Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Songwriter and Vocalist with Fleetwood Mac
Currently Known For:
Singer and Songwriter
Songwriter and Vocalist with Fleetwood Mac
“I am pretty fearless, and you know why? Because I don't handle fear very well; I'm not a good terrified person.” Praised as one of the greatest singers of all time, Stevie Nicks earned her place among the industry’s elite after first rising to stardom in the mid-1970s when she joined the British-American rock band known as Fleetwood Mac. Instantly recognizable thanks to her distinctive voice and mystical persona on stage, Nicks enjoyed success with the band and as a solo artist with a total of over 40 top-50 hits and more than 140 million records sold since she first took the stage in 1966.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, Nicks is no stranger to critical acclaim and is considered one of the “100 Greatest Songwriters of all Time” according to Rolling Stone magazine. She’s also earned eight Grammy Award nominations and two American Music Award nominations as a solo artist in addition to a Grammy Award win and five nominations with Fleetwood Mac. Today, the 70-year-old continues to prove she only gets better with time as she recently wrapped up her 2016-17 24 Karat Gold Tour in honor of her latest album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, which she released in 2014. So, how did the rock legend get her start in the industry and what are her plans for the future? Let’s take a closer look at the Fleetwood Mac icon!
“By the time I was five, I was a little diva… I was not going to be a stupid girl singer. I was going to be way more than that.” Stephanie “Stevie” Lynn Nicks came into this world on May 26, 1948 at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona where her father was the former president of Greyhound’s Armour-Dial and her mother was a homemaker. She spent much of her free time with her paternal grandfather, an aspiring country music singer who taught Nicks about music and encouraged her to sing duets with him from as early as four years old. By the age of five, she joined her grandfather on stage performing at gin mills around town.
Because her father’s job required the family to relocate every few years, Nicks spent a lot of time in bustling cities throughout Arizona, California, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas. The family finally settled down in a suburb of Los Angeles, California in 1963, a time when Nicks’ mother grew even more overprotective of her daughter as rock biographer Stephen Davis told Interview magazine.
“Stevie was a very sheltered child. Her mother, Barbara Nicks, kept Stevie at home. She signed Stevie up for a lot of classes, like tap dancing, plays, and drama, but when it was over, Stevie Nicks went home. She always had a circle of best friends. She didn’t have a steady boyfriend until she met Lindsey Buckingham. She says today that she still spends a lot of time alone. She does her best writing when she’s alone and she’s sort of used to it. It’s a typical writer or artist’s upbringing, but surprising in the context of someone who became a rock star.”
Nicks received her first guitar at 16 years old and penned her first song, “I’ve Loved and I’ve Lost, and I’m Sad But Not Blue,” shortly after. “It was my 16th birthday—my mom and dad gave me my Goya classical guitar that day,” Nicks recalled. “I sat down, wrote this song, and I just knew that that was the only thing I could ever really do—write songs and sing them to people.” She immersed herself in music and joined her first band, the Changing Times, at Arcadia High School. She later transferred to Menlo-Atherton High School in Palo Alto where she met a young guitarist and songwriter named Lindsey Buckingham. With their love of music bringing them together, Nicks and Buckingham immediately became friends and, a few years later, lovers.
“I was a senior in high school and Lindsey was a junior,” Nicks recalled of their early relationship. “We went to a Young Life meeting—which was a religious meeting that simply got you out of the house on Wednesday nights—and um, he was there and I was there and we sat down and played ‘California Dreaming.’ I thought he was a darling. I didn’t see him again for two years and he called me up and asked if I wanted to be in a band… and so, I was in the band with him for three and a half years—a band called Fritz.”
After graduating from high school, Nicks enrolled at San Jose State College but academics failed to keep her interest as she dreamed of singing and performing. By this time, her father was transferred to Chicago, which marked the first time Nicks didn’t move with her family. Instead, she stayed behind in California where she joined Buckingham on stage in the psychedelic rock band, Fritz.
Fritz gained momentum over the next three years and opened for bigtime performers like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Despite their minor success, the band later split in 1971. By this time, Nicks and Buckingham were romantically involved and took their relationship to the stage as they wrote and recorded several duets before signing on with Polydor Records in 1972. They released their debut album, Buckingham Nicks, in 1973 but the album failed to make a lasting impression. This forced Nicks to pick up a variety of odd jobs as a waitress, maid, and dental assistant to pay the bills. It’s also when she first started using cocaine, a drug she believed was only recreational and not dangerous at the time.A Change of Luck
“Even in my really bad drugged-out days, I didn’t go away. I still toured, still did interviews. I never gave up the fight. That’s why I am who I am today, because I didn’t leave.” As her dependence on cocaine increased, Nicks caught the biggest break of her career just three months after she penned “Rhiannon” and “Landslide,” the latter of which was inspired by the scenery of Aspen, Colorado and her decision to pursue her music career instead of her relationship with Buckingham. It turns out, the single was exactly what Nicks needed to launch her career as Mick Fleetwood reached out and invited her and Buckingham to join the band in January 1975.
