Amy Winehouse’s Found Demo Showcases How Much Soul She Had At 17 (Audio)
When Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27, the music community was shaken to its core after losing one of its boldest vocalists. Early in her short-lived career, the beehive-haired British singer’s musical hybrid of R&B, Jazz, retro-Soul and Hip-Hop on her 2003 debut album Frank gained Winehouse much critical acclaim. But her meteoric rise to international stardom came from her sophomore 2006 LP, Back To Black, led by her chart-topping singles “You Know I’m No Good” and “Rehab.”
Following her July 2011 death, Winehouse’s Universal Music Group record label boss David Joseph vowed not to release any more of her music. In an interview with Billboard, Joseph cited that releasing her music would be immoral to Amy’s legacy. “It was a moral thing. Taking a stem or a vocal is something that would not happen under my watch. It now can’t happen on anyone else’s.”
But two of Amy Winehouse’s earliest songwriters Gil Cang and James McMillan have now shared her 2001 demo. It proves why they instantly believed she was bound for stardom, even as a 17-year-old upstart. This was recorded just three years after a home-video displayed a music prodigy. The demo song is called “On My Way.”
Cang explained to British publication Camden New Journal about his first impression of the demo once it finished recording. “We’d been writing a lot of Pop tunes, doing a lot of Pop promos with various artists, who would come in, many of various talents.” He further opined about how Winehouse helped turn the corner in Pop music as well as his career with McMillan during the early 2000s when she first entered their studio. “It was a particularly dire time in the Pop world — lots of terrible, terrible girl groups and boy bands and we had to make something for them. Amy just came in to see us, she opened her mouth, and just blew us away.” Cang discussed why he’s unearthing Amy’s first demo, “I had it knocking for so long. I found it again last week and thought—I’ll put it out there so people could hear it.”
The track showcases Amy blowing the doors off the hinges with her impressive vocal range hitting high notes with her signature smoky voice and vibrant falsetto. Winehouse echoes the alto vocal style ’90s British R&B sensation Lisa Stansfield. The performance appears over a beat that nods towards ’90s West Coast Gangsta Rap, with spatial turntable scratches.
During the years that followed this ’01 demo, Amy Winehouse became a near and dear to Hip-Hop, thanks to her collaborations with Ghostface Killah on “You Know I’m No Good (UK Version Remix),” JAY-Z lending a guest verse on “Rehab (Remix),” and her chorus vocals on Nas’ “Cherry Wine.” Throughout this period, Winehouse worked closely with producer Salaam Remi (Nas, The Fugees, J. Cole).