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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Up & Coming Singer Cris Cab Rocks Miami With Wyclef Jean

Chances are if Wyclef Jean is your stage wingman and Pharrell Williams oversees your performances with the gleeful eye of a mother goose, your musical future is looking damn bright. That seems to be the case for Cris Cab, a 19-year-old clean-cut Miamian, whose mellow sounds mixed with heavier dubstep and reggae influences are blowing up right now.

“It’s about the force of music, and Cris is mixing Bob Dylan and Bob Marley in a totally fresh way,” said Wycelf backstage at the release party for Cris Cab’s new mix-tape Echo Boom, produced by the ex-Fugee. Judging by the groupies out in full force and Pharrell’s rhythmic head bumping to his protégé’s catchy “Good Girls,” the force is strong with Cab.

“I’m just so humbled and honored and happy to have them both in my corner,” Cris reveled slightly horsed from his latest performance. “Wyclef is just so energetic and supportive. And Pharrell is like my big brother.”

What exactly does collaborating with the Grammy winners look like? “We just grab our guitars and jam in studio,” said the teenager matter of factly.

And while most of us can’t phantom the type of good fortune Cab has been graced with (haters hint at his parents’ deep pockets, which helped the artist gain access others can only dream about), there is no denying that this song-writing, guitar-playing kid got skills. Watching Cab cruise through his set marked by vocal stylings reminiscent of Bob Marley, Dave Matthews and Marvin Gaye is like witnessing something great about to happen. He delivers every note effortlessly and commands the stage like a pro.

Thanks to the N.E.R.D. frontman’s mentorship, not only did Cab’s flow get tighter; many doors have swung open. The relationship with Williams brought the young artist a rare degree of resources and music industry attention. He has a high-powered publicist and management company, and last year he played a showcase for top executives of major labels including Universal Motown and Warner Music Group. This month he is appearing with T-Pain and Gym Class Heroes on the Snowstorm Music Tour.

Considering the bigger picture, Cab represents something Miami hasn’t had since the glory days of Gloria Estefan. Their common Cuban heritage aside, this new Miami sound Cab is embracing is a hotchpotch of Caribbean/hip-hop/pop references sung in a surprisingly soulful voice, evocative of John Mayor if he had a thing for Rihanna (which he probably does.)

“I don’t shy away from where I’m from and it’s good to represent Miami,” says Cab, who wrote “Rihanna’s Gun,” the first track on Echo Boom in response to Riri’s “Man Down.” “There are a lot of guitars, percussions and bongos on my record. The sound is different and you can tell right away that I’m influenced by my environment.”

It’s that very fusion, sold by a talented kid wearing a plead shirt from a moneyed background that will most likely appeal to teenage girls without alienating adults who may remember going to a Marley concert.

“His music just feels good,” added Wyclef. “Being from the Caribbean, it’s cool that the music I grew up with will reach a wider audience because of Cris. He is young, he has charisma and he is just one talented dude.”

Although there are many references in Cab’s tunes to old school classics, there is nothing archaic about how he conducts the business of music. He epitomizes the new way of getting it done, outfoxing the conventional machine that changes bar acts into legit stars. Take his guitar skills, for example. Though he had private lessons at the ripe age of eleven, Cab mostly taught himself through videos and online instruction, and thanks to YouTube and Facebook, he built a momentum and an impressive following.

“That’s where it is at today,” Cab admitted. “I did a cover of Wiz Khalifa’s ‘Black and Yellow,’ put it on You Tube, and things just took off from there. Somehow it feels easier to get this thing going with the net.”

Speaking of Khalifa, one glimpse at the Echo Boom’s lineup that includes collaborations with Mavado, Melanie Fiona, Christian Rich, 88-Keys, and it’s clear to see that Cab loves to perform covers. There is not one, not two but three Cab-ifed tunes that also include Kanye West’s All of the the Lights and Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks, which is DOPE. All of these makeovers in spite prolific writing of his own are peculiar, but, as Cab puts it, “everyone is doing it.”

Regardless of his sources of inspiration, one thing is for sure. “Cris is super talented,” said Pharrell, who has been mentoring the reggae loving Miamian, since their first meet some three years ago. “His voice is rich, and as an artist he just conveys such conviction. He is going all the way.”

