The moonlight confessions of Stevie Nicks
By AMY KAUFMAN - LA Times
Stevie Nicks was in her early 30s when her father told her she’d never get married.
She had just released her solo album, 1981’s “Bella Donna,” embarking on a second career that would fill any time she wasn’t spending with Fleetwood Mac. Her music, Nicks’ dad said, would always consume her.
She considered the possibility. She certainly was not a woman who liked to be told what to do. Still, the words stung: “No man would be happy being Mr. Stevie Nicks for very long.” Had he doomed her to a life of solitude simply by speaking the thought into existence?
“Nobody,” she laughs now, decades later, “dooms me to anything but myself.”
At 72, Nicks has had a few great loves. Some we know about — Lindsey Buckingham, Don Henley, JD Souther — and many we don’t. She did get married once, back in 1983, an ill-fated three-month relationship with the husband of her best friend, who had just died of leukemia. She would have considered taking another spouse, had she met the right person — someone who wasn’t jealous of her, who got a kick out of her crazy girlfriends. But ultimately, her father pretty much got it right: She has yet to feel more devoted toward a man than her muse.
Which is why, in part, this pandemic has hit her so hard. Two projects due out this month have, she says, offered a vestige of normalcy: “24 Karat Gold: The Concert,” a cinematic version of her 2017 solo show, and a politically minded new single, “Show Them the Way,” which will be accompanied by a Cameron Crowe-directed music video. She’s also decided that she wants to make another solo album and plans to spend the rest of quarantine turning the poetry from her journals into lyrics.
But with touring on hold, she’s bored and depressed, conditions she’s claimed to never before suffer from. She’s cripplingly afraid of catching the coronavirus, fearing that going on a ventilator would leave her hoarse and ruin her voice.
“I have put a magical shield around me, because I am not going to give up the last eight years — what I call my last youthful years — of doing this,” she vows. “I want to be able to pull up those black velvet platform boots and put on my black chiffon outfit and twirl onto a stage again.”
It’s 9 p.m. on a Saturday when Nicks first calls from her home in the Pacific Palisades, where she has been sequestered with a close friend, her assistant and her housekeeper.
She has always been a night owl, but has recently become nocturnal, typically going to bed around 8 a.m. She attributes the change in her sleep pattern to the news, which she says she watches constantly. Usually, she likes to open the French doors to her bedroom, but tonight it’s dark outside because of the wildfires — “and not like, foggy, romantic dark. It’s just weird dark.” The smoke and ash in the air triggers her asthma, so she is not even venturing into her backyard.
Nicks is speaking from a landline. She has a personal line that she dances around when it rings, wondering “Who could it be? Is this a two-hour call? Is this going to be a tragedy?” and an emergency line to which her assistant attends. She does not have a computer. She does have an iPhone, but it doesn’t have cellular service and she uses it only as a camera.
Despite her distaste for social media, Nicks has gone viral a few times in recent months. Earlier this week, the internet discovered a TikTok video in which “doggface208" skateboards while singing along to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” swigging from a container of cran-raspberry juice and generally living his best life.
After the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Nicks paid tribute to the Supreme Court justice, admitting her into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Life.” (Nicks is the only woman to be inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, first with Fleetwood Mac in 1998 and then on her own in 2019.) The reactions to the RBG post were largely positive, but she saw one comment that ignored her sentiment entirely and instead lambasted her for her band’s interpersonal drama.
“They didn’t even care about what I had written about Ruth and went right to the breakup of Fleetwood Mac and Lindsey Buckingham,” she says. “I was like, ‘We’re talking about the death of a great Supreme Court judge, and you are yelling at me about something that happened two-and-a-half years ago? What are you, insane?’ I’m reeling from it. But I’m also like, OK: I can never be on social media.”
Nicks’ troll was referring to the highly publicized 2018 firing of Buckingham, who joined Fleetwood Mac as a lead guitarist and vocalist alongside then-girlfriend Nicks in 1974. The group’s tumult is the stuff of music legend: After ending her on-off again relationship with Buckingham, in 1977 Nicks had a brief affair with then-married drummer Mick Fleetwood. Singer Christine McVie, meanwhile, was in the midst of her own clandestine relationship with the band’s lighting director, ultimately leading to her divorce from bassist John McVie.
When Buckingham was axed from the group, he sued for lost wages — claiming he would have collected between $12 million and $14 million in two months of touring with Fleetwood Mac. (He was replaced by Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Crowded House’s Neil Finn.) In legal documents, Buckingham says his firing came days after the band’s appearance at the January 2018 MusiCares Person of the Year ceremony. He alleges that he was later told that Nicks thought he’d mocked her on stage at the event while she was delivering a speech; she was apparently so upset that she told the rest of Fleetwood Mac she’d walk if he wasn’t cut from the band.
Nicks is reluctant to discuss the details of that night, though she admits it was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“I never planned for that to happen,” she says hesitantly. “Any time we re-formed to do a tour or a record, I always walked in with hope in my heart. And I just was so disappointed. I felt like all the wind had gone out of my sails.”
There’s melancholy in her voice when she discusses the split, which she describes as a “long time coming.” She was always hopeful that “things would get better” but found herself noticing she was increasingly sad with Fleetwood Mac and more at peace in the “good, creative happy world” with her solo band.
“I just felt like a dying flower all the time,” she says. “I stayed with him from 1968 until that night. It’s a long time. And I really could hear my parents — I could hear my mom saying, ‘Are you really gonna do this for the rest of your life?’ And I could hear my dad saying in his very pragmatic way — because my dad really liked Lindsey —‘I think it’s time for you and Lindsey to get a divorce.’ It’s a very unfortunate thing. It makes me very, very sad.”
She says she hasn’t spoken to Buckingham in a couple of years, though she did write him a note after his February 2019 heart attack: “You better take care of yourself. You better take it easy and you better do everything they tell you and get your voice back and feel the grace that you have made it through this.”
Nicks has cataloged the ups and downs of her life in journals — she estimates she has roughly one per year of her life — and she plans to leave many of them to her goddaughters, of whom she has 11 or 12; she can’t be certain. She chose most of her goddaughters at birth — asking their parents if she could fulfill the role — and relishes the way they keep her “totally young and up on everything.” She loves to spoil them all with gifts imbued with meaning, like a pair of pink strappy heels she found at a store in Australia and deemed “Cinderella slippers.”
Tokens are important to Nicks. In 1977, she began having gold moon necklaces made to give as gifts to those she felt needed them. Over the years, she’s bestowed them to celebrities (the Haim sisters, Taylor Swift, Tavi Gevinson), soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Make-a-Wish recipients. Members of the coven — her “Sisters of the Moon” — are told the moons are lucky charms and to pass them along to another in need, should the moment arise.
Nicks is wearing the signature necklace in “24 Karat Gold,” the concert special slated to play in theaters for two nights only, Oct. 21 and 25. (A CD version comes out Oct. 30; streaming plans for the film have yet to be determined.)
In May, Nicks flew to Chicago, where Joe Thomas, the film’s director, was finessing a cut of it. The final version features 17 songs, only four of which are Fleetwood Mac hits. The show emphasizes Nicks’ solo career — MTV standards like “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” “Stand Back” and “Edge of Seventeen.” Performing music from her “dark, gothic trunk of lost songs,” she tells the audience, makes her feel like she’s a 20-year-old embarking on a new career. “This is not the same Stevie Nicks show you’ve seen a million times,” she explains, “because I am different.”