By Rob Markman with reporting by Vanessa Whitewolf
Amy Winehouse died one year ago today (July 23) but the tiny songstress with a powerful voice will not be forgotten. Winehouse can be heard on the single “Cherry Wine” on Nas’ new album Life is Good, and the Queensbridge rapper recalls making magic when they collaborated.
With her soulful siren and timeless tunes, Amy Winehouse created a sound that added depth to her generation and at the same time transcended it. While her short but impactful discography could have cut through in the 1950s or 1960s, Amy’s postmillennial soul is also lightly marked by a few hip-hop collaborations — she recorded with Jay-Z and Ghostface Killah — and a few that came posthumously.
On July 23, 2011 Amy Winehouse’s body was discovered in her London apartment, and while her life was tragically cut short, her music lives on through lost recordings retooled for posthumous releases and collaborations. Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures was one such compilation, released on December 5, 2011. It featured “Like Smoke,” a Salaam Remi-produced track that paired Amy with her Virgo brother Nas. Not only did Nas and Amy share a September 14 birthday, the beloved singer dedicated her 2006 “Me and Mr. Jones” to the Queensbridge rapper.
“Amy sang on records that we never put out with Nas,” Remi told MTV News in October 2011 about “Like Smoke.” “As far as them now getting on the same record, that was a conversation in play for the last couple of years, but that just didn’t happen yet. And when I listened to that song, I was like, you know what? This makes sense, to actually make that happen as far as things that she wants to do that didn’t happen yet.”
Remi didn’t stop with “Like Smoke.” On July 17, Nas released his 10th solo LP, Life Is Good, to much critical acclaim, and on it appears “Cherry Wine,” another Salaam-produced Amy/Nas collabo. The jazzy tune finds both Nas and Winehouse searching for their respective soul mates.
“It was important for me to have Amy because that’s what we were doing. That was the direction me and her were going in, to work,” Nas told MTV News. “It’s hard to talk about it because she’s missed and she’s one of a kind. I think it’s a magic moment between us, me and her, and may she rest in peace and love.”
Don’t let the posthumous tracks fool you, however. Winehouse’s legacy is still carefully guarded. Usher wished to work with Amy on his latest album, Looking 4 Myself, but their plans never shaped out before she passed. “We met and we talked about it for a moment when I saw her,” Usher told us. “There was a few conversations that took place, but we never quite made it to it … I would have loved it.”
Instead, Ush called Remi, the producer who worked so closely with Amy. Together they crafted “Sins of My Father,” an emotional track on which the R&B dance machine opens up about his dad. Still, he wonders what would have become of a session with him and Winehouse. “It could have been one of the most incredible records ever,” he said. “A voice like that comes once in a lifetime.”