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Stevie Nicks: Her Art and Life in 33 Songs

The music that defines an icon.


Read when you’ve got time to spare.

Stevie Nicks on stage, Lindsay Buckinham in the background

Graphics by Drew Litowitz (Photo by Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Stevie Nicks is the ultimate rock’n’roll mystic. Draped in black chiffon, a high priestess of Los Angeles bohemia with practically clairvoyant emotional insights, Nicks is a star unlike any other. From her early days as half of the hippie-folk duo Buckingham Nicks, into the blockbuster soap opera of Fleetwood Mac, and through her dynamic solo career, there has always been something bewitching about Nicks’ vision of pop.

Born Stephanie Lynn Nicks in 1948 in Phoenix, Arizona, she moved often through her childhood, through the Southwest to Salt Lake City and finally on to California. She sang duets like “Darling Clementine” with her grandfather, a struggling country singer, in local saloons before discovering the aching hooks of girl-group R&B and Goffin-King pop. The first song she wrote on guitar, at age 15, was called “I’ve Loved and I’ve Lost.” By high school, Nicks’ family had settled in Palo Alto, and there, at a session for young musicians, she encountered a boy named Lindsey Buckingham. He was singing the Mama and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” She harmonized with him and changed pop music forever.

The couple became the folk duo Buckingham Nicks and eventually relocated to Los Angeles, where Nicks waited tables and cleaned houses to support them. Their first, self-titled record sank without a trace but caught an important ear: Mick Fleetwood, drummer of a seemingly nowhere-bound British blues-rock band called Fleetwood Mac, brought them into his fold. The band now had two couples and both those relationships were failing; three songwriters and as many egos prevailing; and, as Nicks once put it, they were “five fireflies drawn to the flame.” It made for the most legendarily tempestuous offstage saga in pop history. But somehow, they thrived: The immaculate hooks of Rumours made them stars and fixtures of Southern California mythology—as a wise man put it decades later, “To live and die in L.A./I got my Fleetwood Mac/I could get high everyday”—not to mention a fortune to fuel the fire. Fleetwood Mac became the fastest-selling pop group in history.


Stevie performing with Fleetwood Mac at the Oakland Coliseum in 1977 (Photo by Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

None of the backstage drama has ever been more interesting than Nicks’ songs, though, or outshone their intelligence and beauty. With her dusky voice and monumental melodies, she sings not only of the unknowns of the human heart but also nature, witches, her sisters of the moon. She was an adventurer who cast a new, distinctly feminine pop paradigm. By the early ‘80s, Nicks’ place in the pop pantheon was cemented by her successful solo career, and when Fleetwood Mac reunited in 1997 after a long absence, she was clearly the group’s center of gravity.

Nicks is now an icon to multiple generations of songwriters, inspiring everyone from Sheryl Crow and the Dixie Chicks to Courtney Love and Taylor Swift. The Haim sisters, Lorde, and Lana Del Rey all speak of her reverently. Destiny’s Child sampled the guitar line from Nicks’ 1981 debut solo single, “Edge of Seventeen,” on “Bootylicious,” and Nicks appeared in the video. Actress and Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson once said her advice to teen girls was to “just be Stevie Nicks”—because Stevie has always been “unapologetic about her flaws and about reconciling all of her contradictory feelings.” Here is our guide to her entrancing career. –Jenn Pelly

Listen to selections from this list on our Spotify playlist and Apple Music playlist.


“Crying in the Night”

Buckingham Nicks (1973)

On the first song of the first album by Buckingham Nicks, Nicks’ songwriting and performance aesthetic was already in place. Her deep and mellifluous voice is flecked with grit and braided in harmony with Buckingham’s, each curled around the other like a finger, as she sings of an alluring and dangerous woman, someone who knows how to love but is always looking out for herself. It’s a song about the ease of desire and the difficulty of trust, and the way a relationship that feels good one moment can shatter you the next, themes she’s returned to repeatedly. And she delivered it with the assertive but flowing musicality that would never leave her.

