Amy Winehouse's Father Celebrates Her Legacy With a Benefit Performance
We chat with father Mitch Winehouse ahead of his benefit performance at the Winery at St. George, and the debut of Amy Winehouse tribute ‘Back from Black.’
Just over seven years ago, the music world lost one of its then-brightest stars. Still praised today for her incredible vocal talents, Amy Winehouse has left a lasting impact on her fans, but her legacy has grown far beyond that with the outreach and support programs created in her name.
The Amy Winehouse Foundation is a non-profit begun by the Winehouse family on what would have been the artist’s 28th birthday. The charity engages in a variety of social wellness initiatives that’s touched hundreds of thousands of lives across the globe.
On Friday, November 9 Amy’s father Mitch Winehouse will perform as part of a fundraising benefit for the Foundation, held by The Winery at St. George in Mohegan Lake. Tickets range from $55 to $125, with proceeds going directly to the Amy Winehouse Foundation.
What’s more, Saturday night Mitch will be in attendance for a special performance of Back from Black, an Amy Winehouse tribute featuring Westchester native Gabrielle Sansone backed by full band, paying homage to the late singer’s catalog.
We caught up with Winehouse ahead of the event to chat about the shows and his family’s charitable works.
Beyond just from your daughter, it seems like your whole family has musical leanings, from your mother to yourself and even Amy’s uncles. How did you make music a part of the Winehouse household while Amy was growing up? Was it something you had in your own childhood?
My family on both sides loved music, singing, and dancing — don’t forget there was no TV when I was a child — so when Amy was little my mum and aunts looked after my kids while Janis and I were at work. So lots of singing and dancing.
You’ll be playing the Winery at St. George on November 9 backed by a full jazz septet, and we’re told we can expect a docket full of the standards. Who have been some of your biggest influences, musically speaking?
My musical influences as a youngster were the Beatles and Motown. As I got older, I listened to my parents’ records: Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ella, Dinah, and Sarah Vaughan. The songs I sing are not the standard American songs. They are the less well known but beautiful songs.
The show will also be a benefit for the Amy Winehouse Foundation, an organization your family started to support young people dealing with drugs and alcohol. Can you tell our readers a little about the Foundation?
The Foundation was incorporated on what would have been Amy’s 28th birthday on September 14, 2011. We have music projects in the U.S.: Amy’s Jazz project in the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and a hardship fund at the Dreyfoos School of Performing Arts in Florida. We [also] have two projects in the Caribbean working with disadvantaged young people.
In the U.K. we have three main projects: Amy’s Yard is working with challenged youngsters through music, Amy’s Place is a recovery house for 16 young women with no safe place to go after they come through rehab, [and] Amy’s Resilience Programme is our schools project. In the last 3 years we have addressed over 300,000 school pupils about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.
The Winery will also be presenting what is, as far as we can tell, the American debut of Back from Black, a live tribute to Amy and her music, featuring Westchester-based singer Gabrielle Sansone. What are you expecting, hearing Sansone perform your daughter’s repertoire for the first time?
I have never heard Gabrielle sing but [Winery at St. George owner John DeChiaro] assures me she is excellent. And of course all money raised goes to Amy’s Foundation.
What’s something you’d like our readers — especially the younger ones — to take with them after seeing the performances at the Winery?
What I’d like people to take away is an appreciation for wonderful music, and of course, an appreciation of Amy’s music. There wouldn’t be tribute acts if Amy and her music were run-of-the-mill. Gabrielle will entrance everyone with her performance but will also remind them what a great artist Amy was.
Mitch Winehouse will perform at The Winery at St. George in Mohegan Lake on Friday, November 9 starting at 8:30 p.m. (Doors open at 6 p.m.) Back from Black will debut the following evening, Saturday, November 10 at the same times.