Amid an often bizarre, occasionally boring MTV Video Music Awards, the show paused to pay tribute to late songstress Amy Winehouse. But unlike many tributes of years past, the remembrance was tinged with an honest accounting for Winehouse’s infamous battle with drugs and alcohol. “She was kind of like a daft, dopey person… with a peculiar, unknowable talent,” said comedian Russell Brand, who memorably penned a similarly frank tribute right after Winehouse died last month. “She just seemed like an ordinary girl with extraordinary hair,” Brand continued rather breathlessly, before recalling the first time he heard her sing: “That incredible, extraordinary voice coming from that crazy person, a person I knew would wander stinking of the booze, a loopy, loose-cannon person — I thought, ‘How can that be coming out of her?’ After that I gave her a lot more attention, because it became evident upon hearing that divine voice that she was a genius.”
After Brand pointedly noted “there is a solution” to the addictions from which Winehouse suffered, he noted all of the current artists who have been influenced by her, like Adele, Lady Gaga, and his own wife Katy Perry. Then he welcomed jazz legend Tony Bennett to the stage, who put Winehouse’s place in the pantheon of female vocalists like this: “She was a true jazz artist in the tradition of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. She had the gift.” As if to prove his point, he played a video of the day he recorded “Body of Soul” with Winehouse. Dated March 23, 2011, the Abbey Road Studios recording made clear that Winehouse’s instrument was still very much at her full command in the months before she died.
Finally, bedecked in an old-school shiny blue suit and his hair in a high pompadour, Bruno Mars sang Winehouse’s “Valerie” with full, rich, high-stepping passion. He asked the audience to “put their hands together for Amy,” and then asked them to sing along to the following altered lyrics: “Amy / Amy / I love you darlin’ / I love you darlin’ / Amy / Oh Amy / We’ll miss you baby / We’ll miss you baby.” Watch it here:
Follow Adam on Twitter @adambvary