Does Amy’s grandmother hold the key to her death?

Amy Winehouse’s change in personality dates back to the death of her Tarot card-reading grandmother

Amy Winehouse

LEGENDARY jazz singer Tony Bennett has revealed that Amy Winehouse was aware that she was going to die young. Bennett, who recorded a duet with Amy earlier this year, said: "She knew she was in a lot of trouble, that she wasn't gonna live."

Bennett scarcely elaborated, so his statement raised more questions than it answered about the circumstances of her death.

However, a clue to the morbid and fatalistic mood of the last five years of Amy's life could lie in her intense relationship with her paternal grandmother, Cynthia, and their shared interest in an element of the occult.

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As is well known, Amy went off the rails around 2006. She stopped looking after herself, and turned from a fresh-faced, curvy young lady into an increasingly tormented figure. Episodes of drug overdoses, self-harming, public scraps and tears became commonplace. She began to cancel concerts or appear on stage late and recklessly intoxicated. It was a shocking and striking change. Everyone wondered what had happened to her. Many assumed that the cause of this change was her relationship with the notorious Blake Fielder-Civil, which began around this time.

However, her father Mitch has always said that the downturn in his daughter's life began after his mother Cynthia died in 2006.

Cynthia Winehouse was a singer herself who once dated jazz legend Ronnie Scott. That relationship ended due to an unbridgeable obstacle: Winehouse would not sleep with Scott until they married, whereas he would not marry her until they had slept together.

Cynthia's influence on her granddaughter was forceful: so much so that Amy got her grandmother's name tattooed on her right arm. It was Cynthia as much as anyone who encouraged Amy to become a singer. They were like two peas in a pod: no wonder Amy was spellbound by her grandmother and so devastated by her death.

There was a less conventional dimension to the spell her grandmother cast on Amy: Cynthia was a keen Tarot card reader. Amy inherited her grandmother's belief in the power of Tarot: she was often seen with a pack of Tarot cards in her hand and when asked if she believed her grandmother could read the future, Amy nodded solemnly and said "Cynthia knew..."

Given the reckless, fatalistic way Amy began to behave in the aftermath of Cynthia's death, the question arises: had something she had read in the cards disturbed her? There are hints in the grave mood and lyrics of her second album to suggest that she believed she was doomed. In the titular Back To Black, Amy sang about her "odds being stacked" and in Love Is A Losing Game she lamented receiving a "losing hand".

Meanwhile, she became obsessed with her own mortality. The video for her single Back To Black featured her at a funeral. When television presenter Simon Amstell asked her what had happened to the more wholesome Amy of the Frank era, she replied: "She's dead". Friends and colleagues confirm that death became a subject of increased conversational interest to Amy.

The narrative that painted her as a helpless naïf, led astray by a manipulative Blake Fielder-Civil, was always unfair on both of them. Fielder-Civil is not that sinister or capable, Amy was never that malleable. Could it be that her downfall was as much due to her dabbling with divination as drugs?

Chas Newkey-Burden is the author of 'Amy Winehouse: The Biography 1983-2011', John Blake Publishing, £7.99

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