MTV 2011 VMAs: Russell Brand, Tony Bennett, Bruno Mars pay loving, clear-eyed tribute to Amy Winehouse -- VIDEO

Russel-Brand

Image Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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:

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Comments (46 total) Add your comment
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  • Elle

    It was nice. RIP Amy.

    • lily

      RIP to Amy Winehouse.
      And thought Russell Brand’s intro was nice and Bruno Mars was fantastic.
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      • kalo

        i don’t get it. Amy wrote some fantastik songs but they chose her cover of The Zutons song for her hommage? It doesn’t make sense to me!BTW,I wanna share a good news to you.My best friend ,she just has announced her wedding with a millionaire man who is a celebrity !they met via
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  • Sina

    It was cool but I his version sounded to happy. The reason I love Amy’s is the grittiness in her voice. I would have LOVED to hear Adele sing F*** me pumps as a tribute.

    • KLH

      I do agree. Bruno is great but I think a bluesy woman singer could have done a gorgeous tribute. Adele. Kelly C. Also a clip of Back in Black? She wasn’t jsut a singer but a heartfelt songwriter! Tony is so classy but he seemed a little confused.

      • Jethro

        A bit confused, he’s 90 years old!

        Tribute to Amy: Why?

    • PN

      They didn’t want a downbeat, emotional performance. They wanted the audience to have a upbeat feel while remembering Amy at the same time. And Bruno Mars and his band sounded sharp doing that song.

  • ashley

    Best performance all night. I actually cried during the tony bennet duet. Amy you will never be forgotten.

  • suzy Q

    Really nicely done by all involved.

  • Plum P

    i don’t get it. Amy wrote some fantastik songs but they chose her cover of The Zutons song for her hommage? It doesn’t make sense to me!

    • PN

      Maybe that’s what could fit vocally for Bruno in the performance. I don’t think that any of Amy’s own original songs fit with Bruno’s voice, so they went for that Zutons cover. You can’t win every time.

  • paula

    that part of the song made me want to cry. i thought it was a good song to celebrate her

  • Caitlin

    I think Bruno Mars totally nailed this. I’m not a huge fan of his, but he totally impressed me tonight. He was easily one of the best of the night.

    • Katyo

      Agree on all counts. I thought it was perfect.

  • Dave

    I loved Russell Brand’s speech about Amy. It was great.
    Not a fan of Bruno Mars at all, but he did a good job. Still, I would have rather seen someone else pay tribute.

  • Ruby

    Well missed the performance but caught up online RIP Amy we miss you dearly you will never be forgotten great job Bruno and your band…

  • Brock

    Very classy performance.

  • candace

    At first in the video, I couldn’t understand what Amy was singing and then I heard her sing something along the lines of “if you could give me one more chance”, after that I started to cry a bit. This was such a good tribute. It actually felt like a celebration of her.

  • Dee Jones

    I thought that was very good and moving! You know what they should`ve had Ronnie Spector to sing `Back to Black`. I could definatley see her doing that number, because Amy sounded like her on that record.

  • Anthony

    Um, why would someone who was caught with possession of cocaine be aloud to pay tribute to a unique talent who suffered from substance abuse? Joke!

    • Rachel

      What? I don’t understand, what’s the big deal? It’s about her music and talent…

    • Sue1

      So you wanted him to pay tribute silently, not aloud?

  • Alan Carver

    Unfortunately, Tony Bennett got it wrong. Amy Winehouse was never nor will ever be in the same league of a Ella or Billie, she was simple a junkie, and alcoholic who couldn’t control her addictions that ultimately claimed her life. It is that simple.

    • Sina

      U mean like Billie Holiday? You know she was a junkie and that’s how she died. It’s good comparison.

    • alissa

      Amy is amazing every artist has their own flaws and unfortunately hers were very public. She will fforever be in our heart.

    • deedeedragons

      I swear people have blinders on when it comes to the stars & talents of yesteryear (For lack of a better word) Like stated above Holiday was a junkie and that’s what she died of.

    • Katyo

      It must be great to be so convinced of your own superiority that you can dismiss incredible talent and ability because the person who possessed it had a drug problem. Have you ever seen substance abuse, Alan? Ever experienced it or dealt with a loved one who has? Because I can tell you, it changes a person. It takes who they were and twists it into something unrecognizable. And instead of acknowledging that said person is simply more susceptible to addiction because of chemical processes in the body that we don’t yet understand, you cast “moral” judgment on a person who is already struggling with more problems than you can imagine. It’s just…sad.

      • Alan Carver

        ‘you cast “moral” judgment on a person who is already struggling with more problems than you can imagine. It’s just…sad.”

        What is sad is that the reports of the antics of Winehouse were true. Nothing I said in my post was wrong, or unfactual. What IS sad is that people just tend to dismiss and excuse the issue(s). Winehouse up to the very bitter end, was active in her addiction. It is really that simple. Here was a young woman, who had the musical world by the tail and threw away all of her talent and abilities to feed her addictions! So you can go ahead and excuse and pretend and feel sorry for Amy Winehouse, I did, briefly, and in no way was I throwing around any moral superiority, I was stating facts, and that was it … if you choose to ignore the facts, well that is the real SAD COMMENTARY here and nothing I wrote! Grow up!

      • Roisin

        Alan although she had her addictions it has been clear over the last few weeks that she was overcoming these demons. She had stopped taking drugs, toxicology reports show she had no drugs in her system at the time of her death, although they found alcohol in her system it is still not clear if it resulted in her death. Her body was surely ravished by the years of damage she had done to herself but she was trying to better herself. Addiction sadly is a disease, like all other illnesses and I think its flippant of you to say she couldnt control them. Addictions are called so for a reason, there not so easy to give up.

  • Rachel

    RIP to Amy Winehouse.
    And thought Russell Brand’s intro was nice and Bruno Mars was fantastic.

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