As the sultry high priestess of the classic 1970s rock group Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks was a true rock goddess. With her blonde hair, flowing chiffon dresses, and platform boots, Nicks appeared to float whenever she performed on stage. Yet underneath her ethereal style was an accomplished artist who wrote and performed unforgettable songs such as "Landslide" (1975), "Edge of Seventeen" (1981) and "Stand Back" (1983). As a solo artist and with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks enjoyed an impressive career that including selling millions of albums worldwide and influencing many artists from all musical genres. Yet the Grammy Award-winning artist was also the embodiment of a decade synonymous with drugs, free love, and raging excess. Her tumultuous and enduring love-hate affair with Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham was heavily played out in the media, and immortalized in such singles as "Go Your Own Way" and "Dreams" from the band's monster hit album Rumours (1977). After she recovered from her drug addictions, Nicks revitalized her career with critically acclaimed albums like Trouble in Shangri-La (2001) and In Your Dreams (2011), sold-out performances and collaborations with other renowned artists, and highly regarded reunion tours with Fleetwood Mac. Throughout her decades-long career, Nicks continued to mesmerize with her heartfelt, timeless lyrics and emotional performances that made her one of rock music's most influential and legendary icons.
Stephanie Lynn Nicks was born on May 26, 1948 in Phoenix, AZ. Her interest in music began at age four, when she started to sing duets with her grandfather, a country music singer. Due to her father's job as an executive in the food industry, the family moved frequently, settling in Albuquerque, NM; Salt Lake City, UT; and in Los Angeles and San Francisco. At age 16, using the guitar that she had received as a birthday gift, Nicks wrote her first song, "I've Loved and Lost, and I'm Sad but Not Blue." During her senior year at Menlo-Atherton High School in the Bay Area, Nicks met her future long-time music collaborator and romantic partner, Lindsey Buckingham. They met at a religious meeting where she sang harmony with Buckingham as he played The Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreaming" (1965). The two did not see each other again until two years later, when Buckingham asked Nicks to join his band, Fritz. Both Nicks and Buckingham were attending San Jose State University in Northern California. They dropped out of college in 1968 and began opening for big-time musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. They also began dating, which did not bode well for the other band members who were already uneasy with all the attention that the comely Nicks was receiving from fans.
After Fritz disbanded in 1972, Nicks and Buckingham continued writing and producing songs together. They secured a contract with Polydor Records and released the album Buckingham Nicks (1973), a collection of blues and rock songs that showcased Buckingham's distinctive guitar work and Nicks' engaging vocals. But the album flopped and Polydor dropped the duo from their label, much to their mutual despair. To make ends meet, Nicks worked a variety of jobs including waiting tables and cleaning music producer Keith Olsen's house, where she and Buckingham lived for some time. In late 1974, the duo joined the heretofore strictly British blues band, Fleetwood Mac, a move that forever changed their personal and professional lives forever. The group's drummer Mick Fleetwood reportedly extended the invitation only to Buckingham, but later included Nicks when Buckingham insisted that they were a "package deal." In 1975, the band became rock superstars after the release of their first album as a collective group, Fleetwood Mac, which spawned the hit singles "Over My Head," "Landslide," "Say You Love Me," and "Rhiannon," a song inspired by a mystical witch whom Nicks had read about in a novel.
Mysticism would, in fact, influence not only Nicks' music, but her signature fashion style as well. She perfected the bohemian goddess look with billowing chiffon skirts and lace shawls and capes. Her shawls eventually became associated with some of her live performances such as gold for "Gold Dust Woman" (1977) and white for "Edge of Seventeen." Her 6-inch platform boots were another fashion statement for the rocker, who stood at just 5'1. She always decorated her microphone and tambourine with feminine touches like ribbons, roses and crystal beads. In the early 1990s, Nicks added black top hats decorated with giant plumes as part of her trademark style. Her mystical, gypsy-like image sparked rumors that she was a witch and was into Wicca. While the singer made it no secret that she believed in mysticism, angels, and spirituality, she denied rumors that she belonged to any one religion.
Shortly after the release of the album Fleetwood Mac, Nicks and Buckingham's volatile relationship unraveled. The couple often tangled because of clashing personalities; Buckingham was reportedly hot-tempered and had fits of jealousy while Nicks was perpetually cool and philosophical. In spite of their differences, the couple's love for each other was passionate and enduring. Their love-hate affair fueled their music, particularly the songs from Fleetwood Mac's second album Rumours (1977), which sold more than 40 million copies worldwide and was one of the Top 10 best-selling albums of all time; the No. 1 album of all time for six years, before Michael Jackson's 1982 Thriller out sold it. Rumours also won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1978.
