The real life Galatea - Amy Winehouse

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A singing phenomena of the early 2000's.

She could be called a quintessential London icon, as fifty years ago, in a London set fifty years before then, there was a play about Professor Henry Higgins seeking to refine the voice and manners of a young woman from London's lower quarters.

As she stands, Amy Winehouse as a story is pure Pygmalion.

Even after drastic weight loss and ugly obtrusive tattoo work, she still has the body of an angel. Voluptuous before her weight loss, she remains, in an over-thin "gamin" way, gorgeous after it.

Yet the spoken voice that emanates from this creature of pure beauty, this sultry Galatea with the piled Mediterranean hair?

This is where we wince. At the risk of being punched ,or being on the receiving end of a flying Winehouse drink, her spoken voice is an unedifying cockney-Jewish squawk (in itself, a sociolinguistic rarity, now most British Jews have moved up to at least middle-class status?1) that demands the attention of a Henry Higgins! 2Her spoken voice is an anachronism harking back fifty or sixty years: you could imagine the parents of Rabbi Lionel Blue talking like this, second-generation Jewish immigrants, the first to speak Cockney English rather than Yiddish in the home.

Jazz singers tend to have a long shelf life - look at Cleo Laine, still going strong in her seventies. Is Amy W, on the evidence of two LP's, the heir apparent to Cleo, as Britain's prima donna torch singer and jazz vocalist? One would like to think so, and the hope is fervently expressed that any little difficulties concerning alcohol and other mood-altering substances can be sorted out now, at the start of what promises to be a long - and eventful - career.

Dusty Springfield, Petula Clarke, Cleo Laine, Shirley Bassey3 - there is every hope that Amy Winehouse will join the list of great British singers who can claim up to seven decades in the business. Clarke was eight when she started out as a professional singer; she is now over seventy. Amy Winehouse is yet to turn twenty. There is still the pleasure to come of her fully mature singing voice, which promises to be something spectacular!

Amy - this jury gives you a nine and adores you. Sing for ever.
1Witness her appearance on TV's Never Mind the Buzzcocks where she and show chairman Simon Amstell engaged in heavy flirting... the theme being that Simon, a good middle-class Jewish boy, could take her home and introduce her to Mother. Despite her catastrophically heavy drinking, her foul mouth, her propensity to hit people, and a past sexual form that makes Rahab the Harlot look virginal, he could then shrug and say "Well, you told me to find a nice Jewish girl, momma"...2 The reviewer of her Manchester concert in the Manchester Evening News (27/02/07)got it entirely wrong when he described Amy's spoken voice as as that of an "affected Billingsgate fishwife". It isn't, it really isn't. As Manchester has the second largest Jewish community in Britain he should be aware a lot of people up here used to talk in a broadly similar way: Amy's is the old working-class cockney Jewish accent. Up here we had a similar working class Jewish "voice" in Cheetham Hill, although it's died off now3and perhaps a parellel to Amy, in her time, was the Liverpool-Jewish singer Helen Shapiro, who hit the charts in the middle 1960's at the tender age of fourteen and has been in the business ever since. Remember "Walking back to Happiness"? This track was almost as ballsy as anything Amy has recorded. Cover version please, my love?

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