Back from black, Winehouse takes five

Times Staff Writer

Amy Winehouse's road to Grammy pay dirt was more like a minefield, but there she was on Sunday, beamed to the world from London, the honoree in absentia, taking a break from rehab to sing about refusing to go into rehab.

The Englishwoman, whose visa approval from the U.S. Embassy came too late to allow her to travel to the Los Angeles ceremony, was the night's big winner, with five Grammys including best new artist, and record of the year and song of the year for "Rehab," and her performance, halfway through the third hour, was teased throughout the long telecast.

But not since Kurt Cobain has a newly arrived pop artist's music been so overshadowed by nonmusical escapades. Her enrollment in a drug rehabilitation facility last month capped a year in which Winehouse:

* Was hospitalized for exhaustion.

* Canceled all her tour dates and other appearances "to address her health issues."

* Went into rehab with her husband Blake Fielder-Civil, and then left after five days.

* Was photographed bloody and bruised after an alleged fight with Fielder-Civil.

* Was arrested in Norway for marijuana possession.

* Saw her father go public about her battles with bulimia, alcoholism and drug addiction.

* Came under investigation in connection with an assault charge filed against her husband.

* Canceled more concerts.

On the other hand, "Back to Black" sold 3 million copies worldwide, and Winehouse's popularity with the public was matched by critical support -- the album finished No. 4 in the Village Voice critics' poll -- and now the peer approval represented by the Grammys, which also honored her for female pop vocal and pop vocal album.

Before singing "Rehab" on Sunday, Winehouse performed another song, sounding a warning: "I told ya I was trouble, you know I'm no good."

To a music business desperately struggling to survive, a star such as Winehouse is obviously worth the trouble.

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richard.cromelin@latimes.com

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