clearly come across it that morning. ‘You’ve
In the end I drove over in my taxi to Camden Square and parked outside her house. ‘I’m just popping in,’ I said, knowing full well how hard it was to say no to her. ‘You know I’m busy today.’
‘Oh, you’re always going too quick,’ she responded. ‘Dad, stay.’
I followed her in, and she had the photographs she’d found spread out on a table. I looked down at them. I had better ones but these obviously meant a lot to her. There was Alex holding new-born Amy, and there was Amy as a teenager – but all the rest were of family and friends.
She picked up a photo of my mum. ‘Wasn’t Nan beautiful?’ she said. Then she held up the picture of Alex and herself. ‘Oh, look at him,’ she added, a mixture of pride and sibling rivalry in her voice.
She went through the collection, picking up one after another, talking to me about each one, and I thought, This girl, famous all over the world, someone who’s brought joy to millions of people – she’s just a normal girl who loves her family. I’m really proud of her. She’s a great kid, my daughter.
It was easy to be with her that day: she was a lot of fun. Eventually, after an hour or so, it was time for me to go, and we hugged. As I held her I could feel that she was her old self: she was becoming strong again – she’d been working with weights in the gym she’d put into her house.
‘When you’re back, we’ll go into the studio to do that duet,’ she said, as we walked to the door. We had two favourite songs, ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ and ‘Autumn Leaves’, and Amy wanted us to record one or other of them together. ‘We’re going to rehearse properly,’ she added.
‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’ I said, laughing. We’d had this conversation many times over the years. It was nice to hear her talking like that again. I waved goodbye out of the cab.
I never saw my darling daughter alive again.
I arrived in New York on the Friday, and had a quiet evening alone. The following day I went to see my cousin Michael and his wife Alison at their apartment on 59th Street – Michael had immigrated to the US a few years earlier when he’d married Alison. They now had three-month-old twins, Henry and Lucy, and I was dying to meet them. The kids were great and I had Henry sitting on my lap when Michael got a call from his father, my uncle Percy, who lives in London. Michael passed the phone to me. There was the usual stuff: ‘Hello, Mitch, how