Amy Winehouse, whose beehive hairdo, exaggerated cat-eye makeup and singular voice made her one of the best known female British singers of this century but who apparently was unable to overcome longstanding problems with drugs and alcohol, died Saturday at age 27.
She was found dead at her apartment in north London, according to Sky News. Police are treating her death as unexplained.
Winehouse had a long history of substance abuse, including not only alcohol but heroin and cocaine. As recently as June she had to cancel a planned 12-stop European tour after appearing drunk and struggling to remember her own lyrics at the tour's first stop in Belgrade, Serbia.
Prior to beginning the tour, she spent a week at the Priory Clinic in London, which offers treatment for addiction problems.
Though she met repeatedly with personal obstacles, Winehouse always believed she would be able to overcome them.
"If I am backed up against the wall, I'll kick the sh*t out of it," she said. "If you can't sort something out for yourself, no one can help you."
It was hard to miss Amy Winehouse -- both for her talent and her unkempt appearance. The singer won music magazine NME's "Worst Dressed Performer" award in 2008 and 2009 and was named the third worst dressed British Woman by Glamour magazine, thanks to her unruly, upswept hairdo, over-applied black eye makeup and tiny tank tops.
Amy Jade Winehouse was born on September 14, 1983 and raised in the Southgate area of England by her mother Janis, a pharmacist, and her father, Mitchell, a taxi driver.
She developed an early interest in jazz from her father, who often sang around the house.
She attended the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School and the Sylvia Young Theatre School, but was expelled from the latter at 14, reportedly for "not applying herself" and piercing her nose.
Winehouse's debut album, "Frank," produced mainly by Salaam Remi, was released on October 20, 2003, when the singer was 20. Many of the songs had jazz influences, and all but two covers were co-written by Winehouse.
The album hit platinum sales in 2004 and earned Winehouse the Ivor Novello songwriting Award for Best Contemporary Song on her first single, "Stronger Than Me."
Winehouse released her second album, "Back to Black," in 2006. Her first to be released in the United States, the album included the single "Rehab," which Time named the Best Song of 2007 and Rolling Stone called the eighth-best song of the 2000s.
The success of "Back to Black" led to five Grammys for Winehouse in 2008, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Rehab," Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best New Artist. That earned Winehouse a spot in the 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for Most Grammy Awards won by a British Female Act.
Worldwide pop superstar Lady Gaga later credited Winehouse with opening the door for artists who dared to be different.
"I will always have a very deep love for Amy Winehouse," she told AOL. "Because of Amy, very strange girls like me go to prom with very good-looking guys. She's a different kind of woman. I don't believe that what I do is very digestible, and somehow Amy was the flu for pop music.
"And everybody got a little bit of the flu and got over it, and fell in love with Amy Winehouse. And now, when more flu comes along, it's not so unbearable."
Before "Back to Black" was released, Winehouse began to struggle with alcohol and substance abuse. She developed a reputation for showing up to performances too drunk to complete a whole set. Her management company suggested she enter rehab, but instead she fired the company and channeled her feelings into her hit single "Rehab."
Winehouse married Blake Fielder-Civil, a former video production assistant and grammar school dropout, in May 2007. He later admitted to introducing Winehouse to crack cocaine and heroin.
The two were also known to be violent with each other when intoxicated. They divorced in August 2009.
Winehouse's abuse issues grew and worsened in 2007, a year in which she canceled numerous shows in the UK and Europe, citing exhaustion or ill health. She was hospitalized in 2007 for a reported overdose of a cocktail of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine, whiskey, and vodka.
Though her albums continued to sell in Europe and the US, Winehouse's health continued to deteriorate. She was denied a US visa due to her "use and abuse of narcotics," preventing her from performing live at the Grammys in February 2008.
She allegedly punched a fan while performing at the Glastonbury Music Festival in June of the same year.
Winehouse is survived by her father, Mitchell, mother, Janis, and older brother, Alex.