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An old soul who died young: Remembering Amy Winehouse at T in the Park

There was doubt as to whether Amy Winehouse would turn up for her slot at T in the Park in 2008, but she didn't let her fans down.
There was doubt as to whether Amy Winehouse would turn up for her slot at T in the Park in 2008, but she didn't let her fans down.

T in the Park 2004 was only the second Scottish gig for troubled but talented singer Amy Winehouse after the release of her debut album.

Bringing her unique voice to the Balado audience for the first time, Amy’s soulful and vulnerable performance was worlds away from her chaotic return to T in the Park in 2008.

Ten years on from Amy’s tragic and untimely, if not predictable, death at 27 we reflect on the two gigs which showed two sides to the modern day icon.

Amy Winehouse making her T in the Park debut in 2004.

Aged just 20, Amy embarked on a tour of the festival circuit fresh from the release of her critically-acclaimed debut album Frank in October 2003.

Summer 2004 was a seminal one for the young star.

One to watch after a stand-out performance at Glastonbury in June, a Sunday slot at T in the Park in July was the next stop for Amy.

Appearing at King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent, Amy was third on the bill behind headliners Snow Patrol and Electric Six.

A promotional shot of Amy Winehouse around the time of the release of her first album, Frank.

A short but sweet set of five songs, Amy opened with Take the Box, the highest charting single from Frank.

Backed by a brass section and saxophonist, Amy’s powerful and eccentric blend of jazz and soul was unlike anything heard in the tent before.

Revellers lucky enough to catch her performance at Balado at the beginning of her burgeoning career knew they were onto something special.

In a light-hearted interview with presenter Dougie Anderson after her T in the Park debut, Amy was asked if she had to adapt her style for the festival audience.

Replying in her thick London accent, she said: “I’m a jazz singer, but it’s important for me to make new jazz, it’s kind of relevant to now, I write of my time.”

It was Amy’s frankness and honesty that enchanted audiences both on and off the stage.

With Brit and Mercury award nominations, and an Ivor Novello award win under her belt, Amy’s career was reaching dizzying heights even before the launch of her second album.

By the time the much-anticipated Back to Black was released in 2006, Amy had found her groove and was making her mark in music – and in the gossip columns.

With the new album came a new look: a towering, bouffant beehive, sailor tattoos, and thick winged eyeliner.

Inspired by female soul groups of the 1960s, the album paired a vintage vibe with Amy’s contemporary lyrics, eclectic sound and inimitable attitude.

A painful account of heartbreak and infidelity, Back to Black was inspired by the end of the relationship with her ex-boyfriend – but future husband – Blake Fielder-Civil.

But amid the toxic romance, tracks like Rehab also rang alarm bells as Amy was known to dabble in the use of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Amy Winehouse with the Pop Award for her album Back To Black, at the South Bank Show Awards in 2007.

By now Amy’s misuse of alcohol was also well-publicised and she was plagued by an eating disorder.

She quickly became tabloid fodder, racking up headlines, being photographed stumbling out of nightclubs barefoot and bleeding.

Amy was billed to make a return to T in the Park in July 2007 where she had enjoyed a rapturous welcome three years before.

But just hours before her slot, Amy pulled out of the festival citing “exhaustion due to a year of non-stop touring”.

Main Stage, T in the Park, Balado, Kinross. Amy Winehouse’s performance in 2008.

The following month, her turbulent relationship with Blake was firmly back on and the pair married, but Amy’s tumble from grace had already begun.

Amy’s performances became increasingly erratic with her dependency on drugs.

2008 was a year that saw Amy hit a new low prompting her to attempt rehab – but also a career high when she won five Grammy awards.

Her Glastonbury slot that year was incoherent at times and marred by scandal with a scuffle with fans.

Amy at T in the Park sporting a headscarf emblazoned with her incarcerated husband Blake’s name.

And when Amy was once again billed to take to the stage at Balado for T in the Park in 2008, there were real doubts over whether she would turn up.

She was booked for the main stage on Sunday behind Kings of Leon and headliners R.E.M. and, despite the “will she won’t she” speculation, Amy didn’t let her fans down.

A subdued set with little talking, a fragile-looking Amy attracted one of the biggest crowds of the festival.

She took to the stage wearing a headscarf with a loveheart on it, emblazoned with her incarcerated husband’s name.

Amy dedicated her song Wake Up Alone to Blake who was serving a prison sentence for assault.

The hour-long set of 14 songs featured her own hits as well as crowd-pleasing covers of Sam Cooke’s Cupid, before a finale of her rendition of The Zutons’ Valerie.

And despite prior concerns and claims she was miming, Amy delivered on the day.

The performance still roused the crowd, but often using alcohol as a crutch to get through gigs, it lacked the lustre of her debut three years before.

One reviewer said “showing up was a good start”, another quipped she “was as together as she’s ever likely to be”.

After her festival appearances, Amy was in and out of hospital citing reactions to medication and respiratory issues.

And when Blake was sent back to prison in late 2008 for failing a drugs test, Amy overdosed on the very medication that was supposed to help her kick the drugs.

The following year she moved to the Caribbean and her marriage with Blake ended, but an assault charge and legal issues stopped her getting a visa to perform at Coachella in California.

Amy takes a break during her T in the Park set.

Things were looking up in 2010 with talks of a new album, but she was too drunk to make meetings with her record label and spent a week in rehab.

She swung wildly between stints of sobriety and booze binges, but her father Mitch Winehouse claimed the really bad days were fewer and far between.

Amy returned to the studio in March 2011 to record a duet, Body and Soul, with Tony Bennett.

Tragically it was to be her last ever recording.

Bouts of bingeing continued, offset by a few clean days here and there, but with an atrocious final performance in Belgrade in June Amy seemed to hit rockbottom.

Just weeks later, Amy was dead.

On July 23 2011, Amy’s security guard found her at home; an inquest later found she had died of accidental alcohol poisoning.

Amy had succumbed to the pitfalls of a rock’n’roll lifestyle, an old soul who died young.

Her short but eventful life was steeped in scandal, but her voice and legacy continue.

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