Books / Features

Gift Guide 2021: Amy Winehouse Beyond Black – Curated by Naomi Parry [Review]

It’s that time of year again! If you’re seeking fresh ideas or hoping for inspiration – or even tantalising recommendations then… welcome! Scroll down to dive into this review, and if you want further gift ideas, just click here for the full range from my Critical Popcorn Christmas Gift Guide 2021!

Amy Winehouse is someone I discovered before I knew about any of the hype, while she wasn’t necessarily on the same radar as the music I’d usually listen to at the time, there was clearly something unique about her song writing, her storytelling and – of course – that effortlessly outstanding voice that stands the test of time, despite her desperately sad demise back ten years ago – I still think we miss her talent, in the same veins of some of the greatest music icons of our time.

This new coffee-table-sized book from Thames & Hudson, Amy Winehouse: Beyond Black, isn’t any old music memoir because it’s her life, told by the people who knew her best, and namely curator Naomi Parry. Parry lets us into her memories and feelings on her friend, plus what this book is about. Rather than making Amy a ‘tragic’ figure, like some dirty media outlets aimed for, Beyond Black is a reminder of her talent, her unique style and unstoppable passion for music and those around her, and that’s how I – without even knowing her – also celebrate her.

While this book does commemorate the best of Amy, Parry also took this opportunity to shoot her archive of clothing and memorabilia, but also added the distinctive touch of styling and dressing sets to reveal the pieces she never wore, but would have, during her final tour. For Parry, this recreation offers up the reader an insight into all the different sides of her existence, in all the ways a person can live and be individual – and it really shows how much she had to come.

What’s particularly special about Winehouse is how she arrived at a time when the pop stratosphere was particularly flat and shiny, you could say the mainstream is always like that but there was a lack of interesting artists in the wider sense, and brilliantly Amy was the complete opposite. She was opinionated, intriguingly detached from putting on a fake front and show (despite THAT voice always piercing through), and not concerned with being exactly herself, a 20-something from London with a talent so pure that she could deservedly ignore all the celebrity aspects around her.

But while we knew that beneath her outstanding style was a more vulnerable side, we wouldn’t really learn about the truth there ‘til late on in life, however, this wouldn’t stop her as she sped forward from Frank to Back to Black – and that speed probably became a reflection of her real life but, again, I digress because you’ll get even more of this insight, alongside images and quotes from back in the day, in the coffee table book itself. Like Amy, it’s fascinating.

Amy Winehouse: Beyond Black takes us individually through her years, alongside the albums, so that’s Frank (2002-2004), Back to Black (2005-2008), and Lioness (2009 – 2011), as well as insight and essays from Catriona Gourlay and Emma Garland. It’s also full of quotes and memories from so many people who she touched in her life, from Lady Gaga to Vivienne Westwood plus the likes of Little Simz, Ronnie Wood, Carl Barat, Mark Ronson, her tattooist Henry Hate and beyond – including her make-up artists, backing singers and so much more. I like to think Amy changed everything for the better back then, but we need her now, because where’s the next great artist? That being said, I’m thrilled we got to experience this lifeforce and that the legacy will live on.

Beyond Black gives us great balance in memorial, it lets us inside as a great reminder that she remains in the close memory for so many, because her music certainly will, as it holds that honesty and empathy, we all know that she had so much of. This book is a wonderful tribute but, just as importantly, a faithful one that’s full of life and personal insight.

Amy Winehouse: Beyond Black is out now from Thames & Hudson, buy it here: https://amzn.to/3xKIdlZ

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