My first encounter with Amy was quite a long time after her album Frank was released but before Back to Black was created so she hadn't done anything for a while. She had come to Cambridge to do a set in a concert being held to help raise money for the Tsumani. Although she was offered money to do the gig, I remember her telling me how she told them to put it all to the charity, which I thought, was sweet.
I was around 17 years old and was obsessed with her and her debut album Frank! It is the only album (apart from MJ's) which every single track on it is amazing and it never gets old or boring to me. Very few albums are timeless. So I decided I wanted to express my love for the album to her. I turned up early at the concert in the Junction, Cambridge with a little letter I'd hand-written for her, telling her how much I love her and her album! I gave it to the steward who was guarding the backstage door and asked if he could hand it to her. He seemed thrilled to have the chance to get to speak to her. He grabbed the letter and ran backstage excitedly! When he came back out, the conversation was like this:
Me: 'Did you give it?'
Me: “WOW what did she say?'
Steward: 'She asked what you look like....'
Me: 'No way! Then what did you say'
Steward: 'Erm...black girl with dreads'
Whilst I was standing there jokingly arguing with the steward about how his description of me wasn't good enough as I am mixed race and my 'dreads' were ‘braids’, I suddenly noticed a barefooted, petite figure appear from the door behind him!
'OH MY...OH MY it's AMY WINEHOUSE' I screeched!
Amy smiled... ‘Hello hun, what's your name?’ She continued..'I haven't finished reading your letter yet but had to come and see you’. I said my name and she goes 'Sarah! Nice to meet you darling' and hugged me! She smelt really nice. Amy continued 'I really like your letter. It makes me feel so shy when you are comparing to artists as big as MJ' and I responded 'Honestly, you are the best artist ever! Words can't express how good you are! Your song writing, your voice!' and she interrupted with 'Stop it Sarah! I'm going all shy' and she gazed down at the floor tilting her head and cheekily smiling! We then hugged each other again in the excitement!
Amy was doing an intimate acoustic set at the Junction, just her and her guitar. No band. As we were chatting she asked ‘Do you have any requests Sarah? I haven't actually planned what I am doing’! I stupidly started singing one of her tracks:
Me: 'I couldn't resist him, his eyes were like yours'!
Amy: 'Aaaw Yeah! I can do that'!
Me: 'And could you do the track named- ‘I Heard Love Is Blind’?
Amy: 'Yes! I can'
Me: 'Hang on! Oops! That's the same song!'
Amy: 'Is it? Oh yeah! Sorry I didn't even notice'
We both laughed and blamed it on the fact we were a bit tipsy! I told her, I love all the songs so anything will please me and we carried on chatting for a few minutes.
Then my silly boyfriend-at-the-time appeared behind me, grabbed my shoulders and goes ‘get her autograph, get her autograph’ in my ear really loudly, really ruining our moment! We both just stared at him in silence. Well, I was glaring and I think Amy knew I was disappointed in his interruption!
The thing is, it wasn't one of those cringe moments when I wanted to be like 'Can I have a photo?' or 'Can I have an autograph' to boast about it with friends. It meant much more than that to me. It was the fact I was communicating and sharing my thoughts with my favourite artist of that time and she was genuinely listening! The memory of that was more important than a bit of writing on paper. It's not very often any fan gets to meet their absolute first choice artist and have a genuine chat with them.
It got to the point where she had to go and get ready. But as she disappeared behind the door, she poked her head back round and muttered 'Where will you be standing?' looking at the venue as it was beginning to fill up! I shouted 'front row' as I pointed to the stage where my friends were waiting for me. She then looked right into my eyes and softly said 'Make sure you do, cos all that matters to me is that you're at this gig tonight Sarah' and closed the door!
I was so exicted, I ran back to my friends almost in tears of happiness! But that wasn't the end.
There were lots of artists performing on this night so she could only perform 5 songs on stage. And when she did perform them, she dedicated 3 of the 5 songs to me! She kept saying 'this is for Sarah...my fave person in the audience tonight' ....'this one goes out goes out to Sarah' and on the last track she said 'I bet you're all thinking 'Who the f*ck is Sarah?' and the audience chuckled! She continued 'She wrote me a letter. And I think that’s so real. I can't write letters, I can only express myself in songs. But it takes skill to write a letter like that. That's real sh*t!' and everyone clapped! To be honest, we all know her award winning and cleverly written song lyrics are a much larger talent than my scribbled down fan letter but what she said was so nice and meant a lot to me!
I saw Amy perform two more times after that when she toured with Back to Black. I saw her once in Brighton and then the last time back in Cambridge. The final time I saw her, I was front row again and I went to take a photo of her while she was performing. A bossy security guard ran across and shouted 'No photo' whilst trying to take the camera off of me! She stopped mid-song (yes...in the middle of a verse while the band was still playing) and shouted ‘NO NO! Let her take it! She's my mate'!
The security guard nodded and waddled off. And then she looked into my eyes again and winked at me. I mouthed out 'Thank You' and she smiled.
I often wonder if she recognised it was ME-the Sarah who wrote the letter all those years ago or if she was just generally helping a keen fan, not realising it was me! I guess i'll never know.
R.I.P Amy x
Words by Sazrah