Nicks wrote “Crying in the Night” before Fleetwood Mac was on her radar, during a time when she and Buckingham were trying desperately to make their own musical dreams come true. She was hopping between jobs—waiting tables at the Copper Penny, cleaning their producer’s house—keeping their lives together while Buckingham got stoned and worked on music with his buddies. Writing about an evil woman who holds all the power in a relationship must have been cathartic. All these years later, “Crying in the Night” stands as her first classic. –Mark Richardson

Listen: YouTube

“Frozen Love”

Buckingham Nicks (1973)

Buckingham Nicks was a critical and commercial failure, and Polydor Records dropped the duo shortly after its release. Nicks went back to waiting tables while Buckingham worked on music at home. One night in December 1974, Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood visited Sound City Studios, where Buckingham and Nicks had recorded; to demonstrate the studio’s power, producer Keith Olsen played him the Buckingham Nicks closer “Frozen Love.” The seven-minute folk-rock opus is indeed a flashy technical achievement, balancing strings, synth, and guitar across three separate musical movements. But even as these parts converge and Nicks and Buckingham trade off fervent vocals, their lyrics paint an intimate image of a relationship gone cold.

Later that month, Bob Welch became the latest in a long line of Fleetwood Mac guitarists to quit the band. So Mick Fleetwood asked Buckingham to replace him; Buckingham said he and Nicks were a “package deal.” (Fleetwood had already taken an interest in Nicks, anyway, after he’d noticed her rehearsing at Sound City.) Thanks to “Frozen Love,” two L.A. romantics flopped their way into a British blues-rock group. –Marc Hogan

Listen: YouTube



Fleetwood Mac (1975)

Stevie Nicks has always been transfixed by fantasy. After reading Mary Bartlet Leader’s novel Triad—about a woman named Rhiannon who possesses another woman, manifesting as her inner darkness—Nicks was inspired to write a song about that mystical struggle. (She later learned of the Welsh witch Rhiannon, which made the name even more fitting.) “Rhiannon” became her breakout single with Fleetwood Mac and the origin of the pagan goddess identity she’d carry throughout her career.

Nicks’ vocal range is on full display here: She balances mysteriousness and hopefulness, oscillating between husky and honeyed with spellbinding command. As she cries out like a woman possessed, the production transitions from gloom to radiance, Christine McVie’s subtle keyboard playing flickering like fireflies. Embodying Rhiannon illustrated Nicks’ empathy: The Rhiannon of Triad was evil, but Nicks never saw her that way. She fell in love with the name, only seeing a woman who was trapped and isolated. Her “Rhiannon” is a myth of her own making. –Sheldon Pearce

Listen: Apple Music | Spotify | YouTube


Fleetwood Mac (1975)

The great theme of Stevie Nicks’ music is time. It casts spells, it transforms children into adults, it bridges unlikely connections between old Welsh witches and modern-day seekers. It is the focal point of one of her most hallowed meditations, “Landslide,” a song she wrote when she was 27 and on the brink of giving up songwriting forever. Buckingham Nicks had just flopped, and the duo’s relationship was looking like it would suffer the same fate. Her parents, who did not understand why she was still in Los Angeles chasing her impossible dreams, offered a time limit: “Give it six more months… and if it doesn’t happen, go back and finish college.” Tick, tick, tick.

“Landslide” didn’t come easily: She cried while working on it. She was thinking about her recently deceased grandfather. She was thinking about the mute, indifferent mountains she’d asked for answers on a recent trip to Aspen. She was tripping on acid—the first and only time in her life, she swears—and listening obsessively to Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, in awe of its poetry. These experiences piled up like a snowdrift; they eventually avalanched in an incredible feeling of release. And then she was finally ready to do it: to write a song so perfect, it can still stop time. –Lindsay Zoladz

Listen: Apple Music | Spotify | YouTube


“Gold Dust Woman”

Rumours (1977)

To put it conservatively: Rumours was recorded in a whirlwind of chaos. The McVies were divorcing after eight years of marriage, while Nicks had broken up with Buckingham and was on the cusp of an affair with a still-married Fleetwood. The Shakespearean web of drama made for strained interactions in the studio, even before they all started getting supremely drunk and doing drugs as the preferred mode of work. Amid it all, Nicks wrote “Gold Dust Woman,” threading several strands of her life. Frustrated by Fleetwood Mac’s new celebrity status and their constant cocaine use, she gathered her thoughts around an imagined celebrity addicted to the “gold dust” and capable of crushing any “illusion of love.”

“Gold Dust Woman” is one of Nicks’ most unbridled, forceful vocal performances. On the bridge, she lets loose a series of hair-raising yells, crashing the song’s psychedelic momentum. (“Stevie was howling like a witch on fire,” journalist Ken Caillat remembered of the late-night recording session.) Her intensity adds urgent fuel to the song’s smoky, sage-burning mystery. Stevie bottled up all of the turmoil of the moment—the drug abuse, the fame, the fallout—into a rebel yell of her own. –Eric Torres

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Fleetwood Mac in 1975, from left: Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, and John McVie. (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

“The Chain”

Rumours (1977)

“The Chain” would not have been possible without each of its musical links: the recycled Lindsey Buckingham riff that haunts the first half, the foreboding John McVie bass solo that guides the latter—which, along with some chord progressions, came from an unreleased Christine McVie song. But it was Stevie Nicks who gave the sprawling anthem its central quandary: to stay or to go. She wrote the lyrics about the end of her seven-year relationship with Buckingham, and together they sing her words in thrilling harmonies and vocal round-robins, a touch of contempt in their voices. She just as easily could have been singing about the band.

