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Russell Brand pays tribute to 'genius' Amy Winehouse


British comedian and actor Russell Brand has written a touching tribute to soul singer Amy Winehouse, who was found dead over the weekend. She was 27.

The Grammy-winning Back To Black singer was found dead at her north London home, just after 4pm local time on Saturday. A cause has not been determined, and an autopsy will not be performed until at least Monday, according to UK reports.

"At this early stage it is being treated as unexplained and there have been no arrests in connection with the incident," says a police statement published by TMZ.

Winehouse had struggled with drug and drink addiction for many years, and had recently finished a stint at a rehabilitation facility in London.

'She was a f**king genius'

Tributes to Winehouse have been pouring in from friends, family and celebrities who knew the singer - including Russell Brand, who befriended Winehouse in 2003 and watched her gain critic and commercial success, followed by her very public battle with addiction.

Brand, a recovering addict himself, took to his blog on Sunday to share his thoughts on Winehouse's passing.

In a post titled For Amy, Brand says he first met Winehouse on the Camden pub scene, and admits that at first he thought she was "just some twit in a pink satin jacket shuffling round bars".

He says that only later, after Winehouse rose to fame, did he realise her undeniable talent.

"I've known Amy Winehouse for years. When I first met her around Camden she was just some twit in a pink satin jacket shuffling round bars with mutual friends, most of whom were in cool Indie bands or peripheral Camden figures Withnail-ing their way through life on impotent charisma," Brand writes.

Brand adds: "I was myself at that time barely out of rehab and was thirstily seeking less complicated women so I barely reflected on the now glaringly obvious fact that Winehouse and I shared an affliction, the disease of addiction."

Describing her as "sweet and peculiar but most of all vulnerable", Brand recalls watching Winehouse perform with Paul Weller at the Roundhouse in Camden.

"I arrived late and as I made my way to the audience through the plastic smiles and plastic cups I heard the rolling, wondrous resonance of a female vocal," he recalls.

"Entering the space I saw Amy on stage with Weller and his band; and then the awe. The awe that envelops when witnessing a genius. From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness," Brand writes. "A voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine.

"My ears, my mouth, my heart and mind all instantly opened. Winehouse. Winehouse? Winehouse! That twerp, all eyeliner and lager...the lips that I'd only seen clenching a fishwife fag and dribbling curses now a portal for this holy sound. So now I knew. She wasn't just some hapless wannabe, yet another pissed up nit who was never gonna make it, nor was she even a ten-a-penny-chanteuse enjoying her fifteen minutes. She was a f**king genius."

Brand also describes how Winehouse "became defined by her addiction", and blamed the media for being "more interested in tragedy than talent, so the ink began to defect from praising her gift to chronicling her downfall."

The Arthur star, who detailed in his memoir, My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up, how he struggled with heroin addiction for many years, says he was also 27 when he sought treatment to kick the habit.

"Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death...Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised, at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease. Not all addicts have Amy's incredible talent. Or Kurt's or Jimi's or Janis's, some people just get the affliction."

He concludes: "Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call."

Click here to read Brand's full post.

Winehouse family 'bereft'

The singer's family has also issued a statement and spoken out about their loss.

A statement from the Winehouse family said: "Our family has been left bereft by the loss of Amy, a wonderful daughter, sister, niece.

"She leaves a gaping hole in our lives. We are coming together to remember her and we would appreciate some privacy and space at this terrible time."

News of Winehouse's death also prompted tributes from celebrity pals on Twitter:

Kelly Osbourne: "i cant even breath right my now im crying so hard i just lost 1 of my best friends. i love you forever Amy & will never forget the real you!"

Katy Perry: "RIP Amy Winehouse. May she finally find peace."

Rihanna: "Dear God have mercy!!! I am SICK about this right now! I am genuinely heartbroken by this ... #DearAmy U made a MAJAH impression on this industry and throughout the world, in such a short space of time...too short! ICONSneverDIE"

David Beckham: "Such a talented girl, and a girl with such a huge future, but our hearts go out to her family, her loved ones. And everyone in the world feels sad we have lost someone with such great talent. Everyone's love goes out to her family."

Dita Von Teese: "Devastated. I spent extraordinary times with Amy. She sang for me once for hours, it was the most beautiful and touching thing. A huge loss."

Demi Moore: "Truly sad news about Amy Winehouse. My heart goes out to her family. May her troubled soul find peace."

Mark Ronson, who produced Winehouse's second album Back to Black, said: "She was my musical soulmate and like a sister to me. This is one of the saddest days of my life."

Courtney Love: "I'm not even going to say, 'Waste of glorious sublime talent," which I feel. I'm fu**ing gutted. I tried with her, I tried twice."

Lady Gaga: "Amy changed pop music forever, I remember knowing there was hope, and feeling not alone because of her. She lived jazz, she lived the blues."

Music legend Tony Bennett, who recently collaborated with Winehouse on the classic standard Body and Soul, has also released a statement.

"Amy Winehouse was an artist of immense proportions and I am deeply saddened to learn of her tragic passing," he says. "She was an extraordinary musician with a rare intuition as a vocalist and I am truly devastated that her exceptional talent has come to such an early end.

"She was a lovely and intelligent person and when we recorded together she gave a soulful and extraordinary performance. I was honoured to have the opportunity to sing with her.

"It had been my sincere hope that she would be able to overcome the issues she was battling and I send my deepest sympathy to her father Mitchell, her entire family and all of those who loved her."

Metropolis Music, Winehouse's management company, released a statement saying: "We are trying to come to terms with the death of a dear friend and colleague, the most amazing artist and talent.

"We will always remember Amy as a vibrant, funny, caring young woman who made everyone around her feel welcome. We have lost a very special person, part of our family."

Last public appearance

Winehouse made her last public appearance on Wednesday night. She joined her goddaughter Dionne Bromfield on stage during her support slot at the iTunes festival at the Roundhouse in Camden.

Just three days before she died, the singer was filmed dancing alongside Bromfield, 15, at the London venue.

Bromfield, who was mentored by Winehouse, performed at a festival in Pontypridd, Wales just two hours after news of Winehouse's death.

Her spokesperson said: "It was very, very professional. We would have perfectly understood if she hadn't wanted to perform but she very bravely did.

"There was no pressure, certainly not under those circumstances. She decided that she wanted to play so it went ahead as scheduled."

Bromfield has since posted on her website that she has cancelled all media commitments until further notice.

She wrote: "I'm totally devastated... Amy was my inspiration"

In other Winehouse news:

* Winehouse's death remains "unexplained", according to Scotland Yard. TMZ also quotes a police source as saying they are "operating under the suspicion" it was an overdose.

* The Daily Mail speculates on what happened in the hours before her death.

* Addressing speculation that the singer died of drug overdose, a Metropolitan Police spokesperson told the Mail in a press conference: "I am aware of reports of a suspected drugs overdose, but I would like to re-emphasise that no post-mortem has yet taken place and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the cause of death.

"The death of any person is a sad time of friends and family especially for someone known nationally and internationally like Amy Winehouse. My sympathy extends not only to her family but also to her millions of fans across the world."

Amy Winehouse, the troubled soul chanteuse with honey-coated cigarette ash and gravel vocal chords. R.I.P. love.

What are your thoughts on the death of Winehouse? Share your opinions below.

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