Amy Winehouse is sadly one of the latest additions to the 27 Club, which includes the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Jim Morrison. This isn’t exactly news, of course, but it’s always unfortunate when popular artists pass at a young age.
That said, Winehouse’s DNA is still very much alive in the music of many singers. Here we explore the best singers like Amy Winehouse.
Amy Winehouse specifically referenced American jazz singer Sarah “The Divine One” Vaughan as one of her key influences.
With two Grammy awards and over 45 studio albums to her name, Vaughan was a prolific artist from the 1950s all the way to the 1980s.
Winehouse liked to slur her phrases more than just about anyone that came before her, but listening to her, you can’t help the notice the similarities between her voice and Vaughan’s, especially with respect to their dynamic, “under control” articulation.
As with Sarah Vaughan, Amy Winehouse says she was specifically influenced by Dinah Washington.
If Winehouse got her dynamic control and the lower register of her voice from Vaughan, then it seems to me she got the higher register from Washington. And it makes for a deadly combination, of that there is no doubt.
American singer and pianist Dinah “Queen of the Blues” Washington became one of the most popular black female artists in the 1950s. She was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1983, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
Winehouse’s vocals have been compared to Macy Gray’s on multiple occasions, and when you listen to Gray, you can’t help but feel that connection.
Rather than being influenced by each other, however, it’s more like they arrived at the same point in their vocal styles via similar paths. Macy Gray considers Billie Holiday her primary influence, and spoiler alert, Holiday's name appears again later in this guide.
Gray is still very much active at 55, and she has won a Grammy to boot.
Amy Winehouse was inspired by soul girl groups like The Ronettes, whose style she adopted and took on as her own. It may seem irrelevant to this discussion, but it’s not. Winehouse was very much an intentional product of The Ronettes.
So much so, in fact, that you will find some similarities in the singing style as well.
The Ronettes had six Top 40 hits, headlined a tour in 1964 where The Rolling Stones were opening for them, and opened for The Beatles on their 1966 tour.
If you hadn’t thought of this before, this comparison probably just blew your mind. Even if Adele doesn’t generally sing jazz, listen closely to that voice – it’s very much like that of Amy Winehouse’s smooth, smoky pipes.
Adele has even said if not for Amy Winehouse’s 2003 release, Frank, she would have never picked up the guitar.
At 35, Adele continues to fill a gap left by Winehouse, and she has already had an exceptional career in music.
Lady Gaga may have initially wowed audiences with her Halloween antics, but beneath the meat dress it is a thoroughly trained musician. From electronic, to pop, to jazz, to soft rock, and more, she has proved her versatility through various releases and collaborations too.
Lady Gaga was among one of many artists to pay tribute to Amy Winehouse, the ranks of which include U2, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Adele, and Kelly Clarkson, among others.
Lady Gaga even said Amy Winehouse paved the way for her success, making it possible for unconventional female acts to rise to the top in the music business.
Welsh singer, songwriter, and actress Duffy is well-known for having a sound closely matched to that of Amy Winehouse's, and it has been suggested that Winehouse paved the way for her and Adele’s success in the U.S. as well.
Personal troubles have kept Duffy out of the limelight for quite some time, though she had a good run between 2003 and 2011, winning a Grammy and three Brit Awards. She did reemerge briefly in 2015, but her hiatus continues.
It doesn’t take more than one listen to know that the DNA of Winehouse (and her many influences) has been injected into Duffy’s music too.
English singer-songwriter and actress Lily Allen originally got her start in 2001. Having released some of her vocal recordings on Myspace in 2005, she received airplay on BBC Radio 1, which led to a contract with Regal Recordings.
Allen and Winehouse should be considered peers and perhaps even competitors rather than influences on each other. Allen has publicly bashed Amy Winehouse, though she had a penchant for controversy early in her career.
Allen would later remark that she found Winehouse smart, witty, and funny.
American singer, songwriter, and pianist Nina Simone recorded 40+ albums between 1958 and 1974 alone. Her career, however, would continue well into the early 2000s.
Simone’s skillful contralto voice does sound a bit like Winehouse’s lower register (although it’s clearly the other way around, since Simone came first).
Also noteworthy is Simone's piano playing, which is largely inspired by J.S. Bach.
Look for the list of female artists Aretha “Queen of Soul” Franklin didn’t inspire, and it might be considerably shorter than the list of artists she did inspire, especially in the realms of soul, R&B, gospel, jazz, and pop.
Franklin was a powerhouse singer. 112 of her singles charted, she won 18 Grammy Awards, and she was even awarded the National Medal of Arts.
If you’d like to dive into her extensive catalog, “Ain’t No Way,” “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied),” “Call Me,” “Jump to It,” “Freeway of Love,” and “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” are some good places to start.
Perhaps not as pronounced as Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, or The Ronettes, Etta James was nevertheless an influence on Amy Winehouse, not to mention Adele, Joss Stone, Rita Ora, and others.
James won six Grammy Awards, 17 Blues Music Awards, and she was even inducted into the Rock and Roll, Grammy, and Blues Hall of Fame.
Some of her classic moments include “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “At Last,” “Stormy Weather,” “Fire,” and “All I Could Do Was Cry.”
American singer Billie Holiday had a huge influence on jazz and pop vocal styles to come. Her approach was inspired by jazz instrumentalists, and the result was a dynamic singing style, which played with phrasing and tempo. Frank Sinatra counted her as one of his key influences.
Winehouse may not have thought of Billie Holiday as one of her top influences, but if not for Holiday, her approach to singing may have been very different indeed.
Check out “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Solitude,” “Blue Moon,” “Gloomy Sunday,” and “Strange Fruit.”