Amy Winehouse’s Dad Gets Candid In Exclusive Interview

Tonight, The Amy Winehouse Foundation Inspiration Awards and Gala will be held at The Waldorf Astoria. Tony Bennett, Nas, Salaam Remi, and Elhadj "Moe" Kane will be honored. Jennifer Hudson, Wyclef Jean, and others will perform. It’s red carpet. It’s black tie. Celebrities abound.

Here’s what the Amy Winehouse Foundation is all about:
“The mission of the Amy Winehouse Foundation-US is supporting and empowering children and young adults in need through music therapy and music education and works to prevent the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on young people. Special honorees will receive an Amy Winehouse Foundation Inspiration Award for their work in helping to inspire greatness in others.

The Amy Winehouse Foundation was formally established in the UK in 2011 by Amy’s family in honor of her memory and her passion for helping children in need. To date, the UK Foundation has allocated over £500,000 to various organizations.”

The Amy Winehouse Inspiration Awards and Gala will be the first of what Mitch Winehouse and Janis Winehouse Collins – Amy’s father and mother – plan to be an annual event raising awareness and resources for the Amy Winehouse Foundation in the US. All money raised in the US, including from this event, will go to US programs.

I caught up with Mitch Winehouse yesterday and asked him about the event and Amy. 

What’s going on and why is it going on?
It’s hopefully going to be the first of the annual Amy Winehouse Inspiration Award galas. We’re honoring Tony Bennett, Nas, and a couple of other people, and we have Jennifer Hudson performing.

How did you get from a time of grief and wrapping your mind around it, to the point where you’re devoting your time doing good?
That’s a good question, and I’m really not quite sure. When I think back to 18 months ago, it was a very bad time for me and my family, but we spoke about it, and we decided to turn this very bad thing into something good. It’s been very difficult, but we’ve managed to do it.

What were the last several years of Amy’s life like?
Amy was clean for two years and 10 months. The last six weeks of her life – the last five weeks and five days – were spent without drinking. In the last two days, she drank quite a lot, but she had been moving toward abstinence and never made it. The last two years of Amy’s life was far from being a hopeless situation. We were in a very, very good place, and Amy told me she was moving toward abstinence.

Quite frankly, had she died in 2007, 2008, I would have put my hands up and said “fair enough” because she was very ill, and there was a sense of helplessness then. But she proved that she could deal with her drug addiction, and we felt she was moving in the same way with the alcohol as well, but it just wasn’t.

How about her achievements, the fact that people are still talking about her and will forever? What is her legacy?
Her musical legacy really takes care of itself. She’s a six-time Grammy winner. The five times she won in 2008, I believe was a record, the first time a female artist had won five Grammys in one go. She was a fantastic achiever, a great person, and we’re very, very proud of her. But we feel her musical legacy will really look after itself. What we want to do now is highlight the work that she was doing; she was very philanthropic when she was alive, she was very charitable, and we need to carry on her charity with this foundation. She created the foundation herself, so we’re just carrying on the work she was doing.

What is the one thing that people don’t know about her that you wish the whole world knew? 
The way she was with people. When Back to Black had just come out, we went for a stroll through London, and we popped into shops she frequented, where everyone knew her. But she too knew everything about these people, asking “How’s your mum? Your sister? Did she have the baby?” She was fully engaged with other people. There are a lot of young ladies in her position who wouldn’t be like that. That’s what I want people to understand and realize about her. She didn’t really get that she was a superstar, which was wonderful. She was a normal kid with an astronomical talent. 

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