Fans snap up Winehouse albums after "Rehab" singer's death

LONDON, July 24 Sun Jul 24, 2011 11:07am EDT

LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) - Fans rushed to download Amy Winehouse's two albums after the beehive-haired British soul singer became the latest in a grim tally of rock stars to die at the seemingly cursed age of 27.

Winehouse, found dead at her London home on Saturday, occupied top slot on the iTunes UK download chart 24 hours later with "Back to Black", the 2006 album that won five Grammy awards in the United States and turned the troubled north London girl into an international star.

Police say it is too early to speculate on how Winehouse died and a post mortem will not be conducted before Monday morning, but Winehouse's struggle with alcohol and drug addiction were well documented.

Her best known song, the booming "Rehab", from "Back to Black" bore witness to her doomed struggle to get clean.

Other members of what has been dubbed the "Forever 27" club include Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, who died at that age in different circumstances after chaotic lifestyles associated with a rock'n'roll career.

In many cases their posthumous fame has surpassed the success they enjoyed in their career, with their recordings still selling and enjoyed by a new audience.

That appeared to be the case for Winehouse, one of the most talented singers of her generation who leaves only a slim set of recordings showcasing her talent.

"Back to Black", knocked fellow female British vocalist Adele's "21" off top spot on the iTunes chart.

Winehouse, who was on the Universal Music label, also occupied third spot, with a package comprising "Back to Black" and her 2003 debut "Frank", while a "Deluxe Edition" of "Back to Black" was number four.

Her death came too late to influence the top 40 chart of downloads and disc sales released by the Official Charts company on Sunday afternoon, but she is likely to top the list next week.

Sales of Winehouse's albums increased by 37 times between Friday and Saturday, with track sales up by 23 times, the Official Charts Company said.

"We would expect an even bigger impact to roll through over the coming days," said Official Charts managing director Martin Talbot.

The sales surge mirrors the 2009 example of Michael Jackson whose songs leapt to the top of the charts after his death.

Jackson's estate is estimated to have generated more than $310 million from album sales and spin-offs since the "Thriller" singer died two years ago.

PAINFUL DECLINE

Winehouse slid from being a chirpy teenage singer from a north London Jewish family to someone who could barely walk at her final concert performance in Serbia.

"Before she became famous, it wasn't merely that she didn't use hard drugs, she was against hard drugs," biographer Chas Newkey-Burden told Sky News. "She would get up and walk out of the room in disgust if someone even mentioned taking coke or something."

Winehouse won critical acclaim after the release of her debut album "Frank" in 2003 before becoming a worldwide phenomenon with the success of "Back to Black".

"It was between the two albums that she went off the rails, partly in reaction against the fame. And I think she was quite scared of her talent," Newkey-Burden added.

Broadcaster and radio DJ Paul Gambaccini said he had witnessed her decline over the years he hosted the music industry's Ivor Novello song writing awards.

"When she began attending she was a fresh-faced, shy young woman ... the next year she was a bit wobbly. The last time she was there she didn't come in until the ceremony was two-thirds over and her award had already been accepted by her dad," Gambaccini told BBC television.

Winehouse was a victim of "tremendous fame and money," Gambaccini said. "Although your bank balance goes up, the tolerance of your body does not. And that is why although she could afford more substances to put inside her, her body could not accept them."

Winehouse had been regularly recording but had not released a new album since "Back to Black".

Her spokesman said it was unclear what use would be made of the recordings. But a posthumous album would seem inevitable given her huge popularity.

"She constantly wrote music, that's what she did. There are lots of demos knocking around and all sorts," the spokesman said. (Additional reporting by Keith Weir)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.