Ironically, the album was produced at a time when the band members were amidst break-ups and divorces between its members, most notably the relationship between vocalist Nicks and guitarist-vocalist Buckingham, but also the vocalist-keyboardist Christine McVie and bass player John McVie. For years, fans remained intrigued by the meanings behind songs from the album like "Go Your Own Way," "Dreams," and "Silver Springs," believing that the songs' lyrics reflected the couple's anger and disillusionment stemming from their shattered relationships. Decades after Nicks and Buckingham's relationship ended, many speculated that both singers continued to write songs that were meant for each other. In many interviews post-breakup, Nicks often referred to Buckingham, who was already married with children, as her "great musical love." Even in Nicks' solo album In Your Dreams (2011), her "spiritual connection" to Buckingham reportedly inspired the songs "Everybody Loves You," "Moonlight (A Vampire's Dream)," and "Soldier's Angel."
Nicks also courted controversy as a result of her other failed celebrity relationships. In late 1977, after breaking up with Buckingham, she secretly dated band member Mick Fleetwood, who was still married. While brief, their affair caused the rift between the band members to grow even wider. Nicks and Fleetwood eventually ended the affair to prevent the band from disintegrating. She dated record executive Jimmy Iovine and two members of the band Eagles, Don Henley and Joe Walsh, who Nicks reportedly described as "the great, great love of my life." During her romance with Walsh, they were reportedly so hooked on drugs that their only chance of survival was to split up. In January 1983, Nicks married Kim Anderson, the widower of her friend Robin Anderson, who died of leukemia. Of their odd union, Nicks later explained that she and Anderson agreed to marry to help them deal with their grief over her friend's death. Aside from taking a toll on her relationships, drugs - specifically cocaine - also limited her vocal range and pitch, giving her voice a raspy nasal quality that started becoming noticeable in her later albums.
Amidst all her personal turmoil, music remained an integral part of Nicks' life. Her career with Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist collectively produced more than 40 Top 50 hit singles and sold more than 140 million albums worldwide. After a critically mixed reception to the Mac's third, hotly-anticipated album Tusk (1979), Nicks released her debut solo album Bella Donna (1981), featuring the chart-topping duet with Tom Petty, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," to critical and commercial acclaim. After rejoining the Mac for their fourth album together, "Mirage" (1982), and recording her follow-up solo album The Wild Heart (1983), which yielded the hit single "Stand Back," Nicks knew her drug usage was getting out of control. For over a decade, she had reportedly spent more than a million dollars on cocaine, which eventually burned a hole the size of a nickel in her septum. In 1986, she sought treatment at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, CA and was prescribed the tranquilizer Klonopin to avoid a relapse. While on Klonopin, Nicks gained about 30 pounds and saw her self-esteem plummet under the powerful pharmaceutical. In fact, she all but phoned it in on the Mac's next album, "Tango in the Night" (1987). Buckingham was so frustrated with - not only his ex's near-comatose condition - but the amount of work he was putting in as a producer and leading force in a band filled with alcoholics and addicts, that he quit the band right before a major tour. To say this wreaked further havoc on Nicks and Buckingham's already tenuous working relationship was an understatement.
In 1993, she checked herself into a hospital for detox, which nearly killed her, but she was determined to save her own life. By 1994, Nicks was reportedly off drugs completely and was back to her normal weight. In 1997, after years of being out of the spotlight while in recovery for her addictions, she joined Fleetwood Mac on tour for the first time in years to kick off the release of their live reunion album, The Dance. Nicks' passionate delivery of "Silver Springs" - her dramatic ode to a love affair gone wrong - to Buckingham during the VH1 reunion special (1997) became one of the most riveting moments in live performance television history. In 1998, Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Countless artists from all music genres continued to cover her songs and cite Nicks as an inspiration, including Courtney Love, Sheryl Crow, Tori Amos, and Taylor Swift.
In 2001, Nicks released Trouble in Shangri-La, a critically and commercially successful endeavor that revived Nicks' career. Bolstered by the songs "Every Day" and "Planets of the Universe," as well as strong collaborations with contemporary artists like Natalie Maines, Sarah MacLachlan, Macy Gray and Crow, the album shot up to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Dance and Club chart. That same year, Nicks was named "Artist of the Month" by VH1 and she was also included on People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" list. With her career back on track, Nicks indulged her fans with her sultry vocals and exuberant performances by going back on the road, which included a multi-show tour with Don Henley in 2005, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in the summer of 2006, and Chris Isaak in May 2007. During the Unleashed Tour with Fleetwood Mac in 2009, fans saw Nicks and Buckingham performing some of the band's classic hits with the same passion and intensity that they used to display on stage, but without the drama this time around. She kicked off the release of her 2011 album In Your Dreams with a nationwide tour after collaborating with Eurythmics' guitarist Dave Stewart on the highly anticipated album.