Stevie Nicks was in her early 30s when her father told her she'd never get married.
She had just released her first 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.
PANDEMIC AND WILDFIRE WOES
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. PDT 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.
Despite her distaste for social media, Nicks has gone viral a few times in recent months. Last week, the internet discovered a video in which a man 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 female to be inducted twice into the Rock & 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.
With the exception of a decadelong hiatus to focus on his solo career in the '90s, however, Buckingham remained with Fleetwood Mac until January 2018, when he claims he was unceremoniously let go. Together, they'd made an indelible mark on music history. Hits like "Dreams," "Rhiannon," "Landslide," "The Chain" and "Gypsy" are now rock canon. 1977's "Rumours" was No. 1 in the U.S. for 31 weeks, and subsequent tours over the decades showcased not just an incomparable baby-boomer songbook but the scars left from the band's never-ending soap operas — Buckingham and Nicks frequently shot eye daggers at each other in front of packed stadiums during renditions of breakup anthems like "Go Your Own Way" and "Silver Springs."
When Buckingham was axed from the group, he was replaced by Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Crowded House's Neil Finn.
Nicks is reluctant to discuss the details and there's melancholy in her voice when she discusses the split, which she describes as a "long time coming."
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."
"This is the show where you get to meet this girl, finally," says guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who served as the tour's musical director and has known Nicks since 1970. "She can relax and work her own rhythm. It's a joy to see her get into her own songs instead of fighting to get her due in a band where there are three really strong songwriters."
Nicks was very specific when it came to editing the concert film. In the editing suite with Thomas, she insisted that "dorky" over usage of the phrase "like" be excised and was exacting when it came to the way she looked.
"She is so particular — and God bless her for that," says Thomas. "I mean, Stevie has the best skin I've ever seen — she should have her own cosmetic line. You sit there and you go, 'People over 65 would love to look this good.' And then she gives you a look that could fry your eyeballs."
Nicks cares about her appearance and has been on Weight Watchers since 2005. One of the biggest reasons she wants to stay in shape is because her stage clothes are custom-made, and she says it would be too costly and annoying to have them remade.
She traces the origin of her style — an amalgam of goth hippie, bohemian Californian girl and Victorian priestess — to 1970, when she and Buckingham were still an eponymous duo. Before their show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Nicks saw a woman walk by on the street. She was a vision in mauve and pink, with an edged-out layered skirt, riding jacket and cream-colored platform boots. Her hair was done like a Gibson Girl. And Nicks wanted to be her.
"This girl obviously had some money, because this was not a cheap outfit. It was beautiful, and I went, 'Oh, that's exactly how I want to look,'" she remembers.
"Show Them the Way," due Oct. 9, was born out of a dream Nicks had in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. In it, she was invited to perform at a political benefit for icons of history. Martin Luther King Jr. led her by the arm into a ballroom where John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and John Lewis were seated, awaiting her. The dream was so vivid that the instant she awoke, she wrote it down and within days, put it to music.
But it was only this year that she decided to record it for release — viewing it as a hopeful balm during this "very strange and dangerous time." And though she expresses displeasure with the current political landscape, she stops short of endorsing any candidate.
"As we get closer to the election, I probably will state who I am for," she says. "But not now. Well — I'm not for Trump, so that's that."