LargeUp Exclusive: Salaam Remi On Making Reggae With Amy Winehouse

Words by Jesse Serwer—

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the death of one of the modern era’s greatest recording artists, Amy Winehouse. As we pointed out in the story we published two days later, “Amy In The Sun,” beyond the vintage soul and jazz she was known for, Amy was also greatly inspired by reggae and Caribbean culture in general, an influence that manifested in a number of great but often overlooked records. As it happens, we just sat down with Salaam Remi, the producer behind many of those records and Amy’s closest musical collaborator, at his Miami studio just the other day (Look out for our full feature on Salaam coming soon). Naturally, Amy came up and, in light of today’s anniversary, we thought it was only appropriate to share that part of the interview here.

On Amy’s Artistry:

“With artists, you just have to inspire them. If you give them something to inspire them, then they give you back something that you could not have asked for that’s bigger than anything you can dream of. That’s how that works. With Amy, I was just able to say stuff to her that made her think she could write what she wanted.”

On Amy’s Love for Caribbean Culture, and the Reggae Recordings Salaam Produced For Her:

On her first album I introduced her to “Moody’s Mood for Love,” which was a jazz record I knew because Frankie Crocker on WBLS would close every show with it. She learned it in a couple days and I was like you know what, let’s do a reggae version just to have a different swing of it. So that became the reggae version on that album. Then “Just Friends,” was really a jazz type song when we originally did and she said let’s make this the reggae song, like we did with the other one. So I flipped the arrangement, and we had that on the second album. And of course she had other songs that she was starting to record where we would flip reggae versions. We just knew we could do that with songs, like turn it on it’s head, let’s just do it that way with the same music. With the musicians we were working with, it was just easy. I’d change the bassline and flip the drums around and next thing you know it starts feeling like the reggae version. And that’s just something that she liked. She was into that type of music. She was into West Indian culture in general. All of her security were Jamaicans. Most of the people she had around her had some type of core West Indian element to it.

She was comfortable with it. When we were in St. Lucia she was writing but relaxing, not being in the cold anymore with Paparazzi chasing her around—they had to stay far in the bushes out there—and figure out what was next.

On Reports That Amy Recorded An Unreleased Caribbean-inspired LP in St. Lucia:

We were there recording and stuff but there was never an album done like that. That was just people talking. Of course we had versions of other songs and we would flip reggae versions. We just knew we could do that. There’s a couple things but none of them are finished. There’s not a reggae album coming out. I could make one but it’s not like it would be recorded to make a reggae album. That wasn’t done.

On Amy’s Posthumous Single “Our Day Will Come”:

“Our Day Will Come” wasn’t recorded as a reggae record, originally. I just thought about what she was singing. We actually did two versions, one with the reggae. And when her family heard that they were like, “That sounds like Amy.” They just felt her spirit was in the room when they listened to that. That’s why that was the single for that album, and it starts the album. Because they just felt, wow, this feels like her.

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