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A rush of love

Robyn Morrison interviews Mitch Winehouse about his music, his talented family and his tireless work with UK charities ahead of his performance at The Daffodil. Photograph by Yasmin Hussain.

A number of years ago Mitch said that he is more aware than anyone of the accusation to be levelled on him prior to the release of the album, A Rush of Love. A lot has happened since the album was recorded over 2 years ago as a collaboration with his daughter Amy Winehouse, the driving force behind the album who helped choose the songs and encouraged her father to put it together.

Far from using the opportunity to ‘cash in’ on his daughter’s fame, Mitch has been a professional singer for over 40 years and is surrounded by a close family of musical talents. As he explained, if he couldn’t sing he wouldn’t have been let anywhere near the studio. Listening to Rush of Love, it is clear that the choice of songs isn’t the usual medley of covers and Mitch himself admits that he has freedom when it comes to song choices as he doesn’t feel any pressure for record sales.

When stars like Michael Buble and Tony Bennet bring out albums, they have to bring out songs that everyone knows because it’s what is expected. The songs chosen by Mitch are a little more obscure and aren’t as well known, but he chose these songs with his daughter before her tragic death in July last year and they remain close to his heart.

Speaking about his relationship with Amy, Mitch is like any loving father: “People don’t realise that we had an incredibly loving relationship. We were father and daughter, but we were best friends as well. We would sing all the time, not just her and I, but all of us, her mother, brother, uncles and aunts. We’ve got a lovely family. Even in her worse period of health, three or four years before her death when she was in the middle of her drug problems, we would all sing to make us feel better. When I look back it sounds like the Von Trapps!”

As a family they have a united front, all working together for The Amy Winehouse Foundation and giving each other strength, support and comfort. The aim of the foundation is to help young people in the UK through a number of charities. Janice, Amy’s mum has multiple sclerosis and is a patron of the MS society, as a charity with close ties to the Winehouse family the foundation has just donated £20,000 to support children suffering with MS. Clearly emotional when he speaks about his daughter, Mitch is determined to use her career in the spotlight for numerous good causes and jokes about how Kleenex should sponsor the foundation for the amount of happy and sad tears shed by the staff and family members who are involved.

As Mitch points out, addiction can happen to anyone and families coping with drug addiction often blame themselves. Unlike any other illness, drug addiction or alcoholism are ignored by the NHS as a plausible excuse for treatment. Using his experiences, Mitch now plans to work with the government and the NHS to educate children in schools about the consequences of drugs and alcohol, as well as change the public’s attitude towards addiction. He believes that recovering addicts will only benefit from being taken out of their environment and bad influences, rather than trying to treat them in their community.

Profits from everything Mitch does now goes to the foundation, including his long-awaited second album and a book about Amy, authored by Mitch which he hopes will give people an accurate insight into addiction and his daughter’s life away from the media. Writing the book was spurred by a number of factors, but primarily for Mitch to get his feelings down on paper and to let people know the kind of girl Amy was, showing her true generosity and spirit.

Although tough to write, the book was cathartic for Mitch and has already raised over a million pounds in advances for The Amy Winehouse Foundation. It promises to be the bestseller for Harper Collins after it is released in July this year and will continue to raise money over the years in royalties for the foundation. Touring with a selection of American and German swing bands and jazz quartets, he often visits Cheltenham and has chosen to perform at The Daffodil in the latest of his fundraising concerts, well known as the home of Jazz music in the town.

It’s early days, but he is also planning a fundraising concert for 55,000 people in Twickenham in September and numerous events such as a Gala Dinner in New York. Whether it’s performing on stage, writing this year’s bestseller or raising thousands of pounds for UK charities, everything Mitch does is close to his heart.