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Amy Winehouse paved the way for current crop of British soul sisters

By Abbey Goodman, Special to CNN
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Winehouse death and legacy
  • Singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London apartment on Saturday
  • Winehouse won five Grammys for her 2007 album "Back to Black"
  • Adele once said of the singer, "Amy is a true phenomenon"

When the tragic news of Amy Winehouse's death broke on Saturday, most stories focused on Winehouse's troubled personal life as much as her brief-but-luminous musical career.

While it's true that since her award-winning multiplatinum album "Back to Black" was released in 2007, her tabloid antics have overshadowed her musical output, it's impossible to deny Winehouse's impact on music.

Think about it: Would Adele's track "Rolling in the Deep" from her album "21" be as ubiquitous as it is today without Winehouse paving the way?

It was Winehouse's combination of smoky-voiced retro '60s soul flavor and unabashed grittiness that opened the floodgates for British chanteuses like Duffy, Lily Allen, Florence Welch of Florence & the Machine, Estelle, Eliza Doolittle and even Winehouse's own goddaughter, 15-year-old Dionne Bromfield, to break into the U.S. music scene.

Despite producing only two albums, Winehouse's talent was undeniable and the stories about her personal meltdowns were unavoidable. Where Winehouse was transparent about her demons, her successors presented a more on-the-nose image of the girl-groups of yore: Sweet, straightlaced and sober.

Fans flock to Amy Winehouse's apartment
Winehouse's struggle with substance abuse
Winehouse's body taken from apartment
Amy Winehouse's last performance

As Adele told People: "Amy is a true phenomenon. When [she] was big in America, me and Duffy were blowing up in England, and I think it made the journey over a bit smoother [for us]. I think Amy is hardcore," she said. "I think Duffy is really soft -- she's got the pin-up look going on. She's a proper lady."

Adele's "21" is one long torch song for a love gone sour; Winehouse's "Rehab" is an anthem of defiance that ultimately led to her undoing. Were Winehouse still alive and making music, she may have enjoyed (or usurped) Adele's current acclaim and success if we'd have been able to see her open up about her beleaguered relationship with Blake Civil-Fielder.

Of course, it also remains to be seen if Adele will sweep the Grammys like Winehouse did in 2008.

In the wake of her untimely death, fans have taken to downloading Winehouse's catalog and celebrating her stellar output, but who will take the mantle in her absence?

The most obvious choice right now is Bromfield, whose show this past Wednesday (July 20) marked Winehouse's last live appearance. Despite Bromfield's attempts, Winehouse did not perform, though she did dance on stage and urge people to buy Bromfield's album.

This direct endorsement coupled with Winehouse's mentorship and familial association may help Bromfield find the career longevity and success beyond what Winehouse was able to achieve.