Morning Links: Jospeh Gordon-Levitt Joins Batman, Nicki Minaj To Join X-Factor

● Wyclef Jean was “grazed” in the hand by a bullet while campaigning for presidential candidate and fellow performer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly in Haiti this weekend. He’s taking antibiotics and is just fine, so back to the elections, guys? [AP] ● Nicest living boy in Hollywood Joseph Gordon-Levitt has officially signed on to play Alberto Falcone, the son of a mob boss, in Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. He’ll be joining Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, and Tom Hardy. [Variety} ● Even though it’s Hong Kong-produced, mainland China won’t get to see much of the world’s very first 3D Porn, Sex & Zen: Extreme Ecstasy. Tour agencies are working quickly to resolve this injustice by booking trips to Taiwan for the most eager viewers. [Yahoo! Malaysia]

● “He reminds me a lot of me when I was younger,” Chris Brown said of adopted mentoree Justin Bieber. “I kind of try and be the big brother and make him go the right way and have a great time.” Now that we think of it, Justin seems to be doing just fine one his own. [JustJared] ● Nicki Minaj is in talks to join L.A. Reid as a judge on Simon Cowell’s imported version of The X Factor. She’s fit for the job: One look from Minaj is worth a lifetime of judging, but before making any promises, she needs to know that her shoes will be visible from under the judge’s bench. [Page Six] ● “[At SxSW] you have the greenest of the green, and the oldest, most poisoned of the fucking dinosaurs, walking next to each other in sunny Austin,” opined Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst during his own SxSW set, now streaming in full on Spinner. He didn’t quite place himself in this equation, but you know how it goes: “Hard lines curved in your face/ The sunshine is so cliche/Just like love and pain.” [Spinner ● Most things you can do, Chad Ochocinco can do better. Or so he thinks. In lieu of an NFL lock-out, he’s decided he’ll be fulfilling his childhood dream of being a Major League Soccer star! The MLS has only been around since he was 17 years-old, but football/futbol — who’s counting? [NYT]

Wyclef Jean Shot In Haiti on Eve of Elections

Wyclef Jean was shot in the hand in Port-au-Prince Haiti last night, during a trip to support fellow musician and presidential candidate Michael Martelly. He was treated for the superficial wound, released from the hospital, and his reps confirmed via Twitter that he was doing fine. Officials have not been able to confirm that Wyclef was a specific target. According to spokesman Gerry Ande, “He heard a gunshot, then he saw his right-hand palm was bleeding.”

Last year, the 41-year-old musician entered an official bid as a presidential candidate in the Haitian election, but was deemed ineligible to run. Candidates are expected to have five consecutive years of residency in the country, a requirement that the New York-based artist could not skirt. Wyclef officially withdrew his bid in late August, and then protested his exclusion in a song titled “Prison for the CEP.” But since then the former Fugees member has continued his work in the earthquake ravaged country, through his Yele Haiti foundation.

Updated Wyclef later described the incident to The Associated Press in a telephone interview saying, “The way I can explain it is that the bullet grazed me in my right hand. I heard blow, blow, blow and I just looked at my hand.”

Now That Wyclef Jean Is No Longer Running for President, Is Haiti Better Off?

No Haitian presidential campaign has garnered as much international attention as Wyclef Jean’s short-lived bid for office. Jean announced he would run for president on August 5, and was disqualified shortly after, on the 16th, by The Haiti Election Commission (CEP) for not having lived in Haiti for five consecutive years—a constitutional requirement for all presidential candidates. Just yesterday, over a month later, he finally withdrew his bid officially. “This was not an easy conclusion to reach,” Jean said in a statement. “Some battles are best fought off the field, and that is where we take this now. Our ultimate goal in continuing the appeal was to further the people’s opportunity to freely participate in a free and fair democratic process.” What do Haitians, at home and in the US, have to say about the whole debacle?

While Jean initially accepted the CEP’s ruling last August, the 40-year-old musician quickly changed his tune, vowing to appeal the decision and accusing the electoral board of using “trickery” to “block” him out of the electoral race. Jean claimed that under his role as roving ambassador since 2007, he was free to travel and live outside of Haiti. Then, following an unsuccessful appeal—and despite the Haitian court’s ruling being final—the Grammy winner and former Fugee took his case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, an independent body devoted to the promotion of basic rights and freedoms in the Americas. Finally, after a month-long battle for eligibility—including distracting feuds with Sean Penn and former bandmate Pras (“I got a message for Sean Penn: Maybe he ain’t see me in Haiti ’cause he was too busy sniffing cocaine,” Pras sang)—Wyclef announced yesterday that he’s abandoning his campaign.

