It’s hard to fathom that a decade has passed since the devastating death of Amy Winehouse at just 27 – her richly expressive and instantly recognizable sound and style now seems suspended in time. The British singer-songwriter’s brief but tumultuous stint has produced two acclaimed studio LPs – Frank, his 2003 debut, and the legendary Back To Black in 2006, and his life and death have already inspired international documentaries and memorials. In 2020, her outfits and musical impact were the subject of an exhibition at the Grammy Museum in LA. Today, the Design Museum’s new multimedia exhibit, Amy: Beyond The Stage, deepens her cultural heritage, bringing her home to the city that was her birthplace and playground.
Beyond The Stage is a striking mix of personal objects and recordings rather than a conventional timeline, and the contribution of those close to Winehouse (in particular, her close friend and stylist Naomi Parry) creates a very intimate atmosphere which, above all, never seems intrusive. Two of the first exhibits are the Camden Square street sign covered with scrawled fan tributes near his old home, and a video of Winehouse, 18’s extraordinary audition for Island Records.
There is a sweet bloom of girlish in her handwritten notes, from lyrics to unreleased demo tracks, to lists of ambitions and inspirations (including an early fixation with the American diner style of the 1950s). There is also an almost painful tenderness to family snaps that show her playing in local pubs around 2002 or having her hair cut as a teenager at her grandmother’s house. They are in a world far from the dazzling paparazzi that would poison his last years.
While the exhibit doesn’t deny the darker tones of Winehouse’s life, including the destructive addictions that ultimately claimed it, it does manage to be a celebratory experience that pays homage to exceptional talent and a spirit irreverent, as well as to the sheer joy of the music fandom. himself. The section devoted to her music includes a “studio” setup, where we see a range of Winehouse releases, but also hear her enthusiastically enthusiastic about the artists who have inspired her: jazz and R&B legends such as than Ray Charles, to Motown Girl Groups. and hip hop stars including Salt N Pepa. You get the feeling of someone in the midst of continuous creative awakenings.