'I've never felt so free'
It was a dark and stormy night when Amy Winehouse performed at ‘Other Voices’ – today, a year after her death, producer PHILIP KINGremembers her visitWHEN SINGERS, musicians and artists make the journey west to Dingle to sing and play at Other Voices, they find themselves in a place that is between worlds at the edge of a continent, a place of exceptional physical beauty that they find inspirational. West Kerry has its own language and accent, a rich literature and a living music.
The itinerant musician and troubadour, weary from the impossible way of life that is the road, sense that here is a safe haven and good place to sing a song, to lay down a weary tune, a good place to rock and to roll.
Over the past 10 years there have been many memorable Other Voices moments – but something very special happened the day Amy Winehouse came to Dingle.
DECEMBER 3RD, 2006, and Other Voices producer Tina Moran is worried. It is stormy, wet and windswept in west Kerry. Sheeting rain rattles like gravel against the narrow glass windows of the Church Of St James’s.
By 3pm, the light of day is already swallowed up. I go for a wander around Dingle, fretting and anxious. flights are delayed, cancelled, rerouted, rescheduled.
“Who have you on tonight?” I am asked as I make my round of the town.
“Where is she from?”
“Can she sing?”
West Kerry people love a good singer . . . but will Amy make it? It looks bad.
We are about to bow to the black weather when word arrives that Amy, bass player Dale Davies and guitarist Robert Bannerjee have boarded a flight from Heathrow to Cork. The drummer and some others didn’t make it. We send the bus the 100 miles from Dingle to pick up the Amy Winehouse trio and bring them west.
While we wait I listen to some Amy, early recordings I had from the late Chips Chipperfield of Ronnie Scott’s and Beatles Anthology fame, and the jazz-inflected Frank. It’s a great voice and, at just 22, one full of promise and expectation.
Back to Black was released at the end of October. It’s a big production, thanks to Mark Ronson, and it’s a hit.
The bus pulls up outside Benner’s hotel and out she hops, stick thin, bright and full of brio. She is not dressed for the weather – flat black pumps, skin-tight drains and zippy leather jerkin topped off with a Ronnettish beehive, a feat of hair engineering. She is cold, needs a packet of crisps and wants to go to work. A touch-up of the Cleopatra eyes, a little beehive backcombing and she heads to the church. No manager, no minder, no photographers – just Amy, Robin, Dale and the music.