Amy Winehouse was a musical visionary, and she left behind an everlasting legacy through her artistic contributions.
Before she died at only 27 years old, she gifted the world with her talents, strength, and open-hearted honesty, which always shone through, particularly during her live performances.
She was exceptional in every sense—her performances, visual aesthetic, and musical compositions all wound together to make her the icon she is today. Through it all, her lyrics were always one of her most powerful tools. She had the ability to cut straight to the heart of extreme emotions with a few searing lines, making her songs the sort that can be played over and over. Here are some of her greatest lyrics.
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1. "This face in my dreams seizes my guts / He floods me with dread / Soaked in soul / He swims in my eyes by the bed / Pour myself over him / Moon spilling in / And I wake up alone."
These lyrics, from Back to Black's "Wake Up Alone," showcase Amy's ability to paint pictures with her words. Her lyrics told stories of late nights, private desires, and dreamlike sequences, and that's part of what made her songs feel almost mystical, though they're about relatively ordinary human experiences.
2. "I cheated myself / Like I knew I would, I told you I was trouble / You know that I'm no good."
"You Know I'm No Good" is one of Winehouse's most powerful songs. Its honesty and clarity paints the picture of a conflicted woman, tormented by her demons but at least clear-eyed enough to look them straight on. These lyrics are both strong and vulnerable at the same time, something that could also be said of Winehouse herself.
3. "I can't help ya if you won't help yourself."
These lyrics from the song "Help Yourself" show that some of Winehouse's most searing, powerful lines were her most straightforward. Though she was honest about her vulnerability, she was also perpetually strong and intelligent about her capabilities as a lover and healer.
4. "Over futile odds / And laughed at by the gods / And now the final frame / Love is a losing game."
"Love Is a Losing Game" finds Winehouse coming to terms with her unluckiness in love, comparing relationships to a rigged game. Lyrics such as these have long provided solace and strength to anyone who's found themselves lamenting the difficulty and transience of relationships.
5. "I died a hundred times / You go back to her / And I go back to black."
"Back to Black" is amazingly simple, elegant, and concise, and it showcases Amy's songwriting abilities at their absolute peak. Sassy, whip-sharp, and devastating, "Back to Black" is definitely one of the most iconic songs of the 21st century—in large part thanks to its shatteringly astute lyrics.
6. "Will you still love me tomorrow?"
The 1960 song "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" tells the story of someone finding themselves happy in a relationship, feeling like it's all too good to be true and worrying it could all disappear in the morning. Winehouse delivers one of the best covers in the long history of the beautiful song, lifting up one stunning lyric after another, while always remaining simple and straightforward, tapping into the heart of an all-too-common human fear.
7. "Everything is slowing down / River of no return / You recognize my every sound / There's nothing new to learn."
These lyrics from "In My Bed" showcase the innermost thoughts of a woman who's growing tired or unhappy with her lover, and they express the sadness of the realization that a relationship has run its course.
8. "I cannot play myself again / I should just be my own best friend, not f**k myself in the head with stupid men."
These are words to live by for anyone who's spent too much time in unhealthy relationships. Winehouse's blunt delivery spends no time hiding in metaphor; instead, she shouts her revelations from the rooftops, proclaiming the magic of her own independence.
9. "The lights are on, but no one's home / She's so vacant her soul is taken."
These lyrics from "He Can Only Hold Her" depict a woman halfway in the world and half out of it, lost and detached because of too much hurt, trying to start again but still trapped in the past. It's a heart-wrenching admission of pain from a woman who would eventually lose the fight with her demons, but whose music remains a guiding light for everyone else looking to see that they're not alone.
10. "They tried to make me go to rehab but I said no, no, no / Yes, I been black / But when I come back, you'll know, know, know."
"Rehab" finds Winehouse's wit piercing through, changing a dark subject into an upbeat, joyful proclamation of independence. Amy never let anyone control her—if anything, she was too wild and free, but it was always on her terms. This song is the definition of bittersweet, as its lyrics are joyful and devastating at the same time.
BONUS: "Her name is Cherry. We've just met / But already she knows me better than you / She understands me / After eighteen years / And you still don't see me like you ought to do."
Nobody knows exactly who this early track is addressed to—some think it's Amy's mother, an early lover, her father or the general public—but "Cherry" definitely refers to Winehouse's beloved guitar. Any musician or artist can understand the feeling that your guitar or other instrument understands and knows you far better than any human being ever has. Winehouse may have struggled in her relationships with people, but she certainly was a master of her art, and she managed to connect to millions through her solitary relationship with her guitars and her lyrics. Because of that, she'll live on forever as one of music's most beloved sirens, and as an icon of heartbreak and of power.