“The Chain” is, in essence, Fleetwood Mac captured in one song: the rare composition to be credited to the group’s classic five-member lineup, its parts cobbled together by Buckingham at a time when certain people in the band weren’t even speaking to each other. If the first half of Rumours demands you go your own way and never look back, “The Chain” is a stark reminder that you’re forever tied to the people you love most, even while they’re betraying you. –Jillian Mapes

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“I Don’t Want to Know”

Rumours (1977)

“I Don’t Want to Know” fits right into the context of Rumours: another song about a fraying relationship, about not wanting to stand in the way of your partner’s happiness, as painful as walking away can be. But Nicks wrote it before she and Buckingham joined the band, when they were still trying to assemble material for a second Buckingham Nicks album. On bootleg versions from the handful of concerts the duo played in Alabama in early 1975, it has the sparkly crunch of glam rock, but by the time they laid it down for Rumours, they’d smoothed out those rough edges in favor of chiming acoustic guitar and their best Everly Brothers-style harmonies. An ode to the music that enraptured them as kids, with a punchy chorus and handclaps that Buddy Holly would have loved, “I Don’t Want to Know” stands out among Nicks’ songs for its unabashed hooks and wide-eyed innocence. –Mark Richardson

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Rumours (1977)

Stevie Nicks wrote Fleetwood Mac’s only No. 1 single in just 10 minutes. Holed up in Sly Stone’s plush studio, on break from recording Rumours, Nicks found an electric piano and used it to express the loneliness and regret of heartbreak with warmth and dignity. “Dreams” is a balm for the brokenhearted, summoning sublime thunderstorms and purifying rains to transform pain into cosmic catharsis. Heavy as the feeling is, the music sounds as light and gauzy as one of Nicks’ shawls. (In true Rumours fashion, Buckingham helped her transform the bare-bones demo into its quietly weeping final form.) “When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know,” she sings in the chorus, promising clarity eventually. –Quinn Moreland

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“Silver Springs”

Go Your Own Way B-Side (1977)

“Silver Springs” sits atop the list of all-time greatest kiss-offs. Originally written by Nicks for Rumours, it was left off at the insistence of Mick Fleetwood, who said its length and tempered pace didn’t make sense on the record—a decision that led Nicks to “scream bloody murder.” (A later dispute over “Silver Springs,” in the early ’90s, would lead her to temporarily quit the band; the song meant that much to her.) After breaking up with Buckingham, the song’s clear target, Nicks had seen a road sign for Silver Springs, Maryland, and the image sparked painterly images for her: “blue-green colors flashing,” “your shining autumn ocean crashing.” Perhaps Nicks filled her mind with these vibrant hues to cheer herself up, to avoid the inevitable: “Did you say that she loved you? Baby, I don’t want to know.”

Part of the brilliance of “Silver Springs” is that it doesn’t move the way a pop song is supposed to. Its verses simmer for nearly two-and-a-half minutes before erupting into the majestic chorus. When its haunting refrain beams down, it’s an act of emotional and artistic justice: “Time cast a spell on you, but you won’t forget me/I know I could have loved you, but you would not let me...You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you.” (This diffused pop structure has proven influential: Lorde, for one, said the song directly inspired her so-called “incorrect” writing on 2017’s Melodrama.) Nicks would never get resolution from Buckingham; he’d moved on from her, emphatically, by the time she wrote it. She had to create her own, and in “Silver Springs,” it’s eternal. –Jenn Pelly

Listen: Apple Music | Spotify | YouTube


“Sisters of the Moon”

Tusk (1979)

The pressures of fame were getting to Nicks when she wrote “Sisters of the Moon.” Rumours had sold over 10 million copies and won the Grammy for Album of the Year, turning Fleetwood Mac into a cultural force. Their demanding tour schedule was pushing her to the brink of collapse. “I really did think that I might die,” she told DJ Jim Ladd in 1979.

