Amy Winehouse. Credit: AP/file.
By Marco R. della Cava, USA TODAY
Nearly a year after the death of pop siren Amy Winehouse, her father still can't bear to play her music or watch her videos.
"At some point I will, but right now, it's still too painful," Mitch Winehouse, 60, tells USA TODAY. "But if her song comes on the radio, I won't switch it off. So that's progress."
Winehouse spent months putting down thoughts after his daughter's death last July at age 27 from accidental alcohol poisoning. The result of those reflections is Amy, My Daughter (It Books/HarperCollins, $27.99), out today.
While the book contains no bombshells, his anger at onetime son-in-law Blake Fielder-Civil remains explosive. Winehouse blames Fielder-Civil - who was married to the singer from 2007 to 2009 - for turning his daughter on to heroin and crack cocaine, forever poisoning for him Amy's 2007 smash album, Back to Black.
"All the songs, apart from Rehab, are about Blake," he writes. "One of the biggest albums of the 20th century is all about the biggest low-life scumbag that God ever put breath into."
Reflecting on that passage, Winehouse is resolute: "Blake didn't kill her, but he still bears responsibility. He still makes me more than angry, going on about how Amy took to drugs 'like a duck to water,' " a comment Fielder-Civil made to a British film crew shooting a Winehouse documentary.
Writing Amy was cathartic for the man who introduced Winehouse to jazz, which ultimately led her to record the family favorite Body and Soul with Tony Bennett shortly before her death.
"Besides helping me with my recovery, I wanted to put a spotlight on the Amy Winehouse Foundation (which helps young people in distress, and will receive the author's proceeds of Amy sales) and to set the record straight" about the circumstances of her death, he says.
He says his daughter "had quit drugs and was on the road to abstinence. Had she passed away in 2007, well, she was so sick then. But she survived that, got better, all of which makes her death so tough."
Winehouse sighs. "But if you drink an extraordinary amount of alcohol, as she did in those last two days, it just doesn't matter."
Amy candidly recounts the singer's battles with lovers and drugs, and paints a painful picture of a darling daughter who in adulthood slipped away from her doting father.
"Once kids become adults, it's impossible to make them do anything, isn't it?" says Winehouse, resignation in his voice. "What you want to do is lock them up for months to help them recover, but that's kidnapping. They can only quit drugs when they're ready. In the end, we did as much as we could do for Amy."
If there are upbeat moments in the book, they come courtesy of anecdotes from the singer's early years. Attending a soccer game with her father just to please him. Selflessly divvying up song credits like so much candy. Presciently writing in a school application essay at age 12: "I want people to hear my voice and just forget their troubles for five minutes."
"What I remember most now about Amy is all the laughing, even in the dark times," says Winehouse. "My only advice to people is keep your son or daughter close if they have a problem. They can recover. Not everyone dies."