By any standards, Stevie Nicks is a legend. Her celestial, mysterious persona, coupled with unimitable stage prescence and a smoky voice, has made her somewhat of an antidote to the industry, never capitalizing on an outwardly sexual display to market herself. As a member of legendary rock band Fleetwood Mac and bona fide solo artist, she has sold over 140 million albums and at the time of this article is the only woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice (with Fleetwood Mac and solo). However, beyond all the dark shimmer, Nicks is a true romantic at her core, knowing all too well the grandeur of a love affair as well as the yearning and long-lasting heartache of a relationship that didn’t work out. Love songs, both those that show the negatives and positives, are music staples because of their relatability, and Nicks is one of the quintessential singer/songwriters on the subject.
Stevie Nicks is the Fairy Godmother of Rock and Roll. Taking cues from Janis Joplin and Grace Slick before her, Nicks never shied away from the edgy side of rock and roll. The early rock and roll industry was male-dominated, therefore voices like that of Joplin and Slick were groundbreaking, inspiring another generation of women to push through the glass industry and prove that women could rock just as hard as the men. Nicks continued to shatter it further, becoming one of the faces of Fleetwood Mac and eventually shooting through the stratosphere with a successful solo career while continuing to record with the Mac. Like the confessional female songwriters of the early 1970s such as Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Carly Simon, Nicks’ own life seeped into her lyrics, therefore allowing listeners an intimate glimpse into her own private world, all the while bringing down the house with her distinctive voice and edgy rock appeal.
However, at her heart, Nicks is also a romantic. Her fashion sense is born of dreaminess, full of swishing skirts, lace, and moon pendants. Her wide, brown eyes evoke both innocence and sensuality, and truthfully, both lie there. Those who have seen her live know she is a force, completely enveloped by her songs, but once the music stops, a bubby, fast-talking woman emerges, and it’s easy to see why she remains a consistent musical voice nearly fifty years after she first emerged alongside Lindsey Buckingham with the Buckingham/Nicks album in 1973, for she writes about something humans all naturally crave: love.
Her storied romances are documented in her songs, almost like a scrapbook of her life. She’s romanced the likes of Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and J.D. Souther and was even married briefly, though her most infamous love story is easily that of her and Lindsey Buckingham, her Fleetwood Mac bandmate. Each of these relationships are documented through her music, both the freshness of new love, the overwhelming passion of a strong relationship, as well as the frustration and sometimes decline of those relationships. From “Dreams” on the Rumours album (inspired by Buckingham) to “Sara” (inspired by Buckingham, Henley, and bandmate and onetime lover Mick Fleetwood) to “I Can’t Wait” and “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You?” (both inspired by Walsh), Nicks documents all of these love milestones and provides comfort to listeners at any of those stages in their lives. However, what she does best is pining, and many of those tracks are directed at her most public, and perhaps even tragic, love affair.
Nicks with Lindsey Buckingham, circa 1975
Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were together for the better part of a decade and joined Fleetwood Mac together in 1974, which was followed by the Mac’s comeback album Fleetwood Mac in 1975. The end of their relationship helped culminate one of the most iconic rock albums of all times, Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 classic Rumours. Their responses to the break-up were juxtaposed with the songs they penned, like responsive dialogue to each other, her ethereal, morse “Dreams” is sharply contrasted with his angrier, bold “Go Your Own Way.” Since then, their relationship has remained tumultous to say the least, full of an abundance of highs and lows, culminating in Buckingham being fired from the band in 2018, a move that continues to divide fans (Buckingham previously left the band in 1987 due to a touring dispute; he returned in 1997). Rumors (no pun intended) continue to circulate as to the true reasoning, but there is no doubt that much history lies between Nicks and Buckingham, and that cannot be lost on longtime fans.
Nicks’ love for Buckingham remains a common thread in her music, or at least it has in her most current works (all released prior to Buckingham’s departure). Their breakup is now over forty years in the past, and yet songs like “Blue Denim” (from her 1994 album Street Angel) and “She Loves Him Still (from 2014’s 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault) remind us that their history is lengthy and complex, but despite all that, a deep connection remains. All of us have been in relationships that did not work, be it our feelings were unrequited or the differences were just too great. Nicks’ music illustrates the pain, the longing, and mostly, how that lingers and impacts all that comes after it.
At the time of this post, Nicks is now seventy-one, independent and still ferociously dedicated to her career. She has inspired an entire generation of songwriters, from Sheryl Crow to Lady Gaga and Adele, proof that a woman can be both strong and vulnerable and stand along her male counterparts. Love has the power to be both a most enchanting, beautiful feeling as well as something that can shred an individual’s very soul, and Nicks’ poetic, mystifying lyrics display both, often in the same track. Generations of listeners, both young and old, will undoubtedly continue to discover this songstress’s incredible tales, both her own and those of characters she’s created, reminding us that we are never alone, that love is all that we’ve ever experienced it to be, and that sometimes, not every love story has a happily ever after. Perhaps she is the true “hopeful romantic,” always believing in the grand passion and loving many incredible men, and while never truly settling down with any of them, she never stops reminding us of all the beauty that it brings, no matter through happiness or bittersweet memories.
Let me know your favorite Stevie Nicks song in the comments below!