His announcement might come as a relief to many Haitians. Among the Haitian community abroad and on the island, Jean’s run for president and subsequent appeals were seen as a distraction from more immediate issues, such as rampant rape, crime, and lack of basic food and clean water for the 1.5 million camp dwellers that were left homeless by the January 12th earthquake. But he was also perceived by some as Haiti’s ticket out of obscurity, and as a way to keep the spotlight on the country as earthquake recovery faded from the news cycle.

Before Jean’s abrupt resignation, one of his supporters, Haitian author and child slavery advocate J-R Cadet, who lives in Cincinnati but is currently in Haiti promoting the welfare of children, questioned his decision to fight for eligibility. “Clef is still young. He should not appeal the CEP’s decision,” Cadet said. “He should begin the process of meeting the requirements for residency. If he does that, he’ll be elected in 2016, then he can change the rules. Of course, I was very disappointed by the decision. At the Clinton Global initiative in 2009, he outlined his dream for Haiti and I was moved to tears. I’ve never seen that kind of passion for the country before from any Haitian politician.”

After a dramatic announcement of his plans to take the highest political seat in Haiti, the presidential hopeful offered little publicly in the way of an agenda for Haitian voters to hold on to besides sweeping, crowd-rousing proclamations about better schools, infrastructure, and foreign investments. Jean admitted in a CBS interview to having no skills as a politician, but stated he had the makings of a good leader—a worrisome comment, when placed in the context of a country that has known many eager leaders but few champions of the poor. “He was never qualified. I only know that he is the ambassador of public image for Haiti. I know nothing of him as a politician,” said Stephanie Mesidor, a woman living in a refugee camp in Delmas.

It was Jean’s outsider persona and his messiah-like image transferred over from his humanitarian work (albeit an image now sullied by allegations of mismanaging funds at his former non-profit, Yele) that first won him his early supporters, especially among the large youth population, who are fed up with the army of chronically corrupt Haitian politicians.

“Haitian masses don’t want to elect anyone that is perceived to be part of the political class. They are angry at the elites,” said Yvon Lamour, a guidance counselor at Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Rindge & Latin School, who also hosts a Haitian radio show. He credits Jean’s candidacy with revitalizing the political process and galvanizing the youth culture in Haiti. “Politicians in Haiti have a reputation of being bad losers and resorting to the same practices used by the very system he wants to change,” he said. “I’m not sure how much this will help his cause,” he added, “but it’s clear that any politician should learn to lose with dignity.”

Cultural activist and psychologist Margaret Armand, a resident of Plantation, Florida, had high hopes for a potential Jean presidency, which she hoped would inspire Haitians to return home and challenge the current electoral process. “It’s not just about Wyclef anymore,” she said. “The system is flawed and corrupt. There are a number of unqualified and ineligible candidates who have made a career of running for president. We have had so many intellectuals and elites that ruled for the last 200 years and look at the state of the country.”

Haiti’s desire for a new administration, a fresh voice, and Jean’s good intentions should never have overshadowed his obvious short comings, says Native Language Literacy Coordinator Lunine Pierre-Jerome of Boston, Massachusetts. She argues that, “He doesn’t know what it means to be a Haitian in Haiti. Does he know the history? And not just that Haiti was the first Black republic. He has to go back and understand the political history. That’s the only way to avoid making the same mistakes of the past.”

For some, Jean’s bid was a loud slap across the face of Haiti. Pierre Florestal, a former New York Haitian talk radio host, believes Jean was exploiting his star power and the dire conditions on the island for his own benefit. “When you are hungry and poor, anyone who gives you even a little seems like a savior. That doesn’t make him a president. There are more ingredients that go into running a country. It was a relief to hear he was rejected.”

Now that his well-publicized run is over, perhaps Jean will take this opportunity to live in the country, learn the language, and return his focus to the on-going relief efforts on the ground, where his influence would be better utilized. There has been no word from Jean and his camp as to whether he will return to live in Haiti full-time in hopes of running for office in the future. As of now, he’s going back to what made him a public figure in the first place. Jean’s next album, If I Were President, the Haitian Experience, drops in February.