“Sisters of the Moon” was conceived when Nicks caught her reflection in the mirror and, in an out-of-body experience, took pity on the woman she saw staring back at her. Its lyrics are some of her best and most cryptic: She is appraising these versions of herself—the superstar performer and the detached spectator—and trying to reconcile them. As McVie’s bass ripples and Buckingham’s guitar crashes, Nicks meets their intensity with her words: “I cared not for love, nor money/I think she knew/The people, they love her/And still they are the most cruel.” Within Nicks’ performance is the blueprint for rebalancing a fractured soul. –Sheldon Pearce

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Tusk (1979)

“Storms” examines the wreckage of one of Fleetwood Mac’s many (many) inter-band affairs, but not the one you might expect. As Nicks revealed in the liner notes of Tusk’s 2015 reissue, the song lamented her short fling with Mick Fleetwood. “That relationship destroyed Mick’s marriage,” she wrote. “Storms” was Nicks’ way of holding herself accountable for that destruction. This is not the self-assured Stevie of “Dreams” or “Gold Dust Woman”: the Stevie singing “Storms” is exhausted by her own power, and what it is capable of when left unchecked. “Never ever been a blue calm sea,” she sings, “I have always been a storm.” Audibly trembling at times, Nicks doesn’t sound like a hurricane so much as someone walking the streets, surveying its aftermath. –Madison Bloom

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Fleetwood Mac pose for a portrait in 1977 (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)


Tusk (1979)

A song with a woman’s name always provokes a rather reductive question: Who is she? “Sara” is not Nicks’ most famous song, but she says it’s still the one she’s asked about most. Everyone wants to query her about the two prevailing theories: that “Sara” is about her close friend Sara Rector, who in the late ’70s left her husband for Mick Fleetwood (thus ending Nicks’ own fling with him); or that “Sara” was the name chosen for her and Don Henley’s unborn child before she decided to have an abortion. (Nicks has laughed off the latter theory: “He wishes!” she said in a 2009 interview.)

Never mind the speculations: At its core, “Sara” is too complex and billowing for any one origin story. Nicks has said that “Sara” is about the whole swirling tumult of her life post-Rumours: It occasionally made her delirious, surrounded by lovers but still yearning for a suitable partner. The song is a featherlight reverie, grounded by the soulful gravel of Stevie's vocals. Similarly, there’s something at once beguiling and foreboding about the song’s iconic central lyric: “Drowning in a sea of love, where everyone would love to drown.” How positively Stevie. –Lindsay Zoladz

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“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” [ft. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers]

Bella Donna (1981)

Stevie Nicks, California girl eternal, looked to heartland rock when she went solo in the early ’80s. She wanted to be a member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which led her to Jimmy Iovine, Petty’s producer. The two became involved, and when it was time to decide on a lead single for Bella Donna, Nicks’ 1981 solo debut, Iovine suggested a duet of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” written by Petty and lead Heartbreaker Mike Campbell. With Petty talking her through the eerie vocal melody in the studio, Nicks made the bluesy song her own while still maintaining its quintessentially Petty coolness. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” was proof of concept for Stevie and the Heartbreakers: a Top 5 hit and a new shade of dusk for Nicks, clear evidence that her intensity with a duet partner could transfer beyond Lindsey Buckingham. Nicks and Petty would become lifelong friends, but listening to them on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” they sound like distraught lovers with smoke in their voices and grit in their hearts. As always, Stevie steals the show. –Jillian Mapes

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“Leather and Lace” [ft. Don Henley]

Bella Donna (1981)

In the late ’70s, Nicks’ songwriting caught the ear of Waylon Jennings, who commissioned her to write “Leather and Lace” for his album of duets with wife Jessi Colter. It’s hard to understand why Jennings and Colter decided not to include the track on the album that still bears its name. The version that ended up on Bella Donna is full of the aphoristic clarity and gutsy self-possession that, in another life, could have made Nicks an outlaw country star.

Is “Leather and Lace” a breakup song or a celebration of new love? “I carry this feeling,” Nicks sings in the first verse, “when you walked into my house, that you won't be walking out the door.” The shifting verb tenses provide no answers about whether she’s gazing dolefully into the past, sitting contentedly in the present, or wondering hopefully about the future. Her voice is nimble, dipping and winding through a simple arrangement of steady acoustic guitar and twinkling electric piano. Don Henley isn’t the ideal duet partner in his brief appearance, sounding a little too smooth to be the leather-clad mountain-dweller Nicks sketches in the lyrics. But Nicks is “stronger than you know,” as she reminds her possibly-ex-lover—certainly strong enough to carry the feeling on her own. –Andy Cush

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“Think About It”

Bella Donna (1981)

In the liner notes to Bella Donna, there’s a dedication beside “Think About It”: For Christine. Nicks had written a demo of this benevolent and generous song years before, as she and Christine McVie were going through their respective breakups with members of their band. “When somebody else is going through it, too,” Nicks reportedly recalled in 1981, “one person gets strong and the other person gets weak. So you know, Chris and I would constantly be like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna be strong now and you can fall apart, and then she’ll be strong and I’ll fall apart.’” When Nicks first joined the Mac, her male band members—spooked by sexist stereotypes—were worried she might not get along with McVie; “Think About It” proves they ended up forming perhaps the most insoluble bond in the whole group.

