Debut album of Amy Winehouse's childhood friend is released seven years AFTER the aspiring singer died in car crash
14:20 GMT, 2 August 2012
The father of a little-known British singer who was killed in a car crash at 22 is releasing her debut album seven years after her death.
Stars like George Michael, Cat Stevens and Boy George have all contributed songs to the record, which contains material Natasha Anastasiades had been working on before she died.
Natasha, who was a childhood friend of the late singer Amy Winehouse, was killed when the car in which she was a passenger in hit a tree in North London in 2005.
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Tragic: Aspiring singer Natasha Anastasiades was killed in a car accident in 2005
Famous classmates: Natasha attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School with Amy Winehouse (top right) and Billie Piper (middle)
Proceeds from the release are going towards
educating young people about reckless driving.
The album, simply called Natasha, is
made up of tracks that she had completed before she died, numbers
that have been finished off after her death, and songs from other
In life Natasha rubbed shoulders with
those who would become famous. She attended the Sylvia Young Theatre
School in London where she was classmates with Amy Winehouse.
‘They were great friends,’ Mario said. ‘They were part of a group of girls who always hung around together.’
British actress Billie Piper was also in Natasha and Amy's class.
Mario said: ‘Natasha’s aunt remembers Natasha and Amy and a group of
their friends doing palm-reading on each other one day. Amy said: “The
only ones here who are going to die young are me and you, Natasha.”'
who described Natasha as a ‘free spirit’, had promised to submit a track to Natasha’s album, but died herself before this could
To complete Natasha’s album, George Michael donated his unreleased cover version of Joni Mitchell’s Edith & The Kingpin, Boy George handed over an unreleased track and renamed it in Natasha’s honour, and Cat Stevens wrote a testimony to Natasha in the sleevenotes and gave his blessing to her version of his song Can’t Keep It In.
Labour of love: Mario says he made a vow to Natasha after she died that he would release the album
Helping hand: Amy Winehouse had been due to contribute to the album before her death last year, while George Michael has donated an unreleased cover version of Joni Mitchell’s Edith & The Kingpin, Boy
Other stars who appear on the album include Marcella Detroit from Shakespear’s Sister and Anthony Costa from Blue.
Mario explored various ways of having the album released, before ultimately
setting up his own label, Rise International.
For the release, the stars’ tracks were added to an album that Natasha had been working on. Mario, 56, a music producer, said: ‘I made a promise, after she died, that it would be released. And I have spent seven years trying to keep this promise.’
The appearance of George Michael on Natasha’s album came about purely by coincidence – the priest conducting Natasha’s memorial service at New Southgate Cemetery in North London knew the former Wham star.
‘Afterwards the priest took me aside and said that he was also George Michael’s priest, and would set about an introduction,’ Mario said. ‘I couldn’t believe it.’
Marcella Detroit and Anthony Costa sing on the album’s single Yell Cut, which Natasha had completed on her dictaphone the day of her fatal car accident.
She had written two sets of lyrics for the song, one about a romantic break-up and one a last farewell from a mother to a child.
Mario, 56, who was managing Natasha’s career at the time, had advised her to stick with the romantic version, but when Natasha’s dictaphone was played after she had died, he discovered she had chosen to record the version about the sad farewell.
He was helped with the album by producer Chaz Dabat, who had been working with American singer Marcella Detroit and told her of Natasha’s story.
Touching tribute: The album, Natasha, is available on iTunes and Amazon
Marcella had lost a niece and was touched by the project so flew over to record vocals for Yell Cut. Chaz had also been working with Anthony Costa, who had known Natasha from Sylvia Young.
Through Chaz, the links to Boy George and Cat Stevens were also made.
‘Everyone who heard about what we were doing wanted to do something,’ Mario said. ‘They were all touched.
He added: ‘Chaz has really helped me with this. After Natasha died, he said: “This doesn’t have to be the end.”'
When she left Sylvia Young, Natasha went on to appear in the film Evita with Madonna and Antonio Banderas, as well as television commercials and series, including Grange Hill, before concentrating on her music. She came close to a signing a record deal three times before her untimely death.
Natasha died on the evening of March 6, 2005 – Mothers’ Day. She was a passenger in her own car in the London suburb of Whetstone, with her uninsured learner-driver friend, Panos Savvides, behind the wheel.
He lost control of the car and crashed into a tree. An inquest found he had been driving at 'excess speed' before the accident. He was convicted of careless driving and fined 200 damages with 100 costs and banned from driving for six months.
Money raised from album sales will go to The Natasha Foundation, a charity created to draw attention to reckless driving among under 25-year-olds.
‘We need to raise awareness with regards to reckless driving,' Mario said. 'If the project can save one person’s life, my daughter’s life will not have been lost in vain.’
The album, Natasha, is available from iTunes and Amazon. Visit www.natashafoundation.com for more information
Watch a video for the song Yell Cut, written by Natasha, which features the vocals of Marcella Detroit