Stevie Nicks celebrates 75th birthday: Her rise to ‘Queen of Rock and Roll’
Stevie Nicks celebrated her 75th birthday on Friday.
Nicks is a titan in the world of rock n’ roll, at one point being named the “Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll” by Rolling Stone, as well as making the list of 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time and 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, for both her solo career and for her time with Fleetwood Mac.
While it is clear Nicks was always destined for stardom, a chance encounter with Lindsey Buckingham during her senior year in high school led to the two of them getting discovered by Mick Fleetwood and them joining the legendary band, Fleetwood Mac.
Take a look back at Nicks’ road to becoming the “Queen of Rock and Roll.”
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Fritz Rabyne Memorial band and Buckingham Nicks
Soon after meeting Buckingham at a church social night where the two played guitar together, they started dating and decided to stay together in the Bay Area to pursue a music career.
While Nicks had a contract to record a country album, Buckingham managed to get her out of it, persuading her to join his band, Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band after the original lead singer left the band. They went on to open up for Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Santana to name a few.
After four years together, the band broke up, leading Nicks and Buckingham to start their duo, Buckingham Nicks. The two were broke, but after receiving a rather large inheritance check, they were able to record a demo album.
“We did seven songs, and it took us a year,” Nicks said according to a press kit released ahead of “The Wild Heart.” “They were really good, and when they were finished, we got in Lindsey’s car and drove to L.A., where every record company in the world passed on us. We were devastated, but we still knew we were good.”
In order to support herself and Buckingham, Nicks took all sorts of jobs, working as a waitress and as a cleaning lady for producer Keith Olsen. It was during this transitional period when Nicks wrote many of the songs which would go on to be Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits, including “Rhiannon” and “Landslide.”
Nicks’ determination to work hard to make her dreams come true stemmed from lessons she learned from her mom.
“She said to me: ‘you will never stand in a room full of men and feel like you can’t keep up with them. And you will never depend upon a man to support you,’” she told The Guardian in October 2020. “She drummed that into me, and I’m so glad she did.”
Eventually the two were signed to Polydor Records and released their eponymous debut album in 1973. While the album did not do well, it found its way to Mick Fleetwood, who became impressed with Buckingham’s guitar skills and wanted to recruit him.
As Buckingham would not join the band without Nicks, Fleetwood agreed to allow her to join the band as well, and the rest is history.
Nicks’ first album with the band, “Fleetwood Mac,” was a massive success. It featured “Rhiannon” and “Landslide,” the former going on to find itself on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
As part of the band, Nicks would go on to write some of the bands biggest hits, including “Dreams,” off the bands second album together “Rumours.” The album went on to become the best-selling album of all time to that point, sustaining its spot at number one on the American album charts for 31 weeks straight. It also won a Grammy for album of the year in 1978.
The album featured two different breakup songs, written by both Buckingham and Nicks, as the two broke off their romance two years after joining the band.
“Even though ‘Go Your Own Way’ was a little angry, it was also honest. So then I wrote ‘Dreams,’ and because I’m the chiffony chick who believes in fairies and angels, and Lindsey is a hardcore guy, it comes out differently,” Nicks wrote in the liner notes for the 2013 reissue of the album. “Lindsey is saying go ahead and date other men and go live your crappy life, and [I’m] singing about the rain washing you clean. We were coming at it from opposite angles, but we were really saying the same exact thing.”
Following the success of “Rumours,” Fleetwood Mac released the album “Tusk” in 1979, which compared to “Rumours” was not as successful, only going on to sell four million copies. They followed that up with “Mirage” in 1982, which was much more successful, going double platinum in the U.S., and featured many popular songs such as “Gypsy,” which was written by Nicks.
At the height of her fame with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks was in a relationship with the Eagles singer Don Henley and chose to have an abortion after she got pregnant. Nicks credits the success of the band, with her decision not to have any children.
“If I had not had that abortion, I’m pretty sure there would have been no Fleetwood Mac. There’s just no way that I could have had a child then, working as hard as we worked constantly,” she told The Guardian in October 2020. “And there were a lot of drugs, I was doing a lot of drugs … I would have had to walk away.”
“And I knew that the music we were going to bring to the world was going to heal so many people’s hearts and make people so happy,” she continued. “And I thought: you know what? That’s really important. There’s not another band in the world that has two lead women singers, two lead women writers. That was my world’s mission.”
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It was around this time when Nicks began to start a solo career, however she remained committed to the band. While she was not able to record much for Fleetwood Mac’s next album, “Tango in the Night” due to conflicts with her solo career, she wrote many of the songs, and the album became the band’s second most successful album.
