Funnyman Russell Brand got serious at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night (28Aug11) as he kickstarted a tribute to his "mate" Amy Winehouse.
Brand admitted he initially thought the tragic fellow Brit was nothing but "a crazy person" but he was stunned when he heard her singing at a Paul Weller show in London.
The Arthur star said, "First time I met her, she was kind of a daft, dopey person, like, just wandering around, a little bit crazy... She just seemed like an ordinary girl with extraordinary hair.
"The first time though I heard Amy Winehouse sing, I thought, 'This isn't just another London chancer, not just another person milling about, trying to be famous'... I didn't even know it was her... I thought, 'What is this incredible sound, like a timeless sound, like a roar from the guts of humanity; the kind of voice that Billie Holliday sung with, the kind of voice that Ella Fitzgerald sung with... I turned into the arena and I see Amy Winehouse singing.
"That incredible, extraordinary voice coming from that crazy person, a person that I just knew that would wander around, stinking of the booze, just a loopy, loose canon person. I thought, 'How can that be coming out of her?' After that, I gave her a lot more attention because it became evident on hearing that divine voice that she was a genius.
"She had a disease that effects a lot of people; she suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction... All of us here tonight, all of us watching know people that are effected by this disease and let's remember that there is a solution for people that need it."
Brand added, "Amy's influence... went on to spawn and influence many vocalists that we've seen here tonight performing; Adele would admit a debt to Amy Winehouse, the missus (Brand's wife Katy Perry) clearly influenced, Lady Gaga, Florence & The Machine."
The actor/comedian then introduced Tony Bennett to the VMAs stage for the first time since 1993, so the legendary crooner could add his tribute after working with Winehouse on his upcoming duets album.
He said, "Of all the young artists I've ever met in the last 20 years she was a true jazz artist in the tradition of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday; she had the gift."
The tribute ended with Bruno Mars performing a rendition of Winehouse hit Valerie as images of the tragic singer, who died last month (Jul11), flashed onto a screen above his head.