When Amy Winehouse was discovered: Unknown star sings to astonished room of record executives in 2002

17 June 2021, 14:48

In footage from the 2015 documentary film Amy, the teenage singer sits down in a room filled with record executives and proceeds to give a stunning acoustic performance of her song 'I Heard Love Is Blind'.
In footage from the 2015 documentary film Amy, the teenage singer sits down in a room filled with record executives and proceeds to give a stunning acoustic performance of her song 'I Heard Love Is Blind'. Picture: Film4 Productions/Universal Music

By Giorgina Hamilton

Sitting on a chair in the Island Records head office, unknown singer Amy Winehouse proceeded to blow away the room with an audition of her song 'I Heard Love Is Blind'

Amy Winehouse may have gone on to be one of the most famous female vocalists of her generation, but back in 2002 the young Amy was just one of many aspiring singers vying to get a coveted record deal.

The star, who would later go on to sell nearly 4 million albums in the UK alone, was a student at Sylvia Young Theatre School and had also worked as a reporter before she found fame as a singer.

See more: Amy Winehouse's 10 greatest songs ever, ranked

When she was just 19, Amy's friend sent out a demo tape which got her signed to 19 Management and saw her be invited to the offices of Island Records for a live audition.

Accompanied by a guitarist, the young singer showcased her gravelly sound and vocals far more mature for her years
Accompanied by a guitarist, the young singer showcased her gravelly sound and vocals far more mature for her years. Picture: Film4 Productions/Universal Music
Amy Winehouse was just 19-years-old when she was invited to Island Records for an audition, pictured.
Amy Winehouse was just 19-years-old when she was invited to Island Records for an audition, pictured. Picture: Film4 Productions/Universal Music
Back in 2002 a young Amy Winehouse was just one of many aspiring singers vying to get a coveted record deal. Pictured at Island Records' head office in London.
Back in 2002 a young Amy Winehouse was just one of many aspiring singers vying to get a coveted record deal. Pictured at Island Records' head office in London. Picture: Film4 Productions/Universal Music

In footage from the 2015 documentary film Amy, the teenage singer sits down in a room filled with record executives and proceeds to give a stunning acoustic performance of her song 'I Heard Love Is Blind'.

See more: Amy Winehouse facts: Singer's parents, husband, tattoos and death explained

Accompanied by a guitarist, the young singer showcased her gravelly sound and vocals far more mature for her years – a talent that had come to the attention of Island Records boss, Darcus Beese.

Speaking to camera, Beese explains: "With Amy, from when I just met her, she had an effect.

"I knew that if she just sat down in front of the whole company and just sung and played acoustically that people would be blown away."

The footage then cuts to Amy Winehouse having her makeup done and reflecting on meeting her future colleagues on that fateful day back in 2002.

See more: Home video of Amy Winehouse singing aged 14 confirms star's stunning natural talent

"I remember it was an introduction really because it was the first time we had all been in a room together and I wasn't really that nervous, but I remember looking at specific people and for the first time thinking 'I wonder what they're like.'"

Amy's debut album Frank was released in October 2003 and apart from two covers, Winehouse co-wrote every one of the jazz infused songs. Pictured receiving a round of applause after her performance at Island Records.
Amy's debut album Frank was released in October 2003 and apart from two covers, Winehouse co-wrote every one of the jazz infused songs. Pictured receiving a round of applause after her performance at Island Records. Picture: Film4 Productions/Universal Music
Island Records CEO Darcus Beese said: "With Amy, from when I just met her, she had an effect."
Island Records CEO Darcus Beese said: "With Amy, from when I just met her, she had an effect.". Picture: Film4 Productions/Universal Music

Amy's debut album Frank was released in October 2003 and apart from two covers, Winehouse co-wrote every one of the jazz infused songs.

See more: The real-life Valerie, the inspiration behind Amy Winehouse song, is discovered

The album went on to earn platinum sales and in 2004 she was an Ivor Novello Award for single 'Stronger Than Me' and the album was shortlisted for a Mercury Music Prize.

Her next – and final – album Back to Black elevated Amy Winehouse's popularity to new heights.

The collection of songs based on her relationship with future husband Blake Fielder-Civil, became the best-selling UK album of 2007 with 1.98 million record sales with Time crowning 'Rehab' the best song of the year.

Writer Josh Tyrangiel praised Winehouse, saying, "What she is is mouthy, funny, sultry, and quite possibly crazy" and "It's impossible not to be seduced by her originality. Combine it with production by Mark Ronson that references four decades worth of soul music without once ripping it off, and you've got the best song of 2007."

See more: Amy Winehouse's ex-husband slams plans for hologram tour: "It's completely misleading"

The star went on to be nominated for over 60 awards and won 23 – including 6 Grammy Awards – and collaborated with other artists including her goddaughter Dionne Bromfield and legendary singer Tony Bennett.

Amy Winehouse, pictured in 2007, won over 23 awards for her music in her short career before she died aged just 27 on July 23, 2011.
Amy Winehouse, pictured in 2007, won over 23 awards for her music in her short career before she died aged just 27 on July 23, 2011. Picture: Getty
“The minute you go on stage, everything’s OK. The minute you start singing,” Amy Winehouse said in the interview before her death in 2011. Pictured on stage in Hyde Park in 2008.
“The minute you go on stage, everything’s OK. The minute you start singing,” Amy Winehouse said in the interview before her death in 2011. Pictured on stage in Hyde Park in 2008. Picture: Getty

In her final interview before her untimely death aged just 27 on July 23, 2011, Amy spoke to The Telegraph about her lifetime passion for singing.

“I’m not a natural born performer. I’m a natural singer, but I’m quite shy, really,” she said.

“You know what it’s like? I don’t mean to be sentimental or soppy but it’s a little bit like being in love, when you can’t eat, you’re restless, it’s like that.

See more: Amy Winehouse's emotional dad Mitch unveils Music Walk of Fame tribute in Camden

“But then the minute you go on stage, everything’s OK. The minute you start singing.”

After her death Tony Bennett paid tribute and spoke of his time recording with the young star.

“She was a lovely and intelligent person and when we recorded together she gave a soulful and extraordinary performance," he said, adding Amy was an: “extraordinary musician with a rare intuition as a vocalist”.