LONDON (Reuters) - Amy Winehouse, one of the most talented singers of her generation whose hit song “Rehab” summed up her struggles with addiction, died in London on Saturday at the age of 27.
The Grammy winner, famed for her black beehive hair, soulful voice and erratic behaviour on and off stage, was found dead at her new home in Camden a month after a shambolic performance in Serbia forced her to cancel her entire European tour.
Police were called to the address at around 1500 GMT and nearly five hours later the body was removed for a post mortem after it appeared she had lost her battle with drink and drugs.
“Inquiries continue into the circumstances of the death,” said police superintendent Raj Kohli. “At this early stage it is being treated as unexplained and there have been no arrests in connection with the incident.”
He said reports that Winehouse had died of a suspected drugs overdose were speculation at this stage.
Family members had long warned that Winehouse’s lifestyle, which saw her in and out of rehab and blighted her career as a live and recording artist, could be her downfall.
Her last filmed performance was in Serbia in June, when Winehouse was jeered by the crowd as she struggled to perform her songs and stay upright. On some tunes, the audience did most of the singing.
The gig, posted on the YouTube video sharing site, prompted her management to cancel all scheduled performances and give the performer as long as it took to recover.
Winehouse’s record label Universal said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened at the sudden loss of such a gifted musician, artist and performer. Our prayers go out to Amy’s family, friends and fans at this difficult time.”
Around 50 shocked fans and onlookers as well as camera crews and photographers gathered behind police tape blocking off the leafy street where Winehouse had just moved into a new house.
A few left flowers, candles and a teddy bear. One note of condolence read: “Beautiful Amy, night night, sleep tight.”
The British singer was discovered by soul singer Tyler James at the age of 16 and in 2003 her debut album “Frank” was released, to general acclaim.
Her second album “Back to Black” was released in October 2006 and reached the No. 1 spot in Britain and earned her five Grammy awards, pop music’s equivalent of the Oscars.
The album produced a string of memorable tunes, including “You Know I’m No Good,” “Love Is a Losing Game” and “Rehab,” which contained the line: “They tried to make me go to rehab. I said ‘no, no, no.’”
Born on September 14, 1983, to a Jewish family with a history of jazz musicians, Winehouse’s personal life has filled Britain’s tabloid newspapers.
Winehouse was photographed wandering the streets of London barefoot and in only a bra and jeans in 2007 looking confused, the same year she married Blake Fielder-Civil who spent time in prison for beating up a pub landlord. They divorced in 2009.
In 2008, the singer’s father Mitch said she had developed the lung condition emphysema and warned it could kill her if she continued to smoke drugs.
Mitch, a taxi driver who launched his own musical career on the back of his daughter’s success, was in New York when the news broke. British media said he was on his way back to London.
Tributes poured in for an artist whose personal troubles stole the headlines in recent years and thwarted plans for an eagerly-anticipated third album.
Soccer star and celebrity David Beckham told Sky News: “It’s very sad, she was such a talented girl, and a girl with such a huge future. Our hearts go out to her family, her loved ones.”
Sarah Brown, wife of former prime minister Gordon Brown, tweeted: “sad sad news of Amy Winehouse - great talent, extraordinary voice, and tragic death, condolences to her family.”
Kelly Osbourne, a singer and television personality, also took to the micro blogging site, writing: “i cant even breath right now im crying so hard i just lost 1 of my best friends. i love you forever Amy & will never forget the real you!”
The Recording Academy in the United States praised the singer, who brought elements of jazz and Motown back into the musical mainstream.
“Her rich, soulful and unique voice reflected her honest songwriting and earned her a devoted fan following, critical acclaim, and the genuine respect and admiration of her musical peers,” said its president Neil Portnow.
Broadcaster and radio DJ Paul Gambaccini said Winehouse’s early death was sadly no surprise.
“We have been dreading this news for some time, hoping against hope that she would turn herself around, but she showed no evidence of being able to do so,” he told BBC TV.
“She just could not control herself. It’s tragic because both (her) albums were superb. We have 40 years of Frank Sinatra records, it turns out we only have two Amy Winehouse records.”
Daniel Rossellat, founder of the Paleo Festival in Nyon, Switzerland, where Winehouse had been due to perform before withdrawing from the tour, likened her to Janis Joplin, another gifted singer who died at the age of 27.
“It is the tragic end to a wonderful voice, similar to Janis Joplin both in destiny and in voice,” he told Swiss television.
Singer Billy Bragg wrote on his Twitter page that Winehouse joined not only Joplin but also Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain — who all died at the same age.
Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, editing by Peter Millership