With Nicks’ stellar songwriting skills and iconic voice, Fleetwood Mac achieved worldwide success as Nick’s “Rhiannon” was praised as one of the “Greatest Songs of All Time” by Rolling Stone magazine. Along the way, the band produced a collection of singles that topped charts around the world and generated over three million sales. On stage, Nicks’ memorable performances and mystic onstage persona made her a national celebrity by the time the band released their next album, Rumours, which skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard Top 200 chart in 1977 for 31 straight weeks!
As the band’s popularity grew and Nicks became an icon, her relationship with Buckingham suffered as the two romantically split but continued working together in the band. This pattern followed the duo over the next 40 years as they both remained committed to Fleetwood Mac and passionately tied to making music as biographer Stephen Davis wrote, “They both stayed in Fleetwood Mac and for the next 40 years, Lindsey was contractually obligated to produce Stevie’s songs and make her look good, and he did! He was very bitter about it. If anything makes the pages of Gold Dust Woman turn, it’s this 40-year dilemma of his because he wasn’t happy about it. He would be mean to her, and she would be miserable. I can tell you that the tension between them is still going on…”A Solo Affair
“I knew that in 1981, that me having a solo career would only make Fleetwood Mac better.” In the 1980s, Nicks worked to launch her solo career and made occasional guest appearances with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on their Hard Promises tour before she released her debut solo album, Bella Donna, in July 1981. With the album earning critical acclaim and reaching the top of the Billboard 200 chart, Nicks took her place as rock’s beloved icon with Rolling Stone magazine naming her “The Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll.”
Following the success of Bella Donna, Nicks released her second solo album, The Wild Heart, in June 1983 and enjoyed even greater acclaim over the next few years with The Wild Heart tour and her third album, Rock A Little. Around this time, she also received a huge wakeup call when a plastic surgeon warned her that her growing cocaine addiction was severely risking her health. “He said, ‘Well, I think the next time you do a hit of cocaine, you could drop dead,’” Nicks recalled of the surgeon’s warning. At the time, she was still carrying a gram of cocaine in her boot everywhere she went.
At the end of her Australian tour, Nicks checked herself into the Betty Ford Center and spent 30 days in rehab. Although she doesn’t regret getting clean, Nicks regrets her decision to see a psychiatrist shortly afterward. “I spent two months doing so well but all my business managers and everyone were urging me to go to this guy who was supposedly the darling of the psychiatrists,” she recalled. “That was the guy who put me on Klonopin. This is the man who made me go from 123 pounds to almost 170 pounds at five feet two. He stole eight years of my life… Maybe I would have gotten married, maybe I would have had a baby, maybe I would have made three or four more great albums with Fleetwood Mac. That was the prime of my life and he stole it. And you know why? Because I went along with what everybody else thought.”
Exchanging her cocaine addiction for a severe dependency on Klonopin, Nicks continued to work as a solo artist and sporadically with Fleetwood Mac before she left the band in the early 1990s. Unable to write music and gaining an unhealthy amount of weight, Nicks was often criticized for her performances during this time. Luckily, a fall at her home in 1993 finally led her to get help. She spent 47 days in detox at a local hospital and immediately set to work on her next album, Street Angel, which was poorly received. By the mid-1990s, Nicks reunited with Fleetwood Mac and focused on improving her health as she dropped weight and showed off a slimmer figure at the band’s 1998 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
With her health improving, Nicks spent the next decade working as a solo artist and with the band. She released Trouble in Shangri-La in 2001 and In Your Dreams in 2011 in addition to Say You Will with Fleetwood Mac in 2003. Over the last few years, she’s proven that she only gets better with time after the release of her eighth studio album—24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault—in 2014. The same year, she joined Fleetwood Mac on the road for their North American tour and followed up with the 24 Karat Gold Tour in 2016. So, will the Queen of Rock and Roll ever retire and how does she feel about getting older in the spotlight?
“I’ll never retire. My friend Doug Morris, who’s been president of like every record company said to me once, ‘When you retire, you just get small.’ Stand up straight, put on your heels, and get out there and do stuff. I want to do a miniseries for the stories of Rhiannon and the gods of Wales, which I think would be a fantastic thing, but I don’t have to retire from being a rock star to go and do that. I can fit it all in,” Nicks says. As for aging, the 70-year-old rocker knows that age is only a number and vows to do everything possible to stay youthful. “I see lots of people my age and lots of people who are younger than me and think, ‘Wow, those people look really old.’ I think it’s because they didn’t try,” she says. “I’m never gonna go there… If you want to stay young you have to make an effort… I have to make that happen.” Still taking the stage today, Nicks is certainly keeping her promise and holding onto her title as the “Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll.”