With its driving guitars and upbeat piano, the song is a wise musical pep talk: “Even when you feel like your life is fading,” Nicks tells her friend, “I know that you’ll go on forever, you’re that good.” But, as she explained around the time Bella Donna came out, the advice to “think about it before you go” applied to something even bigger than romance. “We can’t give all this up,” she recalled saying to McVie. “The music is fabulous. We can’t just give it up because our men are messing up our lives.” –Lindsay Zoladz

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Stevie Nicks onstage at the Rock N’ Run benefit at UCLA in 1983 (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)

“Edge of Seventeen”

Bella Donna (1981)

As they are in life, love and death are inextricable in “Edge of Seventeen.” Nicks’ signature solo track draws on a tangle of emotional touchstones, from the innocence of Tom Petty’s teenage romance with his first wife, to the murder of John Lennon and the death of Nicks’ beloved uncle. As Stevie contemplates time’s march and love’s eternal bond, she is propelled forward by a chugging one-note guitar riff inspired by the Police’s “Bring on the Night.” This galloping riff, played by guitarist Waddy Wachtel for five-and-a-half minutes straight, shoulders the ups and downs Nicks describes, opening space for her voice to take its own journey. As she envisions a soul departing the body in the form of a “white-winged dove”—with backup vocalists mimicking the bird’s cooing—Nicks is steadfast in the face of oblivion. –Quinn Moreland

Listen: Apple Music | Spotify | YouTube



Mirage (1982)

“Gypsy” hangs over Mirage like a disco ball: Nicks wrote it around 1979, reportedly for Bella Donna, before deciding to hold it for Fleetwood Mac’s soft rock return. In the wake of her band’s exploding fame, Nicks reflects on her quieter previous life: “So I’m back to the velvet underground,” she sings, an allusion to the San Francisco clothing store where Janis Joplin and Grace Slick shopped. “Back to the floor that I love/To a room with some lace and paper flowers.” She’s clearly wistful for when she and Buckingham lived the bohemian dream, sleeping with their mattress on the floor, awash in fabrics and colors. As if it could be clearer that Stevie is the coolest person in Fleetwood Mac, she punctuates the sparkling dancefloor tune with one of her most iconic melodies ever: “Lightning strikes/Maybe once, maybe twice/And it all comes down to you.” –Jenn Pelly

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“Wild Heart”

The Wild Heart (1983)

There is the official version of “Wild Heart,” and there is the definitive version. The official version opens Nicks’ 1983 solo album with a six-minute power drive from one triumphant apex to the next: huge drum fills, elaborate melismatic runs. The definitive version was recorded more or less accidentally, two years earlier, as Nicks prepared for a photo shoot. In a grainy video clip that has assumed mythic status among her fans, she sways and sings along to a bare-bones instrumental track while a makeup artist works on her face. She and a backup singer vamp sweetly on an early version of the “Wild Heart” chorus, without any of the bombast that would come later, just two voices ringing like bells in the night.

They are ostensibly rehearsing, but what you’re witnessing has the quality of a prayer, a humble outward expression radiating from a deep inner wellspring. (It’s no wonder Justin Vernon sampled liberally from this video on Bon Iver’s 22, A Million.) The makeup artist soon ceases her work but remains transfixed in place; the camera operator seems to sense they’re getting something important and shakily tightens the shot. It’s a document of an era-defining performer in an unguarded moment of musical communion. –Andy Cush

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The Wild Heart (1983)

In 1982, Nicks endured one of the most crushing losses of her life: the death of her childhood best friend and singing coach, Robin Snyder Anderson, from leukemia. Awash with grief, she hurled herself back into songwriting. She wrote “Nightbird,” the dedicatory centerpiece of The Wild Heart, in just a few hours in her living room, alongside singer-songwriter Sandy Stewart.

