Amy Winehouse's Best Friend Opens Up About Her Death for the First Time: 'She Craved Normality'

Tyler James knew Amy Winehouse from the age of 13 and shared her home in Camden, London

Amy Winehouse. Photo: SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty

Amy Winehouse's best friend is opening up about the singer's tragic death for the first time.

"I was running out of ideas," Tyler James, 39, says about his struggles to help the Back to Black singer overcome her alcohol addiction and long-term bulimia at the home they shared in Camden, London.

Speaking to The Times to publicize his new book My Amy: The Life We Shared, James — who is himself a singer — reveals that he left the home two days before Winehouse's death following an argument with her, in the hope that it would shock the singer into curbing her binge drinking.

The following day she left a message on his cell, saying, "You all right, darlin'? T, please come home."

Tyler James
Tyler James. Dave J Hogan/Getty

Tragically, he returned to find an ambulance parked outside the building and a paramedic in the hallway. Upstairs, Winehouse lay dead in her bedroom. A coroner later confirmed the cause of death as alcohol toxicity. She was just 27.

"Amy was my world," James, who first met Winehouse aged 13, tells The Times. "I never have had that connection with someone again and I never will. I loved her. I was on a mission. I had a task. I had a job [to make her well] and that's all I wanted to do."

"I want people to please, please recognize how hard she had worked to come off drugs and just how close she was to [giving up alcohol] for good, how close she was to being healthy," he continues.

"Amy was a girl in her twenties suffering from addiction, and everybody was a part of it. Everybody was watching it. When you go to rehab, you have to be the strongest you've ever been in your life, when you are the weakest you've ever been in your life. And she had to go through that in front of people," James explains.

"I want people to understand how hard that was for her. I want people to know what it was, to stop seeing her as this doomed person."

James says the scene outside the home in the immediate aftermath of Winehouse's death was "like a film premiere," as fans and media descended on a grassy square opposite to hold a candlelight vigil around a makeshift shrine to the singer.

It was a reflection of the global fame she had secured at age 20 when she released Back to Black to worldwide acclaim, claiming the No. 1 position in 19 different countries and selling in excess of 16 million copies.

Sadly, it was also symptomatic of just how far fame had encroached onto the singer's personal life — something that Tyler believes directly led to her well-known problems with heroin and crack cocaine.

"I wanted to tell what it was like for her, having to actually live in that world," James tells The Times about his reasons for writing My Amy. "With that level of fame, that level of intrusion, that lack of privacy. I don't think people really realize the effect that has on a person. She craved normality. The biggest thing that f----ed Amy up was being famous."

Amy Winehouse Back to Black album cover
Amy Winehouse Back to Black album cover.

James continues, "Amy went through a lot. It was hard for her. It was a different time back then. If you were famous, you could be hounded. They didn't care how that affected your mental health, or if it was making your addiction worse or sending you off your rocker. I don't think that would happen today. Amy wasn't the only one… Princess Diana, Britney Spears…"

According to James, Winehouse had been clean of heroin and crack for three years by the time she died. She had also started eating more healthily and received huge support from her dad, Mitch, who tried desperately to help his daughter turn away from her demons and addictions. Despite this her struggles with fame and alcohol remained a constant problem in her life — and in the lives of all who were close to her.

This includes her mother, Janice, who in March announced that she will be sharing her daughter's story in a BBC documentary — titled Amy Winehouse: 10 Years On — to mark the 10th anniversary of her death on July 23, 2011.

Amy Winehouse (L) hugs her mother Janis Winehouse after accepting a Grammy Award at the Riverside Studios for the 50th Grammy Awards ceremony via video link on February 10, 2008
Amy and Janice Winehouse. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

"When somebody is an addict, it affects everybody around them. And when somebody is famous, you could call fame a disease too and say that it affects everybody around them," James tells The Times.

"I don't blame anyone. I don't blame the music industry. I don't blame Mitch. I don't blame Amy's management. I blame addiction. That's what I lost my friend to."

He adds, "Amy was my soulmate. We were two halves of the same person. I never envisaged life without her. She was my best friend. It was never sexual, but [when she died] it was more like losing my wife, and even more than that, losing my wife to an illness."

Related Articles