Amy Winehouse’s ‘Valerie’ Cover Was Inspired By a Celebrity Makeup Artist

Sometimes artists cover their fellow artists’ songs, and the cover turns out more popular than the original song. A good example of such a song is celebrity Amy Winehouse’s iconic fast-paced hit song, ‘Valerie’. The song, which broke charts worldwide, was released in 2006 at Winehouse’s career peak and is still one of her best songs today.

However, ‘Valerie’ wasn’t the singer’s original composition. The song’s original composer was the Zutons, who had performed the song earlier on. Interestingly enough, the band’s frontman Dave McCabe wrote the song for the girl he was dating at the time. So who is the real Valerie that inspired the iconic hit?

Amy Winehouse on stage, looking at the camera
Amy Winehouse | Donna Ward/Getty Images

Winehouse showed great talent at an early age

Winehouse was born in 1983 to Mitch and Janis Winehouse, a taxi driver and a pharmacist in Southgate London. In 1993 Winehouse began attending the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School, and later that year, her parents got divorced. The following year Winehouse partnered with her friend for a Salt-N-Pepa-inspired rap duo called Sweet-N-Sour.

Winehouse’s early years showcased the troubles she’d have as an adult. After receiving acceptance to the Sylvia Young Theater School, Winehouse reportedly got expelled for not “applying herself” (though the school has since denied she was expelled). The singer carried on with her studies and signed a recording deal in 2002 with Island Records. In 2003 she released the album, Frank which went platinum in the UK.

The star’s second album was called Back to Black, and it was even more successful than Frank. Unfortunately, Back to Black began Winehouse’s spiral, which eventually led to her untimely death. The album won her numerous awards, including five Grammy Awards. She also ended up canceling her US tour after checking into rehab.

Who originally wrote the song Valerie?

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‘Valerie’ might have been one of Winehouse’s best works ever, but the song was a composition by the indie band Zutons. The band’s lead singer said that he got the idea to write the song in a cab on his way to see his mom. Dave McCabe said that he took a total of 20 minutes to write the song. The song was released in 2006 under the Deltasonic record label. Winehouse and Mark Ronson covered the song a year later. She had previously recorded a slower tempo version of the song and featured it as a bonus track on the Back to Black deluxe edition. 

When Ronson asked Winehouse to hop onto the track, he didn’t imagine her voice would fit into the song until she sampled it, and he loved it. Critics loved the cover, with the musical publication Rolling Stone calling it the only “notable recording” Winehouse did after Back to Black. The single charted at number 2 on the UK singles chart for 19 consecutive weeks.

Is ‘Valerie’ by Amy Winehouse about a girl?

In the song, the most famous line probably is “why don’t you come on over.” When asked who the song’s inspiration was, McCabe said that he’d written the song about his then-girlfriend makeup artist Valerie Star. According to Vice, Star at the time was constantly getting into trouble with the law and had just gotten arrested for driving under the influence.

McCabe said that Star was in the US and he was at home, and he wrote the song for her as a postcard. Her run-ins with the law prevented them from being together because she couldn’t move to the UK to be with McCabe. On which line is her favorite, Star said that she likes it when he references her red hair and dressing because she “was dressing ridiculously fabulous.”

However, while Star admitted she likes the song, she said she doesn’t like putting the song on any playlist because it hits too close to home. According to her website Valerie Star.com, Star works as a celebrity makeup and hair artist and stylist and has worked with various celebrities, such as Riverdale’s Madelaine Petsch.