Amy Winehouse’s death stunned her family and friends, fans and musical comrades. While her loved ones stopped to mourn her passing, Vibe magazine stopped the presses. With an already-scheduled Kelly Rowland cover on its way to the printer, editor in chief Jermaine Hall paid homage to Winehouse with a second cover for the mag’s annual August/September “Juice” issue.
Hall said he wanted to capture Winehouse’s beauty on the cover, and he and his team considered 40 different photos before finally deciding on a classic black-and-white portrait shot by Mischa Richter in 2008. “We had literally 36 hours to pull it off. It was a stop-the-presses situation, obviously,” Hall said. “It was a hustle, but I thought it was necessary.”
As part of the magazine’s editorial direction, Vibe reached out to Winehouse’s producer and friend Salaam Remi and singer Janelle MonÃ¡e, who toured with Winehouse earlier this year. “Salaam was still out there because they were supposed to go to a wedding together that weekend,” Hall explained. “He was with her for those last six days, so he was able to give us just incredible perspective on where she was, what kind of space she was in before everything went down.”
In his interview, Remi speaks about his plans to celebrate Winehouse’s September 14 birthday with rapper Nas. “For the last couple of weeks, we were video-chatting regularly,” he said. “I was just talking to Nas. Both her and Nas were born on September 14, so we were going to Barbados with all of them for her birthday. She really doesn’t look forward to her birthday.”
For Vibe, the decision to cover Winehouse was an easy one. “When Amy hit with that second album, there was no denying that she was a Vibe artist,” Hall said. “Her sound was like a mix of R&B, soul, there’s some jazz in there. The way she was delivering the material, her tales of struggle, it was so clear, and it kinda felt like we were back in the ’60s: the Motown era.”
In an exclusive excerpt given to MTV News, Monae talks to the magazine about the first time she met Winehouse: “I was honored then, and I am now, that I had the opportunity to share the same tour and stage with Amy this year in Brazil. Each night she came out onstage, she performed effortlessly.
“At our first meeting, she was very shy, a sweet girl. Her first words to me were, ‘It’s so nice to meet you finally. I’m shy; you’re a shy girl like me, huh?’ She was so giving: She even bought me a swimming suit that she thought I’d like.”
The rest of Monae’s Vibe Q&A can be accessed by scanning the code on the front cover of the Amy Winehouse edition of the magazine, hitting newsstands nationwide August 16.