Salaam Remi Speaks On The Album
Salaam Remi: “The Lioness is not meant to replace what Amy’s third album would have been. That album was written but only two or three tracks were recorded. But this is definitely a collection of songs that we feel needed to be heard by her fans and that also stand up to the quality of the material that she released while she was alive—you know, with her first two albums.
Amy was the driving force of her recording process: a musician who actually played guitar, would write her songs and record them on guitar, sing her song the way she wanted it to be.
“For me personally it’s also been therapeutic in the months since Amy has passed, which is nearly five at this point, for me to be able to just listen back to how much of a genius musician, singer, and songwriter she was—as well as being a dear friend to me.
“With this actual collection we also hope to help preserve and move forward the legacy of Amy Winehouse musically. Because there has been so much press—and I thank you, all the press that’s gathered here today to check out the music.
“But there’s been so many other things as far as the way she passed and the last few years, as far as some aspects of her life. But in my opinion the reason why we’re still talking about her is because of her ability musically. And like I say, [this record is] another way to share what’s been given.
"One of the things I really want to bring across is that Amy was totally the driving force of her creative situation. You know, a lot of people would see her and think it was some girl singing, and see the bee-hive, and [think] 'Okay you’re just showing up and there’s producers actually making things happen, and pulling all the different pieces together.'
If you have something to say to someone that you love, say it now. If you have something that you want to do with someone that you care about, do it now. And that’s the same way I feel with this music. If I have things that I feel like the world should hear... You should hear it now.
“Amy was the driving force of her recording process: a musician who actually played guitar, would write her songs and record them on guitar, sing her song the way she wanted it to be. And then also suggest some ideas of how she wanted to arrange it, and then look for someone like myself to execute it and have that chemistry to make it happen.
“In the days of Amy’s passing, I was actually in London and intended to go see her the afternoon after she passed. Because we were going to a wedding the next day. And I didn’t go see her. And I felt as if…'Why didn’t I do that?'
"If you have something to say to someone that you love, say it now. If you have something that you want to do with someone that you care about, do it now. And that’s the same way I feel with this music. If I have things that I feel like the world should hear, while I have the ability to…You should hear it now.
"So hopefully the world will receive this, and for the people who are feeling different ways since her passing and now are learning different things, they will be able to share with myself and what her family and everyone else has felt since I shared with them the stuff that I had, being her musical treasurer over her career."
“Our Day Will Come” (Reggae Version)
”Between The Cheats”
Salaam Remi: “This one is just called ‘Tears Dry’ not “On Their Own.” And with ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’ the way it was on the Back To Black album, originally she wrote it on the guitar.
“I listened to the song and loved it, but at the same time we had so many down-tempo songs—such as ‘Love is a Losing Game,’ ‘Wake Up Alone,’ there were so many things in that mood, ‘Just Friends’ before we put the reggae to it.
This is the original version of ‘Tears Dry On Their Own,’ at the tempo where it was written... You’re actually able to hear more of the sentiment, which is a sad sentiment. More than the happy ending version on Back to Black.
“So I was like, you know what? We need some more up-tempos. And I proposed the idea of taking the song and adjusting it to fit to the Marvin Gaye Tammi Terrell, Ashford and Simpson ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ track.
“So Amy danced with it for a few days and then figured out what I was hearing, to now make that song be the version that many people have grown to love. This is the original version of ‘Tears Dry On Their Own,’ at the tempo where it was written, and the production finished that way.
"But at this level of the song you’re actually able to listen to it and hear more of the sentiment, which is a sad sentiment, in the song. More than the happy ending version on Back to Black.”
“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”
“Like Smoke” f/ Nas
“Like Smoke” f/ Nas
Salaam Remi:“Next is ‘Like Smoke’—this version was recorded in May of 2008, a couple weeks after ’Between The Cheats’ was recorded. This was a song that she had actually finished the rest of the lyrics for, but never got a chance to record, and was slated to be on the forthcoming album. When we were going through different things that we felt people should hear, we didn’t have enough lyrics as far as the way it was put together—it was just a snippet.
‘On the Back to Black album ‘Me and Mr. Jones’ was Nasir Jones.
"And she had a thing where she was a really big fan of Nas. Nas was also a key collaborator of mine over the last 10 years. They both share a birthday, ten years apart—September 14, 1973 Nas; 1983 Amy. On the Back to Black album ‘Me and Mr. Jones’ was Nasir Jones. So I was like, we don’t have a Nas song on this album. Great, well here we go—as Amy would have said.
"We were planning to do records together, and had been speaking about that a lot recently, but didn’t get a chance to do it. We all felt—her family and everybody else—that was the right thing to do with this song. He was feeling and mourning her loss as well, and when I sent it to him he stepped right up and handled it.
"There’s a line in Nas’s rap where he says, ‘You’re colder than penguin pussy’ and if you think about it, a penguin drags its ass on the floor all day. Now that’s actually a joke that Amy cracked to him that he found hilarious, so he decided as a tribute to her, to include her ‘penguin pussy’ joke on her own song. That’s the type of joke Amy would crack.”
