This song is about Winehouse's breakup with her then-boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil. They got back together and married in 2007.
Amy Winehouse explained to the Sun newspaper October 27, 2006 before they'd re-established their relationship: "'Back to Black' is when you've finished a relationship and you go back to what's comfortable for you. My ex went back to his girlfriend and I went back to drinking and dark times."
In a 2007 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, Winehouse admitted that this song and the whole album was about this difficult time in their relationship: "All the songs are about the state of my relationship at the time with Blake. I had never felt the way I feel about him about anyone in my life. It was very cathartic, because I felt terrible about the way we treated each other. I thought we'd never see each other again. He laughs about it now. He's like, 'What do you mean, you thought we'd never see each other again? We love each other. We've always loved each other.' But I don't think it's funny. I wanted to die."
Back to Black entered the Billboard Hot 100 album chart at #7, making Winehouse the highest debuting British female artist in the history of the US albums chart. The previous British female to achieve that honor was Lily Allen, who a few weeks previously had entered the American album chart at #20 with her debut album Alright, Still. Two weeks later the English white soul singer Joss Stone beat Winehouse's record when her Introducing... Joss Stone album debuted on the Billboard 200 at #2.
Back to Black won both the Q Award and the MTV Europe Music Award for the 2007 Album of the Year. It was the biggest-selling album of 2007 worldwide, selling over 5.5 million copies. The runner-up was the soundtrack for High School Musical 2, with sales of just over 4.7 million copies. Back to Black also sold 1.85 million copies, including 265,000 sales of a recent deluxe version of the LP, in Winehouse's native UK, making it Britain's best-selling album of 2007.
In May 2008, the Back to Black set replaced Coldplay's X&Y as the all-time top-selling album on Amazon.com.
This song was written by Amy Winehouse and Marc Ronson, who also produced the album. It was released as a single in the UK in 2007, with "Valerie" and "Hey Little Rich Girl" on the B-side. The single was released worldwide in 2008.
The video is an artistic black-and-white number shot in Abney Park Cemetery and other locations around London, with the theme of Amy mourning for her dead relationship. That comes complete with a coffin, hearse, funeral procession, lilies, and a burial ritual. For a very small box.
This was the first song Ronson wrote with Winehouse. He recalled to Mojo
June 2010: "I'll never forget the first day I met Amy - because it changed everything for me. It was in New York, March 2006, in the studio I used to have on Mercer Street. She told me she presumed I was some old guy with a beard - like Rick Rubin. I just thought, Let's talk about music, see what she likes. She said she liked to go out to bars and clubs and play snooker with her boyfriend and listen to the Shangri-Las. So she played me some of those records, which turned into a crash course in girl group productions. She was staying at the Soho Grand around the corner and I told her that I had nothing to play her right now but if she let me work on something overnight she could come back tomorrow. So I came up with this little piano riff, which became the verse chords to 'Black in Black.' Behind it I just put a kick drum and a tambourine and tons of reverb.
She came back the next day and she was really into it, ended up staying for two weeks and we fleshed out five or six songs. It started with her and her nylon-string guitar and she would play me the song and I would write the chords down. Then she would leave for the night and I would go nuts with the arrangements."
Ronson says that the song Amy played him that was the biggest influence on this track was "Remember (Walking in the Sand)
" by the Shangri-Las.
The song reached the top 10 of the UK singles chart for the first time in July 2011 in the week following Amy's tragic death. It proved to be the most popular of the late star's posthumous releases peaking at #8 in her native country.
Beyoncé and Andre 3000 covered this for Baz Luhrmann's big screen adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Their dark, slow and moody interpretation also featured on the three-minute trailer for the movie. Beyoncé's husband, Jay-Z, was an executive producer on the film and the man behind the soundtrack.
Amy's father, Mitch Winehouse, told The Daily Mail he feels that Beyoncé brings nothing to his daughter's song. "I don't think she brings anything to it," Winehouse said. "I wasn't asked for my permission if they could record it." He added: "They have got to pay for the privilege, which is what they are doing. I can't tell you how much it is but it's a lot of money."
Ann Wilson of Heart covered this on her 2018 album Immortal. Said Wilson: "This song honestly exposes the pain in an abandoned lover's heart. It talks about humiliation, bravery, inextinguishable hope, desolation and feeling small."