Nicks’ last album with the band in the 90s was “Behind the Mask,” for which she wrote four of the songs, including “Love is Dangerous,” “Affairs of the Heart,” “Freedom” and “The Second Time.”
Following the release of the album and its subsequent tour, Nicks officially left the band following a disagreement with Fleetwood, who would not let her include a song she wrote on her album “Timespace: The Best of Stevie Nicks,” because he wanted to use it on a Fleetwood Mac compilation album.
In 1998, after a brief reunion with the band, Nicks was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the band.
Despite her success with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks had desires to branch out and record some of the songs she could not as a member of the band, due to constantly having to compromise with the other songwriters in the band wanting their songs on the albums.
Her first solo album, “Bella Donna,” was released in 1981 and reached number one on the Billboard Top 200, reaching platinum status and with four singles making the Billboard Top 100. The singles include “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” “Leather and Lace,” “After the Glitter Fades” and “Edge of Seventeen.”
“It became a song about violent death, which was very scary to me because at that point no one in my family had died,” Nicks said in commentary for her “Live In Concert” video recorded on her Bella Donna tour of “Edge of Seventeen.”
Nicks wrote the song after the assassination of John Lennon in December 1980 and the death of her uncle Jonathon, who passed away from cancer in the same week. Several of the lyrics have hidden meanings, referencing the soul leaving the body and the quickness of her uncle’s illness.
She continued in her “Live In Concert” video commentary: “To me, the white-winged dove was for John Lennon the dove of peace, and for my uncle it was the white-winged dove who lives in the saguaro cactus – that’s how I found out about the white-winged dove, and it does make a sound like whooo, whooo, whooo.”
“I read that somewhere in Phoenix and thought I would use that in this song. The dove became exciting and sad and tragic and incredibly dramatic,” Nicks added. “Every time I sing this song I have that ability to go back to that two-month period where it all came down. I’ve never changed it, and I can’t imagine ending my show with any other song. It’s such a strong, private moment that I share in this song.”
The success of the album led Rolling Stone to label Nicks as the “Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll.” With her new moniker, Nicks released her second album, “The Wild Heart,” in 1983. The album, which went double platinum, had a different feel, as it was written following the death of her close friend, but featured many popular songs, including “I Will Run to You,” “Stand Back” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
Her third studio album, “Rock A Little,” was released in 1985. It went double platinum and featured singles “Talk to Me,” “I Can’t Wait” and “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You?”. While touring to promote the song, Nicks made the ultimate decision to go to rehab and kick her longstanding addiction to cocaine.
“I saw how they went down, and a part of me wanted to go down with them,” she told a U.K. interviewer at the time, referencing Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. “But then another part of me thought, I would be very sad if some 25-year-old lady rock and roll singer 10 years from now said, ‘I wish Stevie Nicks would have thought about it a little more.’ That’s kind of what stopped me and made me really look at the world through clear eyes.”
Nicks then released her fourth studio album, and a compilation album, before leaving Fleetwood Mac. She continued to write music, however she took some time off to overcome her addiction to Klonopin, releasing her fifth solo album in 1994, with her sixth, “Trouble in Shangri-La,” following in 2001.
A single off “Trouble in Shangri-La” earned her a Grammy Award nomination for best female rock vocal performance. She went on to record two more solo albums, “In Your Dreams” and “24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault.”
Fleetwood Mac reunion
While working on a solo album in 1996, Buckingham decided to work with Fleetwood and Joe McVie, and before he knew it the whole band was back together for The Dance tour, including Nicks. This tour led to many Grammy nominations, including best pop performance by a duo or group.
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Nicks went on to record one more album with the band, 2003’s “Say You Will.” Nicks wrote many songs on the album, which debuted at number 3, including “Smile At You,” “Goodbye Baby” and “Silver Girl.”
Nicks made history in 2019 when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the second time, this time as a solo artist. She was first inducted in 1998 with Fleetwood Mac.
After her second induction, she became the first female in the history of the Hall of Fame to be inducted twice.
Her fellow Fleetwood Mac bandmates were present at her induction to celebrate their good friend, and were all smiles as they posed for photos together on the red carpet.
Aside from making Hall of Fame history, Nicks also has a total of 15 Grammy nominations to her name, both for her solo career and with Fleetwood Mac. She has eight nominations as a solo artist, including three for best female rock performance, the most any artist has had without a win in that category.
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With Fleetwood Mac, she was nominated six times, having won once in 1978 for album of the year for “Rumours.” In 2003, they won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
She does not see herself slowing down anytime soon, saying she cannot imagine what her life would be like if she could not do what she is passionate about.
“It would kill me. It isn’t just singing; it’s that I would never perform again, that I would never dance across the stages of the world again,” she told The Guardian. “I’m not, at 72 years old, willing to give up my career.”