Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” Lyrics Meaning

The phrase “back to black” is of course a metaphor. And to understand what it means, it’s best to resort to how the artist at hand, Amy Winehouse, explained it in her own words. To her, what the term speaks to is going back to something you are comfortable with after the demise of a relationship. 

But furthermore, it’s a bit more specific than that. For she is in fact going “back to black”, with the last word in that phrase connoting something negative. And for Winehouse in particular, once again resorting to her own explanation, that would be “drinking and dark times”. However, the lyrics are given a general applicability in that those substances for the most part are never mentioned directly.

The Relationship behind “Back to Black”

But before we get to that, there is of course the said relationship which has recently been terminated. The union referred to was romantic in nature. More specifically it was between Amy Winehouse and one Blake Fielder-Civil – a name which causes sneers amongst those who are familiar with her personal history. 

That is because Winehouse verily loved this man very much (even marrying him once they got back together after this song was released). But by virtually all accounts, he is a self-destructive individual, even in the years after Amy’s passing. 

Moreover, despite the two of them at one point being spouses, the overall conclusion is that his presence had a negative overall impact on her life or in the very least didn’t really help any. In fact by his own admittance, he was the one that introduced certain hard intoxicants into her life.

The Dangerous Intoxicants

Those drugs, in particular, are said to be her**n and c*ack – the selfsame her**n which  the aforementioned “dark times” alludes, as well as a good portion of the “black” in the song’s title. And as far as the boozing goes, whereas Winehouse admitted that she “was drinking a lot” as a result of the breakup though “not anything terrible”, of course at the end of it was alcohol poisoning which took her life

So simply put, the conclusion is that at this particular juncture in her life, the singer parting ways with the man she loves resulted in a considerable degree of depression on her part. And as a sort of remedy, she began abusing drugs. And the further implication, considering the title and all, is that she was doing so or something similarly-destructive at some point prior in her personal history, since once again these are activities that she went “back” to.

Addressee goes back to his Ex

Meanwhile what Blake himself went back to was his ex. This reality is alluded to from the onset, where Winehouse points out that he never paused from engaging in sexual activity even after the two of them broke up. Indeed he resorted to his “same old safe bet”, i.e. his reliable ex-girlfriend. 

By contrast, the singer herself was cast into loneliness, which made her more vulnerable in terms of ‘going back to black’.  Verily as the chorus notes, whereas he was able to effectively put the relationship behind him, she was not.

Direct References to Drugs

In the second verse the singer apparently references different drugs (i.e. co**ine, cr*ck and possibly tobacco and/or weed) as allegories to their relationship standing – or rather their personal differences. 

Due to the ambiguity and heavy reliance on symbolism, the passage can be interpreted in a number of different ways. But ultimately vesting a massive amount of time into deciphering it is beside the point. For as elaborated on earlier, we already know that drugs was like a third party in their relationship. 

And besides noting such and her own internal frustration due to being victim of an unreciprocated love, the other issue at hand, as far as the singer is concerned, is she and her lover not seeing eye-to-eye.

In Conclusion

And at the end of the day, despite this indeed being Winehouse and Blake we’re talking about, truthfully this song isn’t about drugs. Rather what it is really centered on, simply put, is Amy dealing with a broken heart. 

And what’s making matters worse, regardless of how she decides to handle the situation, is the fact that her ex contrastingly appears completely unfazed. Or rather let’s say that he going back to his own ex as if nothing has ever happened between him and the singer. And this is pushing the vocalist even further ‘into the black’. 

And once again concerning the general applicability of the matter, considering that this was a hit song and all, what we have here generally speaking is a lady overcome by depression due to a failed romance and a callous ex.

Lyrics of "Back to Black"

Music Video

The music video to this track was filmed in London. It utilizes the metaphor of a funeral to point to the singer’s doomed romance. And there is a part of it in which a headstone is inscribed “R.I.P. the Heart of Amy Winehouse”. 

In lieu of the singer actually passing away a few years later, said image has been edited out of the standard edition of the clip which is in fact popular, having over 600K YouTube views as of February 2021.

When was “Back to Black” released?

This is the title track from the last album Amy Winehouse came out with while the songstress was still on the mortal plane. On April 30th 2007, it was officially issued as the third single from the project. In all, the project produced a total of 5 singles, including the following:

Back to Black

Writing and Production of “Back to Black”

Winehouse wrote this song herself alongside the track’s producer, Mark Ronson. According to reports, the pair composed this song within just one day of the two of them meeting each other.

This song was recorded in two cities and three different locations – NYC (Daptone Studios and Chung King Studios) and London (Metropolis Studios).

Acoustically this track was inspired by the girls groups of yesteryear. In fact acts such as The Ronettes, whose heyday was during the 1960s, heavily influenced Amy Winehouse’s style.

A Popular Song

This track is considered to be one of Winehouse’s signature songs. Originally it charted in about a dozen nations. In doing so, it broke the top 30 of the UK Singles Chart and scored a number one in Greece. 

Chart-wise it performed even better in the wake of Winehouse’s death in 2011, that time around reaching number 8 on the aforementioned UK Singles Chart. Furthermore, it also appeared on a couple of Billboard charts (including Digital Song Sales ) in the United States. In all, it was a top-20 hit in the countries below:

  • United Kingdom
  • Switzerland
  • Spain
  • Netherlands
  • Italy
  • Israel
  • Ireland
  • Germany
  • France

Moreover the song has also been certified platinum in a handful of countries, including both the US and UK.

This track has also enjoyed a notable pop media presence. For example, it was featured on well-known television shows such as the following:

  • “Orphan Black”
  • “Westworld” 
  • “Suits”

A sleuth of artists, including Miley Cyrus (alongside Mark Ronson), are on record as having covered this song. Fellow American artists Andre 3000 and Beyoncé also dropped a rendition in 2013 which generated a lot of buzz.

Did “Back to Black” win Amy Winehouse a Grammy?

The song actually didn’t win her a Grammy. However, the album did in 2008. Also, “Rehab” (a song from the album) won three Grammys that year.

Amy Winehouse and Blake Fielder-Civil

At just 27 years old, singer Amy Winehouse died without a will, hence leaving her $5.3 million estate to her parents, Mitch and Janice Winehouse. Blake Fielder-Civil, her ex-husband received nothing. But in 2019, The Sun reported him making a claim worth $1.8 million on Amy’s estate and an additional monthly allowance. According to him, he’s entitled to a portion of her wealth since the singer released her most successful tracks during the years they were together.

The two first met at a London Pub and immediately began a whirlwind romance though Blake at the time was seeing someone else. Their relationship was on-off until they got engaged in April 2007. They eloped a month later to be married in Miami.

Blake admitted that he had introduced the singer to drugs, resulting in Amy being rushed to the hospital in August 2007, after she heavily binged on them.

Blake was arrested and sentenced to 27 months imprisonment for attacking a pub owner and bribing a witness. During this time, Amy sold millions of records, won Grammys and began to reflect on how toxic their marriage had been. Blake filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery after he was released. Winehouse granted the divorce in July 2009.

3 Responses

  1. Carol Moriconi says:

    Great lyrics, so close to home. Sleep well Amy.

  2. Melanie says:

    Gone too soon but never forgotten. RIP 🙏

  3. Janice Francis says:

    If They hadn’t met Amy would not have been introduced to drugs and have a broken heart .I don’t think that Blake Fielder Civil should have had anything no money out of it he caused her upset .He wrongly gained from it too.Love you Amy Glad we had privilege of you .God Bless .You still live on .it could be a warning to other women

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