Essentially a sequel to “Edge of Seventeen,” “Nightbird” builds on Nicks’ enduring theme of feeling defenseless against the passage of time. She and Stewart seamlessly trade off vocals over organ and guitar, evoking the song’s titular omen of death—itself a callback to “Seventeen”—as a beacon of hope rather than doom. Fittingly, Nicks used the song as a tool for cancer awareness: “Maybe it will make somebody be a doctor,” she said in 1983. “Maybe some kid will go, ‘I’m gonna do cancer research and I’m gonna beat leukemia.’” –Eric Torres

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“Stand Back”

The Wild Heart (1983)

Soon after Robin Snyder Anderson’s death, Nicks entered into a three-month marriage with Anderson’s husband (supposedly out of a desire to care for the couple’s infant son). She wrote “Stand Back,” The Wild Heart’s lead single, on their honeymoon, after hearing Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” for the first time. She invited the Purple One to play on the track, and in true Prince fashion, he quickly laid down a brilliantly moody, new-wave synth part and disappeared into the night. (“He was so uncanny, so wild, he spoiled me for every band I’ve ever had because nobody can exactly recreate—not even with two piano players—what Prince did all by his little self,” Nicks later recalled.) As she sings the cautionary chorus—“Stand back, stand back”—the synths and bobbing beats back her up like wagging fingers. Though Nicks sounds assured, her lyrics capture the confusing volatility of relationships, the initial lust and the inevitable pain. In the end, she seems to reach some resolve and asks her lover to take her home. –Quinn Moreland

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“Talk to Me”

Rock a Little (1985)

After the release of The Wild Heart, Fleetwood Mac went on hiatus and Nicks recorded her third solo album, Rock a Little. While she initially worked with Jimmy Iovine, they soon parted ways. Still, it was the producer who brought “Talk to Me” to Nicks and together they made it a glittering pop-rock hit. At first, Nicks reportedly didn’t like how its writer, Chas Sandford, had stacked the lyrics—she found them wordy, tricky—but in her ferocious delivery, they reveal depths of empathy and tact. She senses dishonesty but holds no grudge, just a yearning for truth: “A wound gets worse when it’s treated with neglect.” Nicks narrates the kind of emotional ruin she’d sung about for years and exploded it anew: “Let the walls burn down,” she sings urgently. “Set your secrets free.” –Jenn Pelly

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“Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You”

Rock a Little (1985)

Driving through light snow in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh—the “great, great love” of Stevie’s life—told her about the young daughter he’d lost in a car accident a decade earlier. Steering their rented Jeep into the park where his child once played, he showed Nicks the small drinking fountain he’d placed there in tribute. Its plaque read, “For All Those Who Aren’t Big Enough to Get a Drink.”

Nicks and Walsh had been touring together for four months in support of The Wild Heart, and when a short break emerged, she returned to her home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, and wrote most of “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You” in five minutes. It’s a strikingly simple piano ballad, a consolation to those who have been debilitated by grief, rendered dependent and vulnerable to the world. The ballad sets its gaze on one person, but it makes a universal plea to carry on: “If not me/then do it for the world,” she sings. –Cat Zhang

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“When I See You Again”

Tango in the Night (1987)

It’s tempting to interpret “When I See You Again” as Stevie Nicks’ pointed farewell to Lindsey Buckingham—it is, after all, the last Stevie song on the final Fleetwood album before Buckingham acrimoniously left the band in 1987. But the reality isn’t so simple. During Tango in the Night’s tortured, 18-month-long gestation period, Nicks was occupied promoting Rock a Little when she wasn’t drinking herself into incoherence in the studio. In her absence, “When I See You Again” took on a Frankenstein nature, with a frustrated Buckingham cobbling together separate vocal takes and, midway through the song, even assuming vocal duties himself.

So while “When I See You Again” marked a low point for inter-band relations, the fizzle after their most combative yet productive run, the song is still beautiful in its own right. Even when the members of Fleetwood Mac couldn’t share space, they coaxed tenderness from each other on record. Here, Nicks’ voice is wise yet unguarded. When she asks, “Will your very best friend have been replaced by some other?” there is no petulance or anger in her warble, or in the delicate instrumentation below it. Her tone hints, lovingly, at the impossibility of reconciliation and the acceptance of roads diverged. –Stacey Anderson

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“Seven Wonders”

Tango in the Night (1987)