Links: Lady Gaga’s Dangerous Dieting, Wyclef Slams Sean Penn For Coke Use

● A new book entitled Poker Face: The Rise and Rise of Lady Gaga alleges that the pop star starves herself to look good onstage. The Rise and Rise? [PopEater] ● Lindsay Lohan may have hit a baby stroller with her Maserati. It’s like she has a writing staff for her life and all they eat is drugs. [RadarOnline] ● Morrissey called Chinese people a “subspecies” because of their treatment of animals. They also hate his solo stuff. [Guardian]

● “I got a message for Sean Penn: Maybe he ain’t see me in Haiti because he was too busy sniffing cocaine,” said the ex-maybe-possible-president of a real country, Wyclef Jean. [Vulture] ● Kara DioGuardi will follow in the footsteps of Ellen and Simon and leave her post as a judge on American Idol, except without the show the other two are still famous. [HuffPo] ● Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith had a dance-off, because they too live in a movie. [TMZ]

Links: Heidi Montag Wants Her Old Boobs Back, Elin Nordegren Speaks

● “My boobs are crushing me,” Heidi Montag told Life & Style magazine. Be careful what you wish for, and of ideas recommended by Spencer Pratt. [Page Six] ● Lindsay Lohan left rehab a few days early and is free to return to the life of a thespian, studying classical plays while sipping hot cocoa and knitting when she needs a little break. [AP] ● Wyclef Jean is not allowed to appeal the Haitian ruling barring him from running for president. It’s time to move on, and to put that back in his rightful place. [Vulture]

● Elin Nordegren, the spurned wife of Tiger Woods, tells the world, in her very first interview since being publicly humiliated for months (and maybe ever), “I feel stronger than I ever have.” [People] ● Jenna Jameson says celebrities make sex tapes and then lie about being victimized. We need more stars with dignity, like Montana Fisbourne. Or Jenna Jameson. [HuffPo] ● It is possible that Ke$ha, Miley Cyrus, and Katy Perry are all singing the same song. One is more than enough. [NYM]

Links: Heidi & Spencer Are Not Done Yet, Anna Paquin & Stephen Moyer Get Married

● Though their impending divorce may signal the End Times, Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt will not go away. Spencer has a girl-on-girl sex tape starring Heidi and Playboy‘s Karissa Shannon. Convenient! [TMZ] ● Meanwhile, on Twitter, Heidi reached out to her old pal Lauren Conrad with something resembling an apology: “you were right! Spencer is sooooo[…]ooo[…]ooo sucky!!!” [Twitter] ● Wyclef Jean will not stop running for president. No means no. [Vulture]

● Steamy (bloody?) True Blood stars Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin were married on Saturday. Alexander Skarsgard was not the best man. [Us Weekly] ● Bill O’Reilly thinks Justin Bieber is “gross” because Bill “wanted to be a baseball player” when he was 16, not “hang around with Kim Kardashian.” But at least he’s not gay, right? [Vulture] ● Betty White won an early Emmy for her appearance on Saturday Night Live. Everyone is avoiding calling her life “complete.” [HuffPo]

Links: Wyclef’s Presidential Hopes in Jeopardy, Courtney Love’s Twitter Breakdown

● Although Reuters, a news organization, is claiming Wyclef Jean is not eligible to run for president of Haiti, Jean, a singer, says “it’s looking good.” You know what would look good? If Wyclef is never president of anything. [CNN] ● Doctors claim Lindsay Lohan is not, in fact, an addict. Just a brat. [TMZ] ● Soon Lady Gaga will have the most Twitter followers of any celebrity, surpassing Britney Spears, who will then furiously Twitpic naked photos. [Celebuzz]

● This isn’t funny: Courtney Love tweets to her estranged daughter Francis Bean on her 18th birthday. Including, [sic] “just come home,. it took a year but i got the sickest townhouse in the village, theres 4 floors, i pray to go, snap out ofit.” There are over 30 more. [Buzzfeed] ● Does Megan Fox use botox? Does the Pope shit in the woods? [Wonderwall] ● Miranda Kerr, the Victoria Secret model who recently married Orlando Bloom, is pregnant. [NYP]