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July 10, 2014, 5:20 pm

Winehouse's father says he fought to get her clean

  • Written by MESFIN FEKADU
  • Published in Entertainment

NEW YORK — Amy Winehouse's father says the fight to get her off drugs often turned physical, as he tussled with the drug dealers and gangsters who were supplying his daughter with them.

"I spent my time fighting with drug dealers, and I mean proper fighting," Mitch Winehouse said. "And I'm a middle-aged man, who is overweight, having fistfights with people."

Winehouse said his daughter finally budged once she saw how hurt her family was: "She witnessed all this stuff going on, of how her family and her friends were fighting gangsters and she decided she didn't want to put her family in that position anymore."

Amy Winehouse, who had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, was found dead at her London home on July 23. Her father is launching The Amy Winehouse Foundation on Wednesday, which would've been the singer's 28th birthday.

Mitch Winehouse said there were some negative influences in the group that surrounded Amy. He said he was naive about her drug use early on.

"I didn't know the extent of her problem until maybe four months before she decided to quit," he said.

Winehouse — who has been doing interviews and has appeared on TV to talk about the U.S. launch of the foundation — said talking about his daughter is "very hard," but it "is helping us deal with our grief." He made various appearances with Amy's mother, Janis; his current wife, Jane; and Amy's last boyfriend, Reg Traviss.

"I don't know what her ultimate plans were, but she was certainly talking to me about having children," Winehouse said of his daughter's last relationship. "Even when she was drinking, she was in a great place."

Winehouse believes his daughter died of a seizure related to alcohol detoxification. She had seizures in the past, he said. A full inquest into her death begins next month.

Mitch Winehouse, who is also a musician, was in New York for a performance when his daughter died. He said he struggles to listen to her music, especially her critically acclaimed, multiplatinum album "Back to Black," which won five Grammy Awards and is the U.K.'s best-selling album of the 21st century. It featured songs about Amy's addiction and relationship with ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil.

"I can't sit down and listen to her music," he said. "I couldn't ever listen to 'Back to Black' anyway because it reminded me of dark times."

But since her death, Mitch Winehouse said, he is beginning to realize his daughter's musical talents.

"I took everything for granted, I didn't appreciate what a great singer she was, and now I do," he said, getting teary-eyed.

And he still wants to release his own music. Winehouse said initially after Amy's death, he told his wife, "I never want to sing again, ever."

But he said recording music has been therapeutic for him, and he hopes to release more, with all the proceeds going to the foundation in his daughter's name, which will assist disadvantaged children and young adults. He said he's able to focus on that side of his life since his daughter left their family financial stable.

"Amy left us in a very fortunate position as a family," said Mitch Winehouse, who worked as a London taxi driver. "Being a London taxi driver is a great thing, but I don't have to do that for a living anymore."

Amy Winehouse is featured on the Tony Bennett duet "Body and Soul"; the song and music video were released Wednesday and some of its sales will profit the late singer's foundation. Mitch Winehouse said there is unreleased music from his daughter that he eventually hopes to make available.

"Some of it is better quality than others," he said. "We're not going to rip anybody off, we want make sure it's good and it's good quality."

He also said there are recordings of a 17-year-old Amy performing in London's National Youth Jazz Orchestra that he would like to release someday.

"You would have thought you were listening to Ella Fitzgerald," he said. "Just wonderful." -- (AP)