*Photograph above taken from the internet and likely copyrighted
I was on the phone and had just hung up when I checked social media and saw that Stevie Nicks had posted the statement from Fleetwood Mac that Christine McVie, long time keyboard player and vocalist and former wife of bass player John McVie, had sadly passed at the age of 79 which is way too soon. The news hit me hard. Christine McVie’s beautiful voice and wonderful songs have been a part of my life for as long as I’ve been listening to music. Just yesterday I posted about losing unsung, pub rock, guitar hero Wilko Johnson last week and now this… I am, as they say, gutted. The woman was a legend and wrote some of the greatest songs of the rock n roll era. It appears she passed after a “short illness.”
Christine Perfect was considering quitting her band Chickenshack and retiring from music when she started playing with Fleetwood Mac. She contributed some keyboards on the album Kiln House but didn’t fully join the band until the 1971 album Future Games and coincidentally that happened to be after she’d married bassist John McVie. By the time Fleetwood Mac met the dynamic duo of Lindsey Buckingham (guitar/vocal) and Stevie Nicks (vocals) the band was down to just Mick Fleetwood (drummer), John McVie (bass) and Christine (keyboards/vocals). Originally the band only wanted Buckingham to join but he was steadfast that he and Nicks were a package deal. McVie put her ego aside and agreed to a second woman singer joining the band which is perhaps one of the most gracious acts in rock history. The rest, as they say, is history. Over the years Nicks would garner a lot more attention than Christine – Nicks didn’t have to sit behind a big keyboard and could dance around at her leisure – but Christine McVie’s contributions to Fleetwood Mac are immeasurable. She wrote some of their biggest hits including (personal favorite) “Over My Head,” “Say You Love Me,” “Don’t Stop,” “Songbird,” “Think About Me,” “Little Lies” and the newly popular song by way of a car commercial “Everywhere.” That song list goes on and on and I could have kept going with more titles.
I can remember as a little kid, my mother taking us to the neighborhood pool and dropping us off for the afternoon. God knows the poor woman needed a break from her rambunctious boys. I don’t even think she stopped the car… she just rolled through the pool parking lot and sort of pushed us out the open door like Starsky or Hutch. This was in the mid-70s and if I close my eyes I can remember hearing Fleetwood Mac almost every day at the pool. They’d predominantly play both Stevie and Christine… oddly I don’t remember a lot of Lindsey at the pool… no “Go Your Own Way” while we went our own way off the high board. It was only a few years later, after my rock n roll awakening that I traded Supertramp’s Breakfast In America (a fine record that I had sadly worn out by repeated plays) to my brother for his copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Naturally, I became a life long fan. Stevie was kind of spacey, she was the chick you’d probably end up smoking with behind the school. Lindsey was like weird genius kid nobody really knew and his music over the years became more and more experimental. But Christine was just a steady, superb talent… she was like the beautiful girl next door who despite being out of your league was super nice to you anyway… You could always count on her to deliver some great tunes.
On Rumours, the song that jumped out at me was “Songbird.” It was such a gorgeous, tearjerker of a tune. While “Don’t Stop” and “You Make Lovin’ Fun” were big hits I was always drawn to “Oh Daddy.” Rumours was of course made during the break up of the McVie’s marriage and the end of Buckingham and Nicks’ relationship as well. That drama fueled some great autobiographical material. Two couples breaking up and all of it set to music. It was breathtaking stuff. Oddly I didn’t buy the first LP to feature Buckingham/Nicks, the self-titled Fleetwood Mac until I got to college. I picked it up after seeing Stevie Nicks sing “Rhiannon” in concert in Wichita. But after picking up the album “Over My Head” quickly jumped to the top of my favorites list. I also remember really liking “Sugar Daddy” and the lyric “And if I needed whisky, He could serve it to me neat…” which is how I take my bourbon… “Say You Love Me” solidified her and that album in my mind as legendary.
My brother went out and bought Tusk when it came out in 79 and I taped it, only to purchase it in college a year or so later. Tusk is where Buckingham, influenced by punk, decided to take an artistic left turn. Much of his music puts people off but I love that double album and consider it one of the best 2-LP sets ever. It may have been a stylistic change-up but the album starts off with Christine McVie’s “Over And Over,” one of her most comforting songs. I knew things got weird on Tusk and it was nice that McVie was there to keep everything stable. “Think About Me” was just a great rock song. By the time Mirage came out in 1982 Nicks was a superstar and Buckingham was just petulant. It was McVie’s songs that held the thing together, like her first single “Hold Me,” or the deep track “Love In Store.” While the others did their own thing she stayed true to the Mac’s signature sound. That even carried over to 1987’s Tango In The Night. Her tracks were some of the greatest highlights of that record. “Little Lies” was a hit. “Everywhere” which is now literally everywhere because of the aforementioned car commercial, is a great song as is “Mystified.” I’ve always loved “Isn’t It Midnight” her most rocking song. Say what you want about Buckingham-Nicks, but Buckingham and Christine had a great chemistry when they collaborated on songs and that continued all the way to their LP together (with Mick Fleetwood/John McVie as rhythm section, Fleetwood Mac in everything but name only) Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie.
I heard Christine interviewed on a radio show and she said she really liked to write songs that say “I love you.” I don’t think I’m the first nor shall I be the last to say, we love you Christine, rest in peace. Her music and her voice certainly enriched my life. My heart goes out to her family and all of the Fleetwood Mac fans like me out there.
It’s a long dark ride. Take of each other and tonight, put on a little Fleetwood Mac to get you through it…
“For you, there’ll be no more crying, For you, the sun will be shining…And I love you, I love you, I love you, Like never before” – Christine McVie, “Songbird.”