Throughout the various personal turmoil that Fleetwood Mac members are known for, one relationship has sustained the band for decades: the friendship between its two frontwomen, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks.
McVie joined the band in 1970 in one of their early lineup changes and was their only wife for years. When Nicks joined the cast in 1975, the two quickly became friends.
Their relationship wasn’t competitive, it was sisterly – both women were gifted songwriters, responsible for many of the band’s most well-known tunes. Although the two drifted apart in the 1980s amid Nick’s increasing drug addiction and the band’s growing internal tensions, they reunited when McVie returned to Fleetwood Mac in 2014.
At a concert in London, just before McVie officially rejoined the band, Nicks dedicated the song “Landslide” to her “mentor”. Big sister. Best friend.” And by the end of the show, McVie was there, joining her bandmates on “Don’t Stop.”
“I never want her to go out of my life again, and that has nothing to do with music, it has to do with her and I being friends,” Nicks told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 2015.
McVie, the band’s “songbird,” died Wednesday at the age of 79 after a short illness. Revisit McVie and Nicks’ years-long relationship as bandmates, best friends, and “sisters” below.
The story of Nick’s entry into Fleetwood Mac is now legendary: band founder and drummer Mick Fleetwood wanted to recruit guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who stated that he would only join if his girlfriend and musician Nicks could join. McVie cast the deciding vote and the rest is history.
“It was crucial that I got along with her because I had never played with any other girl,” McVie told the Guardian in 2013. “But I liked her straight away. She was fun and nice, but there was no competition either. We were completely different on stage and we also wrote differently.”
During the band’s many personal complications — McVie married and divorced Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie and had an affair with the band’s lighting director, while Nicks had roller-coaster romances with Buckingham and Fleetwood — they were the focus of each other.
“Being in a band with another girl who was this amazing musician —[McVie]kind of became my best friend instantly,” Nicks told the New Yorker earlier this year. “Christine was a completely different ball game. She liked hanging out with the boys. She just felt more comfortable with men than ever.”
The two protected each other, Nicks said, in a male-dominated industry: “We made a pact from the start that we would never be treated with disrespect by any male musician in the community.
“I would say to her, ‘Together we are a serious force of nature and that will give us the power to maneuver the waters that lie ahead,'” Nicks told the New Yorker.
“Rumours” was the band’s biggest hit to date when it was released in 1977. But the band’s relationships with one another soured, aside from that between McVie and Nicks. While the two endured the split from their significant others, Nicks and McVie spent their time together backstage.
The Guardian asked McVie if she tries to offset the band’s tumult with her songs on “Rumours,” including the light-hearted “You Make Lovin’ Fun” and the upbeat “Don’t Stop.” She said it probably was her.
As drug use increased by several members, the band’s momentum became strained. McVie distanced herself from the group in 1984 amid her bandmates’ addiction, telling the Guardian she was “just sick of it”. Nicks, meanwhile, became addicted to cocaine.
McVie told Rolling Stone that year that she broke up with Nicks: “She seems to have kind of created her own fantasy world, which I’m not a part of. We don’t see each other much.”
In 1986, Nicks checked into the Betty Ford Center to treat her addiction, although she later became addicted to Klonopin, which took years of her life. She quit the prescription drug in the 1990s.
After recording some solo work, McVie returned to Fleetwood Mac for her 1987 album Tango in the Night, and two of her songs on that record – “Little Lies” and “Everywhere” – became big hits. But Nicks left the band shortly after, and the band’s best-known lineup didn’t officially reunite until 1997 for The Dance tour and subsequent live album.
The reunion was short-lived: After the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, McVie officially left Fleetwood Mac citing fear of flying and exhaustion from street life.
In the 2010s, after more than a decade of retirement, McVie toyed with performing again. She officially returned to Fleetwood Mac after calling Fleetwood herself and assessing what her return would mean for the group.
“Luckily Stevie was Die I’m coming back along with the rest of the band,” she told the Arts Desk.
In 2015, a year after rejoining Fleetwood Mac, McVie hit the road with her bandmates. Touring with the group was exhausting but fun, the first time they had performed together in years.
“I’m only here for Stevie,” she told the New Yorker that year.
Nicks agreed, “As we went on tour, I realized what an amazing friend she was that I had lost and I didn’t realize the full consequences until now,” she told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 2015 .
During that tour, McVie wore a silver chain that Nicks had given her – a “metaphor,” McVie told the New Yorker, “that the band’s chain will never break. At least not by me. Not from me again.”
McVie told the Arts Desk in 2016 that she and Nicks “are better friends now than[they]were 16 years ago.”
The tour with Buckingham and Fleetwood could quickly become turbulent for Nicks because of their history together, McVie said. “But having me in there gave Stevie a chance to catch her breath and not have this constant thing with Lindsey: her sister was back,” she said.
Their mutual praise continued: In 2019, McVie said Nicks was “just amazing” on stage: “The more I see them perform on stage, the better I think they are. She’s holding the fort.”
However, when their 2018-2019 tour ended — without Buckingham, who was fired — “the band kind of fell apart,” McVie told Rolling Stone earlier this year. She added that she didn’t speak to Nicks as often as she does on tours together.
As for a reunion, McVie told Rolling Stone that while it wasn’t off the table, she didn’t feel “physically ready for it.”
“I’m getting a bit old here,” she said. “I am very happy to be at home. I don’t know if I ever want to tour again. It’s bloody hard work.”
News of McVie’s death devastated Nicks, who wrote that she had found out only days before that McVie was ill. She called McVie her “best friend in the whole world since day one of 1975.”
On her social media accounts, Nicks shared a handwritten note with lyrics from the Haim song “Hallelujah,” some of which talk about grief and the loss of a best friend.
“See you on the other side my love,” Nicks wrote. “Don’t forget me – Always, Stevie.”