Stevie Nicks had been busy since Mirage—a tour with the Mac, two solo albums, solo tours in 1983 and ’86, and a stint in rehab to get her cocaine use under control. So when the other members convened to record Tango in the Night, she was light on her own material. She’d been toying with a song called “Seven Wonders,” written by her regular collaborator Sandy Stewart, which she brought to the sessions after tweaking a few words. Even on Fleetwood Mac’s lushest and sparkliest record, this song’s lush and sparkly production stands out—it’s a gorgeous sonic artifact, with hand percussion, trebly guitars, and a twinkly synth tapping out the unforgettable refrain. Nicks matches it with her torrential vocal, the thunder to match the arrangement’s misty rain. Exhausted and on the edge of 40, on a song about looking back and wondering if the best days have gone by, she digs deep and sounds vibrant and alive. “So it’s hard to find/Someone with that kind of intensity,” goes one line, each vowel wrung dry. She might as well be singing about herself. –Mark Richardson

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“Ooh My Love”

The Other Side of the Mirror (1989)

One night in the mid-’80s, Nicks took home a tape of demos by Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and heard a track that inspired her to write some lyrics. She brought the song to Fleetwood Mac and started demoing it for Tango in the Night, so proud that she called up her pal Tom Petty so he could listen over the phone. Unfortunately, she had picked up the wrong tape from Campbell; Petty was using the same music for his song “Runaway Trains.” As Nicks recalled, Petty began “screaming at me on the other end of the phone.”

Fleetwood Mac scrapped the track, but Nicks kept the lyrics for this fan-favorite deep cut from her fourth solo album, The Other Side of the Mirror. Co-written with Rick Nowels, “Ooh My Love” is a hidden treasure: a chugging power ballad, gauzy with ’80s synths, about castle walls crashing down and the woman imprisoned within them. New listeners may find themselves asking the question Nicks rasps so wrenchingly here: “Where in the world did you come from?” –Marc Hogan

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Stevie Nicks performs with Fleetwood Mac in 1978 (Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage)

“Long Way to Go”

The Other Side of the Mirror (1989)

The drum pound on “Long Way to Go,” the second single from The Other Side of the Mirror, is juiced to such ’80s-montage absurdity that you can nearly see the slow-motion sweat flying off of it. The musclebound production comes courtesy of Rupert Hine, a keyboard player who also gave Tina Turner’s Private Dancer a synth-pop touch, and it is about as complete a primer in steam-pressed, mainstream ’80s bombast as you can get. Nicks paces inside its starched confines like a caged panther, stuttering and growling in what might be her angriest vocal take ever. Inspired by an unlucky ex who not only dragged out a breakup but kept her acetate pressing, the song's scorched-earth, for-real-this-time fury reaches its peak with the tell-off “Have fun, tell the world,” which sounds for all the world like “fuck off.” –Jayson Greene

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Behind the Mask (1991)

The Fleetwood Mac that banded together for Behind the Mask were not long for this world. Featuring new guitarists Billy Burnette and Rick Vito, they formed in the late-’80s after Lindsey Buckingham quit, and their sole studio album together reflects little of the mystical charm that defined the band’s greatest work. But for Nicks, it was a revelation. “It’s definitely a rebirth,” she said at the time, “with all the excitement of how you feel when you meet someone new that you really like.” That spark of discovery is captured best in “Freedom,” a driving track that she cowrote with Mike Campbell, one of Nicks’ great collaborators outside her band. “Freedom,” she sings proudly in the chorus, “well it’s a thing that’s fleeting.” It was a prophetic observation during this brief diversion—but at the moment, it was enough. –Sam Sodomsky

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“Love Is Like a River”

Street Angel (1994)

By 1992, Nicks was spiraling. Behind the Mask had been a commercial letdown, so she left Fleetwood Mac to focus on her solo career; then she struggled with writer’s block and a long-running Klonopin dependency. Street Angel reflected this turbulent time. Nicks butted heads with producer Glyn Johns, spent much of the album’s production process in rehab, and, despite hiring another producer to remix the material, remained unsatisfied with the result. The album was Nicks’ worst-selling project yet and a creative low. But hidden amid the wreckage of this career derailment is the secret gem “Love Is Like a River.” The song plays into her coarse, chain-smoking snarl with scuzzy electric guitar and cracking drums. Written by Nicks alone, it revels in her longstanding mythos as a fervent, hopeless romantic: “Only when your heart says it’s over does it die.” –Sheldon Pearce

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“If You Ever Did Believe” [ft. Sheryl Crow]

Practical Magic soundtrack (1998)

“There’s always magic to be summoned at any point,” Nicks once said, her voice as light and clouded as quartz. “I’d love to live in a world of magic, but not a world of fake magic.” Decades later, Nicks entered the world of Practical Magic, the 1998 rom-com about two witch sisters trying to end a curse on their family (in the name of love, of course). Who better to star on the soundtrack than the rock sorceress supreme?

