Stevie Nicks’ 20 Greatest Songs

MOJO charts the Fleetwood Mac singer’s romantic rollercoaster in 20 of her finest recordings

Stevie Nicks 1985

by MOJO |
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Few artists have captured the tempestuous magic of the heart like MOJO's current cover star Stevie Nicks. From her pre-Mac days with Lindsey Buckingham, through the stellar peaks of Fleetwood Macand her solo career, right up to a recent collaboration with modern-day heir Lana Del Rey, MOJO maps out Nicks’ journey via 20 of her greatest love songs…

READ MORE: Stevie Nicks: “Without Christine there is no chance of putting Fleetwood Mac back together.”

Crying In The Night

(Buckingham Nicks, Buckingham Nicks, Polydor, 1973)

Resurrected by Nicks on her 2016 tour, this song ostensibly warns against a heartbreaker and her wiles. There are indications, however, that Nicks is rooting for this “tarnished pearl”; a jubilation in her phrasing, a languid pleasure at the prospect of this emotional wrecking ball being “back in town”. Cry harder.

Frozen Love

(Buckingham Nicks, Buckingham Nicks, Polydor, 1973)

Fortuitously, Lindsey and Stevie already sounded like FM before they joined. Lo, an obvious shore-up shoo-in when Mick Fleetwood heard this shape-shifting, proggy blend of folk blues, dazzling AOR harmonies and feral lead guitar. The precocious holy grail of the Mac’s most combustible couple. Helpfully, Jim Keltner drummed.

Rhiannon

(Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac, Reprise, 1975)

Essayed live by Buckingham Nicks as a pacy rocker, with FM this was far dreamier and hypnotically groovy, blueprinting Nicks’ atmospheric contributions to the group. Re: the titular Rhiannon. Nicks wasn’t aware at the time of the mythic Welsh figure; instead, she was inspired by the witchy presence in Mary Leader’s spooky 1972 novel Triad.

Silver Springs

(Fleetwood Mac, B-side to Go Your Own Way, Warner Bros., 1976)

“You will never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you,” Nicks vows in the final minute of her Buckingham break-up tirade, shouting her bandmate down. Inspired by a Maryland road sign, this vengeful beauty mightily traces what could have been irrevocably soured into what would never be.

Dreams

(Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, Warner Bros., 1977)

Written by Nicks in “10 minutes”, Fleetwood Mac’s only US Number 1 is delivered as both blessing and curse. She fluently controls the break-up narrative, coolly suggesting she’s achieved enlightenment quicker than her former lover. The spare ‘Take 2’ on the album’s 2013 deluxe reissue underlines her vocal power, particularly on “What you had/ And what you lost”.

Gold Dust Woman

(Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, Warner Bros., 1977)

Appropriating the name of Gold Dust Lane, Wickenburg, in her native Arizona, Nicks wove a narrative that was the story of Rumours in essence: broken hearts, too much cocaine. Originating as a folk song, it became something altogether darker and more soulful, Nicks writing in third person to distance herself from direct confession.

I Don’t Want To Know

(Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, Warner Bros., 1977)

The Buckingham Nicks throwback that replaced the more harrowing Silver Springs on Rumours, this country-cousin showdown isn’t yet so mired in bitter recrimination that it can’t enjoy the fight. From the deceptively laconic Sweet Jane intro onwards, Nicks maintains flashing June-and-Johnny eye contact, kindling an on-off passion until sparks fly.

Sara

(Fleetwood Mac, Tusk, Warner Bros., 1979)

A six-minute epic forgivingly directed at her friend Sara Recor, the cause of Nicks’ break-up with Mick Fleetwood. Sara was also the name the singer imagined for the child she might have had with the Eagles’ Don Henley (had she not elected for a termination), making the lines “There’s a heartbeat/And it never really died” all the more poignant.

Edge Of Seventeen

(Stevie Nicks, Bella Donna, Modern/ Atco, 1981)

Part-born of a misheard conversation (the speaker – Tom Petty’s wife Jane – had said ‘age’ not ‘edge’), this is ostensibly one hook thrillingly elongated via Nicks’ gutsy, intense, fully lived-in vocal. The deaths of a close uncle and John Lennon had left her raw; the song’s “white winged dove” symbolised the soul’s transit beyond.

Leather And Lace

(Stevie Nicks, Bella Donna, Modern/ Atco, 1981)

Nicks originally wrote country-fringed duet Leather And Lace for husband-and wife duo Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter. The pair took the title for their debut LP, but inexplicably passed on the song. Not one to let a great song go to waste – or overly bothered by any in-studio awkwardness from working with an ex – she recorded it with former squeeze Don Henley, bagging a US Top 10 hit in the process.

Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around

(Stevie Nicks, Bella Donna, Modern/ Atco, 1981)

Nicks’ early solo-career collaborations seemed a pointed ‘See? I don’t need you’ caution to her Mac confrères. Sultry and enraged by turns, this song awakened Nicks’ inner Janis Joplin/Grace Slick, her phrasing exquisite. Duetting with Tom Petty, she rejuvenated a song The Heartbreakers had mothballed, taking it to Number 3 in the US.

Gypsy

(Fleetwood Mac, Mirage, Warner Bros., 1982)

Gypsy shuns Nicks’ often abstract lyricism for a more straightforward narrative. Here, superstar Stevie pines for “The Velvet Underground” – a San Francisco boutique where she’d window shop for clothes she couldn’t afford – and “back to the floor” where she and Buckingham slept on a mattress, over a nursery rhyme-simple melody and chorus.

I Will Run To You

(Stevie Nicks, The Wild Heart, Modern, 1983)

Harmonies were key for Nicks in Fleetwood Mac, but this song – written by Tom Petty and played by his Heartbreakers – underlines how intuitive and idiosyncratic her sense for them was. After taking the second verse herself, Nicks flits in and out of the third, bending and stretching lines to afford this duet its desperate devotion.

Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You?

(Stevie Nicks, Rock A Little, Modern, 1985)

“The most committed song I ever wrote,” said Nicks of a Keith Olsen co-written piano ballad inspired by the death of then-amour Joe Walsh’s three-year-old daughter. A harrowing yet comforting declaration of love (“If it’s all I ever do, this is your song”), all the more powerful for Nicks’ vocal restraint.

Rooms On Fire

(Stevie Nicks, The Other Side Of The Mirror, Modern, 1989)

A love song to its producer Rupert Hine, this was not Nicks’ first to giddily testify to the magic and fire of connection whilst fearing its impermanence, but Rooms On Fire proved she could equal her greatest Mac efforts, faintly echoing Sara’s golden chords with an equally seamless groove that glides from simmering verse to elevated chorus.

Landslide

(Fleetwood Mac, The Dance, Reprise, 1997)

When Nicks cut Landslide for Fleetwood Mac weeks after joining, she was 26. Poor, tired, and doubtful, she’d penned it staring at Aspen’s avalanche-prone peaks as Buckingham toured with Don Everly. If her questions of maintaining faith in art and love first felt premature, they were hard-won and real on this ’97 live LP, with Nicks at 50’s edge, age having added wisdom and grain.

Sorcerer

(Stevie Nicks, Trouble In Shangri-La, Reprise, 2001)

Written in the Buckingham Nicks era, gifted to Marilyn Martin for 1984’s Streets Of Fire soundtrack (Nicks sang backing vocals), Nicks didn’t tackle Sorcerer herself until 2001. Co-producer Sheryl Crow gives it a rock hue, but it’s Nicks at her most cynical and vocally focused. Why did she leave it so long?

Say You Will

(Fleetwood Mac, Say You Will, Reprise, 2003)

Rather jaunty by late-period Mac standards and given an unlikely coda by children’s voices (Nicks’ niece, John McVie’s daughter), it’s an impeccable plea – more confident than desperate – for another shot at a relationship (“if I can get you to dance”), with Buckingham or, perhaps, the recently departed Christine McVie.

Annabel Lee

(Stevie Nicks, In Your Dreams, Reprise, 2011)

From an album that played up her role as Queen of Mysticism, Nicks took on – and embellished – King of Fatalism Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, whose titular heroine’s premature death inspired endless, yearning grief. Another paean, then, to love’s evanescence, with Nicks’ seasoned vocal melody locating the sweetest spot between English folk and American AOR.

Beautiful People Beautiful Problems

(Lana Del Rey, Lust For Life, Polydor, 2017)

Alongside Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey is the obvious modern-day heir to Nicks’ heart-bruised crown, if not more so. Indeed, Nicks had declared Del Rey her “witchy sister”. Taken from LDR’s 2017 album _Lust For Life_this ballad sees Nicks playing the wiser, older sibling. “My heart is soft, my past is rough,” she sings to her younger counterpart, a lyric so spot-on it could have been one of her own.

Compiled by: John Aizlewood, Martin Aston, Grayson Haver Currin, Tom Doyle, James McNair, Victoria Segal

“Rumours was a lot to experience – and all happened very fast. In a way, it still seems sort of unreal…” In a rare interview, Stevie Nicks speaks exclusively to MOJO about her rollercoaster ride in rock ‘n’ roll, from her first musical excursions, the wild success of Fleetwood Mac, solo stardom, fallen friends, Barbie and more. Read the full interview only in the latest issue of MOJO. More info and to order a copy HERE!

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Main photo: Getty

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