By Clark Collis
Updated July 23, 2011 at 06:43 PM EDT
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for NARAS

Amy Winehouse was one of the most successful and critically lauded British vocalists of all time. The singer, who has been found dead at her home at the age of 27, released just two CDs during her tragically short career, but sold millions of albums around the world and was a multiple Grammy winner. Although her troubled personal life often threatened to overshadow her musical output, Winehouse would also prove to be a huge influence on a generation of British female artists like Adele.

Amy Winehouse was born in London on September 14, 1983, and attended the BRIT performing arts school, whose other other students have included Adele and Leona Lewis. Winehouse was raised listening to veteran, jazz-inclined singers such as Dean Martin and Julie London and the singer’s love for that era of music could clearly be heard on her debut CD Frank, which was released in the UK in October 2003 to frequently ecstatic reviews. In an early profile of the singer in the London Times, writer Dan Cairns described the album as a “staggeringly assured, sit-up-and-listen debut, both commercial and eclectic, accessible and uncompromising, the kind of record that people will still be playing far into the future.” Frank was shortlisted for prestigious UK Mercury Music Prize and also earned Winehouse, who co-penned the majority of the album, an Ivor Novello songwriting award. “I’m most pleased when they mention Minnie Riperton,” Winehouse told the UK Guardian about the CD’s critical reaction.

It was Winehouse’s second collection, Back to Black, that established her as a major, global star in large part thanks to the Mark Ronson-produced “Rehab,” which peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. The collection also netted Winehouse five Grammys, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Back to Black would ultimately be certified platinum six times in the U.K, and twice in the U.S.

In 2007, Winehouse admitted to Entertainment Weekly that Back to Black was an extremely personal and heartfelt collection. “When I went into this album, I just felt really sad,” she said. “I felt really bad. I was clinically depressed, and I put it into music.

Alas, Winehouse would continue to battle her demons. As early as February 2007, the singer informed the UK Birmingham Post that she was keen to get started on her next album as soon as possible and that there might even be enough songs left over from Back to Black for another release. “You won’t have to wait another three years for that, not at all,” she added. However, fans were made to wait for another CD and, over the past few years, it was Winehouse’s increasingly erratic behavior rather than her musical prowess that caused headlines.

In May 2008, she was arrested in London on suspicion of drugs possession. The same month producer Mark Ronson announced that he and Winehouse had abandoned recording the theme for the James Bond film Quantum of Solace because the singer was “not ready to record any music.” In May of this year, the singer checked in to London’s Priory clinic but then canceled eleven European dates after being booed during a shambolic concert in Belgrade. Just a couple of weeks ago, veteran crooner Tony Bennett, who had recorded a track with Winehouse for his forthcoming album of duets told the Guardian that he was “worried about her and I’m praying for her.”

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