A rare chance to explore Amy Winehouse’s Jewish family roots


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The Independent Culture

Amy Winehouse’s battered black suitcase is crammed with photos of her family and friends. There is the red jumper she wore as her Sylvia Young School uniform with her name label, as well as her record collection, passes for gigs and her first guitar. These are just a few of the intimate objects on show at Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait at London’s Jewish Museum in Camden, where Winehouse lived, that have been lovingly put together by her brother Alex and his wife Riva, just two years since she died in 2011.


Other photos will be dotted around the gallery including the singer at her flat in Camden, in 2004, standing in front of her mantle piece with photos of her dad Mitch and brother Alex as a baby, as well as Vogue covers. There is a photo of a young Amy at her grandmother Cynthia’s flat in London’s Southgate – she was very close to her stylish “nan” who influenced her distinctive style.

A selection of her paperback books have been gathered together: Kingdom of Fear by Hunter S. Thompson, The Nabokov-Wilson Letters and Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski. Her favourite book was Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold – a historical murder mystery set in the jazz age, as well as Snoopy Stars as the Fitness Freak by Charles M. Schulz. Songs from a track list she wrote aged 14 will be played in the gallery: Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Jam, The Offspring, as well as “So Far Away” by Carole King, which was played at her funeral.

There are a few objects from her last home in Camden Square – a wooden chest in which she kept crossword and Sudoku puzzle books in and cheesy fridge magnets. An essay she wrote at the Sylvia Young School reveals  her desire to sing and  allow people to forget  their troubles.

“We will get visitors who would not usually come to the Jewish Museum,” says Elizabeth Selby, curator at the museum, “who will be able to explore her strong family Jewish roots.”

‘Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait’, Jewish Museum, London, NW1, 3 July to  15 September (jewishmuseum.org.uk/Amy)