Amy Winehouse: accidental alcohol poisoning

The singer was five times over the legal drink-drive limit when she died.

Amy Winehouse died as an unintended consequence of drinking too much, an inquest into her death has heard.

Recording a verdict of "misadventure" -- meaning that the death was accidental, not due to crime or negligence -- the coroner said that the singer had 416mg of alcohol per 100ml in her blood, five times the legal driving limit of 80mg.

The pathologist who carried out the post-mortem told the court that a person with anything above 350mg in their blood can involuntarily stop breathing and fall into a coma. No illegal substances were found in her blood.

The court heard that Winehouse had abstained from alcohol for three weeks, but had hit the bottle again in the days before her death, despite being warned of the dangers. Her GP, Dr Christina Romete, told the inquest that the singer "did not want to die" and was "looking forward to the future".

The 27-year-old singer, best known for her second album Back To Black, was found dead at her home in Camden, north London, on 23 July, after a well-documented battle with drugs and alcohol.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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What's the score? BBC Radio 4 explores composers' manuscripts

Tales from the Stave is endlessly fascinating, although my classical musician siblings tell me composers aren't so bad in real life.

A new series of the ever-fascinating programme that examines composers’ handwritten manuscripts for markings and meaningful doodles started at the Birmingham Oratory, looking at Elgar’s 1900 conducting score for The Dream of Gerontius (repeated 18 June, 3.30pm). A work for voices and orchestra (and one of the most popular pieces in the choral canon), it sets to music a poem by John Henry Newman about a pious man’s journey into death, facing demons and eventually purification. This is a work full of “vulnerability and elements of failure”, as the presenter Frances Fyfield put it. Elgar’s version, if you like, of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Looking at the score, Fyfield murmured absorbedly about the composer’s many visionary and monomaniacal scribbles. “Lento has been changed to Lento mistico, which is fantastic.” Much was made of the erratic style of his pen strokes. “Frantic abandon, hugely animated tempo markings, emotional expression. Presto scribbled out with two black lines . . . Oh!” Yet after it was mentioned that Elgar (“rather amusingly”) inscribed not just Despair but Despairissimo throughout another section, I texted my brother, a classical singer, and my sister, a violinist, to ask if made-up words and general geek/dweeb control-freakery was usual on a composer’s score.

“Never come across it, really,” my brother replied, “and really I wouldn’t think too much of markings. It’s an interpretive thing.” Then what are you thinking of when you’re singing? I ask, disappointed. “Sex. And wondering where we’re going for dinner after rehearsal.” Sounded a bit lax to me. Had my sister ever encountered an overwrought composer/conductor, yelling “DESPAIRISSIMO!” at the strings? “Not really,” she shrugged. “One bloke. Big moustache. I asked him once about bow strokes and he said he didn’t give a s**t.”

There must have been somebody! Something to illustrate that hyper-receptive transaction trauma – that stunned sense of epiphany – between composer and musician? “Well, there was one guy who made me feel so bad when I did a solo, I started my period on the spot.” And that, dear reader, is my annual formal account from the British concert platform. Il prossimo!

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 23 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Divided Britain