The Girl From Ipanema
“The Girl From Ipanema”
Salaam Remi: “One day in 2002, 18-year-old Amy Winehouse walked into my studio in Miami I just moved into after leaving 30 glorious years in the beautiful New York City. From my semi-retirement I said, only bring good people with good music and good money. If it’s good people with good music the money will come. In walked a good person named Amy Winehouse and she had good music. So there was the story.
This was the first thing I ever heard upon us meeting. She pulled out a guitar and started singing ‘Girl From Ipanema.’ And I looked at her and then I said, ‘Ohh you can sing!
“Basically this was the first thing that I ever heard upon us meeting. She pulled out a guitar and started singing ‘Girl From Ipanema.’ And I looked at her and then I said, ‘Ohh you can sing!’
“And then every once in a while she would she would say that to me just to be funny, over the years. ‘Ohh you can sing!’ Cause at the end of the day I didn’t know who I was meeting and if they could they really sing. And it was really important that she could.
“This version of it as it was recorded in 2002, it’s just got a bit of a beat behind it. And this really just represents what Amy was: Classic material, classic songs, but still with a bit of young energy and pizzazz to it, to keep it on the cusp.”
Salaam Remi: “‘Halftime’ is a song Amy had in her original repertoire of songs when I first met her at 18. She recorded different versions of it with myself, Commissioner Gordon, acoustically. But we just never actually found a way to make it lock for her initial album, Frank.
“Last year, Amy told me that she was going to do a supergroup in between doing her next album—which was going to be more doo-wop—and do a jazz record with Soweto Kinch, Questlove, and Charlie Mingus—but he’s no longer here, so I’ll use my bass player Dale Davis—and what else did she say? And you on the boards! Oh, thanks. [Laughs.]
Last year, Amy told me that she was going to do a jazz supergroup with Soweto Kinch, Questlove, and Charlie Mingus—but he’s no longer here, so we’ll use my bass player Dale Davis—and what else did she say? And you on the boards! Oh, thanks. [Laughs.]
“That was something that she wanted to do on a jazz vibe, kind of in-between, just to take her mind off the record she was spending so much time writing.
Although that never happened, when we got to ‘Halftime’ I thought this would be a good song for me to still make that happen somewhat. So I approached Questlove and showed him the song. He got right on it, put together some drums. James Poyser played the keys on it and I played some bass on it.
“So here is ‘Halftime’ with a young Amy Winehouse on guitar and vocals, and we’re pretty much just following along with what she did. Once again it was another song that her family didn’t know existed, and everybody forgot about. But not to be forgotten, hidden treasures…
You’ll notice the line ‘When Frank Sinatra sings,’ and that was part of what sparked the conversation of her first album being called Frank, because she had an admiration for Frank Sinatra—and also she was very frank. So that was that.”
Wake Up Alone
Body And Soul
A Song For You
“A Song For You”
Salaam Remi: “The last track is a song by Leon Russell, ‘A Song For You,’ which was also sung and made popular by Donny Hathaway, who Amy was a huge fan of.
“So in March of 2009, after our first, shorter St. Lucia trip, Amy decided that, you know what? Maybe we should put some equipment back in this new house she had just got in the English suburb Barnet.
“It was kind of like a thing where she wanted to be in London but get away from the paparazzi that would chase her around all the time, and not have to worry about all those things, and be in a comfortable space. Cause she was used to—at least with me, she was accustomed to recording in my house in Miami, we would be alone, it was kind of like away from everything and she would be able to express herself.
As she was singing the song, she began to weep... It was a moment where I wish I could have videotaped what my eyes were seeing. As she finished she sat in my lap and cried.
“So on the day when myself and my engineer arrived, Amy said, ‘Hey the studio is in the attic.’ Actually it was in two places, outside in the back in the guest house and in the attic. And she was like, ‘Out there is cool but in the attic is nice.’
“So we went up to the attic, all the way in the top of her house, and she had like a Wurlitzer set up, and a drum kit, and a bunch of couches and bean bags. Kind of like a hang-out room. And the first thing she did was say, ‘Hey, you know what? I wanna sing some Hathaway.’
“She was going to look for ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ tabs, but she pulled out the guitar and said, ‘Hey, you know what? Um….’ and she just started singing ‘A Song For You.’ So I looked at my engineer and realized that he’s already pressed record.
“So this is the equivalent of something you would hear in the ‘70s where somebody just has a tape recording where they’re just sitting down and playing something. And you’re listening, like, ‘Oh wow.’ So I’m sitting in the attic of the house and she’s barefoot with some shorts on—just chilling—and starts singing and playing ‘I’ve been so many places in my life and time…’
"And she went through and sang the song, but as she was singing the song, and learning the chords, and putting it all down, she began to weep and be emotional. Because the lyrics of the song, you know, ‘Acted out my love on stages with 10,000 people watching,’ etc, and ‘We’re alone now,’ it refers to death.
“It was just a moment where I felt like I wish I could have videotaped what my eyes were seeing. I was just watching and as she finished she sat in my lap and cried for a second and then got up and made a comment regarding Donny Hathaway. Then we went on to doing other stuff.
“But this is the vocal from that moment that I edited back into being the track that it is. And I felt like it was something dear to her as far as her feelings. So Amy Winehouse, ‘A Song For You.’