LONDON — To some she was a troubled rock star struggling with her demons, to others an astonishing voice with an excess of talent, but to her parents Amy Winehouse was their “angel”, and at a private funeral they have said goodbye.
Her father, Mitch Winehouse, ended a 40-minute eulogy during which he talked about his daughter’s childhood and her talent, with the words: “Mummy and Daddy love you ever so much.”
Hundreds of the singer’s family and close friends, including Mark Ronson, the producer of her hugely successful album Back To Black, and long-standing friend Kelly Osbourne, flew from around the world to pay their respects to the singer who died, aged 27, at her home in Camden, north London on Saturday.
Winehouse told the mourners that his daughter had been off drugs for three years, and was working hard to combat her alcoholism, had found love again and “was the happiest she has been for years”.
A service was held at the Edgwarebury cemetery in north London, before Winehouse’s body was taken to the Golders Green crematorium, where her grandmother was cremated. The family then headed to Schindler Hall in Southgate for the beginning of a shiva – a traditional period of mourning in the Jewish faith.
In a statement Winehouse said his daughter had “conquered her drug dependency” and was “trying hard” to deal with her drinking. “Amy was the greatest daughter, family member and friend you could ever have,” he said. “Recently Amy found love with Reg. He helped her with her problems and Amy was looking forward to their future together. She was the happiest she has been for years. We all remember that great night at the 100 Club on Oxford Street, her voice was good, her wit and timing were perfect.”
He added his daughter had seen his mother, Janis, on Friday as well as her boyfriend, film director Reg Traviss. On the night before she was found dead she was in her room singing and playing drums, he added. A security guard had checked on her in the morning and thought she was asleep, he checked again a few hours later and then raised the alarm,. “But knowing she wasn’t depressed, knowing she passed away, knowing she passed away happy, it makes us all feel better.”
The first service, which included prayers in English and Hebrew, ended with a rendition of Carole King’s So Far Away, Winehouse’s favourite song. Earlier King, whose song Will You Love Me Tomorrow was covered by Winehouse, said she was “very grateful” the star had “put her wonderful talent” into recording the track.
Alfie Ezekiel, a friend of her father’s, said: “Mitch gave a very good eulogy and he managed to get through it very well, considering.” Mitch Winehouse had been the only family member to speak during the service, attended by around 300-400 people. “It was very moving,” he said.
Speaking outside the crematorium at Golders Green, another family friend who gave his name only as “Ginger” said that as guests had left the service each had kissed the coffin goodbye . “He (Mitch) seemed very brave, very proud of her.” His wife added that as a teenager Winehouse would sit at the kitchen table scribbling lyrics. “Nobody will forget her. Everyone is proud of her, what she became was so temporary.”
Fans gathered to pay tribute to the singer. A woman who had brought a single red rose said she wanted to pay tribute to Winehouse and her “wonderful” voice, but she was sparing a thought for her troubled former husband Blake Fielder-Civil, currently serving time at Armley prison in Leeds for burglary and a firearms offence. “He can’t be here, but I’m sure he is thinking about her,” said Suzanne Marshall, 53. “We played Back to Black this morning – there were a lot of tears, and we will be raising a drink to her tonight in the Hawley Arms.”
Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Winehouse’s image, 18-year-old Joshua Burke Murphy said he wanted to mark the event and pay his respects. “She is a legend, a very important person of our times, so I didn’t want to miss her funeral.”
A postmortem examination carried out on Monday failed to establish the cause of the singer’s death. Further toxicology tests will take two to four weeks.
Winehouse, who fought a well-documented battle with drugs and alcohol, was found dead at her home in Camden by her bodyguard at about 4pm on Saturday. Her father said on Tuesday he wants to create the Amy Winehouse Foundation, to help those struggling with substance abuse.