Amy Winehouse was the master of Grammy’s 2008 ceremony without even being in the country. I couldn’t help but kick around the paradox of “Rehab” bringing Amy to, and simultaneously keeping her from ― the festivities. Her substance rehabilitation treatment was in direct conflict with Grammy’s 52nd annual gala, and because she had difficulty securing a work visa (she did so in the 11th hour), Winehouse’s Staple Center performance status had been the topic o’ the week. Fanatics readied for the big show in hopes that CBS would deliver on their promise. In a seamless cut from LA’s Staple Center to Riverside Studios in London, a tuxedo-clad Cuba Gooding Jr. emerged via satellite amidst a cabaret-style backdrop of hyped Londoners; “Sometimes life trumps award shows … we obviously didn’t know if our next artist would be available to perform on the Grammy show tonight." The heavy crimson drapery peeled away to Ms. Winehouse, proof that CBS and Grammy producers had burned the midnight broadband to secure the evening’s main event (every award show worth its live stream has one). Aligning her charcoal cat-eye gaze with the camera through curled lips and a defiant’ b-girl stance, Amy officially put us on notice; “I tol’ yewww, I was trou-bu-uhl, you know that I’m no good." Trouble? Possibly ― but the gritty proclamation that she was “no good," those with eyes and ears didn’t subscribe. It was ALL good, and beyond. The two-track set wrapped with “Rehab," and 2008’s new Song of the Year equaled a fifth gramophone to be stacked on behalf of Back to Black. Winehouse digested the win as crowds erupted on both coasts. Cheers and hugs from parents and fellow musicians proceeded Amy’s modest list of thanks: Island Records, Ray Ray ‘n Joe n’ them, London-town, Mom and Dad, her Blake “incarcerated”… and of course, Salaam Remi.
Salaam Remi Gibbs was best known in music circles for his work with Nas, The Fugees, Jennifer Hudson and Jazmine Sullivan to name a few. Today, his production discography reads like a who’s who of popular music (Google him – it’ll blow your mind). Salaam’s undeniable skills ushered him into the film industry, where he has contributed on various soundtracks including Office Space, The Departed, Rush Hour 3 and Sex in the City. He produced numerous tracks on Winehouse’s debut, Frank (among them, my personal favorite “You Sent Me Flying”), and he went on to produce 5 songs on Back to Black alongside the uber-talented Mark Ronson. Salaam and Amy were steady chipping away at her eagerly anticipated junior effort, juggling long recording sessions, skype conferences and multi-country travel. By the time my husband reached Remi by phone on July 24th, he had already jet set to London for the wedding of Amy’s former manager. Within the re-purposed tweets of electronic affection from artists and celebrities the world over, Salaam was clearly taking the time he needed (and deserved) to gather thoughts on his beloved Amy. “Very Very Sad Day. Just lost a Great Friend and a Sister,” he tweeted, adding: "RIP my baby SiS Cherry Winehouse. Love ya always." Not only was Salaam one of the key contributors to Winehouse’s growing arsenal of hits, he’s considered by his colleagues as one of the most down to earth and humble ― in spite of great success ― producers in recorded music. His account has immeasurable value, and I knew he would divulge on his watch. In what would be his first interview post the horrific news of Amy’s death, Salaam Remi spoke with me about the friend he was “drawn to from the start."