After writing “If You Ever Did Believe” for her next solo album, Nicks gave the song to the movie instead. It’s as upbeat as you might expect, with anthemic guitars and light harmonies courtesy of Sheryl Crow. In the music video, between scenes from the film, Nicks cuts an especially pagan presence in her trademark pointed boots and drapey black skirt, twirling until the sheer fabric swirls around her like a cyclone. Stevie may have written her witchy manifesto “Rhiannon” back in 1975, but “If You Ever Did Believe” reasserted her faith in the craft. –Madison Bloom

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Trouble in Shangri-La (2001)

Trouble in Shangri-La was Nicks’ first studio album in seven years, and her first good one in 12. Compared to Street Angel—where she sounded shaky, uncertain, brought aground—now she just was grounded. Working with acolytes like Sheryl Crow and Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines as well as reliable collaborators (Lindsey Buckingham and Rick Nowels on backing vocals and guitar), she tapped into a rough-grained folk-rock sound that harked back to Buckingham Nicks.

“Candlebright,” a smoldering highlight, was one of three songs that actually dated back to the ’70s. Written when she and Buckingham left San Francisco in search of a record deal, it turns on the chorus “I am something of a dreamer.” When she wrote it, 22 years old and on the cusp of leaving her parents, it must have felt like a dawning realization. When she released it to the world 31 years later, it sounded like a valediction. –Jayson Greene

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“Secret Love”

In Your Dreams (2011)

As legend has it, Stevie Nicks wrote her tragic ballad “Secret Love” around the time of Rumours. While it didn’t make the cut, it would have fit in among those totems of heartbreak and perseverance. “I’m not asking ‘forever’ from you,” she sings in the chorus. “I’m just asking to be held for awhile.” She knew there was something worth saving.

Nicks revisited “Secret Love” in the early ’80s, recording a solo take with just sparse keyboards, a drum machine, and her gorgeous, wounded vocal delivery. She came upon that tape, cut a studio rendition, and finally released “Secret Love” to the world in 2011. But by that point, her old demo had circulated online and become its own secret passed among fans. The new version felt like a celebration and even cracked the Top 20 of the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts. Decades after it had been underestimated, “Secret Love” still spoke to something urgent and alive. –Sam Sodomsky

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Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham onstage with Fleetwood Mac in 2009 (Photo by Gie Knaeps/Getty Images)


“The Dealer”

24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault (2014)

Three years later—a blink of an eye, in Stevie Nicks’ release timeline—she returned to the idea of re-recording her previously overlooked demos. Her last album to date, 2014’s 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault, brings a throwback Mac sheen to a set of songs she wrote from 1969 to 1995, plus a winning Vanessa Carlton cover. (Nicks, then 66, said she was reminded of her old material by searching YouTube.)

The Dealer,” originally written ahead of Tusk, is a powerful showcase of this album’s unusual allure. With co-producers Dave Stewart and Waddy Wachtel, Nicks leads a band of session aces in a smoldering soft-rock anthem that transcends its unsteady gambling metaphor. “If I’d really known you then, you’da had to watch out,” Nicks warns. Around the same time, Fleetwood Mac’s classic lineup reunited for their first tour since 1998; of course, it could not last. –Marc Hogan

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Lana Del Rey: “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems” [ft. Stevie Nicks]

Lust for Life (2017)

Lana Del Rey has always worshiped at the altar of Stevie, and in 2017, the reverence flowed both ways. Rick Nowels, their mutual producer, played matchmaker, and Nicks happened to slot in perfectly on Del Rey’s Lust for Life. The serendipitous connection wasn’t lost on Nicks: “I think all of these little things, in a really fairytale way, led me to you and led you to me in a strange witchy way,” she told Del Rey.

The resulting “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems” is the oasis in the middle of Lust for Life, a meditative ballad floating on gentle piano keys and simple, booming percussion. The song presages the folkier, Fleetwood Mac-nodding songs on Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell!, with their two voices braided together in harmony for the hazy outro. Here, as always, Stevie lends her light to a fellow sister of the moon. –Eric Torres

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Contributors: Stacey Anderson, Madison Bloom, Andy Cush, Jayson Greene, Marc Hogan, Jillian Mapes, Quinn Moreland, Sheldon Pearce, Jenn Pelly, Mark Richardson, Sam Sodomsky, Eric Torres, Cat Zhang, Lindsay Zoladz

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This post originally appeared on Pitchfork and was published April 6, 2020. This article is republished here with permission.

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