Amy Winehouse’s new rarities album Lioness offered three never-before-heard covers: “Our Love Will Come,” “The Girl from Ipanema,” and Leon Russell’s “A Song for You.” We’ve heard the first two already, and now we have the last. It’s an emotional soul-jazz run through the oft-covered classic and, barring any future archive releases, may be the last cover we ever hear her do.
Leon Russell may have written the song, but in Winehouse’s mind, she’s really covering the beloved Donny Hathaway version from 1971. She even says a few words about Donny’s influence at the end of the recording. For more extensive background, though, look to producer Saleem Remi’s session notes:
I recorded her singing the Donnie Hathaway song in her house. She just looked on the computer and was reading the tabs and then just singing. It wasn’t even like a proper studio mic. She just had a mic near her and started singing and I caught some of it from the drums being mic’d across the room. For this album I really pulled it together, not to clink, not to a beat, she was just singing at home barefoot. She really emotionally took on the lyrics and started weeping while she was doing it
She felt the song. ‘Cause she felt Hathaway and at the end of it, she made a comment about him, which actually closes the album. It was a moment for me to watch and at the time, I wish I had video cameras in my eyes but also it was actually something that she really felt. She felt like Donny Hathaway spoke to her. She mentioned him in “Rehab” and she sings a lot of his songs live.
That song actually has all the emotion she could pour out but also all the chord changes that she did and the way she sang it towards him. Then I put the music around it and after she passed and edited – that’s the way it worked but that’s just what she did.
Stream Winehouse’s weep-inducing “A Song for You.”
Amy Winehouse – A Song for You (Leon Russell cover)