Stevie Nicks is one of the most recognizable and talented American singer/songwriters alive today. Her distinctive voice, poetic song lyrics, and unique personal style have captivated fans for decades. Let’s take a look at some rare and vintage photos of the woman who Rolling Stone calls “the Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll.” We’ll also learn some facts about her life, her time with Fleetwood Mac, and her solo career.
She Loved Music From An Early Age
Stephanie Lynn Nicks has always had an interest in music, fostered by her grandfather Aaron Nicks, who performed country and western music in local clubs. He would bring the future rock icon to sing duets with him starting when she was only four or five years old.
Later, when Stevie was in grade school, he would make plans to take her on tour, a plan that was quickly nixed by her protective mother.
When young Stephanie Lynn Nicks was still learning to talk, she was unable to pronounce her first name and simply went by, “Tee-dee.” This eventually turned into “Stevie,” the stage name that she still uses to this day.
She even goes by “Stevie” in her acting roles, playing herself as a recurring character, “The White Witch,” on the television series American Horror Story. This picture was taken during a 1978 performance.
She And Lindsey Buckingham Were High School Sweethearts
One of the most famous songwriting couples in the world, Stevie Nicks’ relationship with Lindsey Buckingham was born out of playing music. They were high school sweethearts who met when Nicks saw Buckingham playing “California Dreamin'” during an after school Christian youth-club meeting and she jumped in to harmonize.
Soon, their band “Fritz” was opening for psychedelic rock icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, both of whom Nicks credits as major influences on her style.
Fascination With Dogs
Nicks is a lifelong dog-lover. One of her first dogs was an Afghan named “Branwen” after a character in a novel who was the sister of another character, “Rhiannon.” Her poodle Ginny was her constant companion during the recording of Rumours.
A Chinese Crested Yorkshire Terrier named “Sulamith Wulfing” was her longest surviving pup and she even had mini shawls and dresses created to match her owner’s. Stevie’s latest dog is another Chinese Crested named “Lilly.”
“I Want To Be A Star, I Don’t Want To Be A Cleaning Lady”
In the early seventies Nicks and boyfriend/songwriting partner, Lindsey Buckingham, were still unknown to the pop-music world. They had released one album, Buckingham Nicks, but commercial success was elusive and they were dropped by their record label. To make matters worse, Buckingham came down with a bad case of mononucleosis, leaving Stevie as the sole breadwinner for a time.
She waited tables and cleaned houses for a while, a situation which may have inspired the spoken quip on an early demo of her song “Sara,” where she is heard to say, “I want to be a star, I don’t want to be a cleaning lady.” This photo was taken circa 1974.
Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac on New Year’s Eve, 1974, along with Lindsey Buckingham, her songwriting partner and boyfriend. One of her first songwriting contributions to the newly updated line-up was “Rhiannon,” a song that, according to Nicks, was about “an old Welsh witch.”
Early live performances of the song included an extended musical crescendo during which her vocalizations and wild movements were described by bandmate Mick Fleetwood as “an exorcism.” This studio photo was taken in 1975.
Rumours Was A Massive Hit
Released in 1977, the album Rumours contains some of Nicks’ most memorable compositions. “Dreams,” “The Chain,” and “Gold Dust Woman” were all major hits for Fleetwood Mac. The ensuing tour to promote the album cemented the band’s reputation for electrifying live shows as well for a non-stop backstage excess.
As a result of the success of the album and tour, Nicks purchased two large homes, one in Phoenix, Arizona, and another located just above Sunset Boulevard dubbed, appropriately enough, “Fantasy Land.”
Christine And Stevie On A Tour Bus
As the two lead female voices in Fleetwood Mac, Nicks and bandmate Christine McVie shared a special bond. McVie was married to bass player John McVie (who contributed the “Mac” part of the band’s name) and had already been recording and touring for over half a decade when Nicks joined.
Stevie used to call her “Mother Earth,” as she filled in the role of mentor and provided a grounding influence for the famously eccentric artist. Not that McVie didn’t have her share of fun: “I once threw a cake out the window which landed on top of a taxi.” Here they are on a tour bus in 1976.
Stevie Nicks’ solo album, The Wild Heart, debuted in 1983, following a year of great personal highs and lows for the songwriter. After losing her best friend Robin Anderson to cancer, Nicks married Anderson’s widower, hoping to help raise their new son. One of the standout songs on the album is “Stand Back,” which was initially written in the car on her wedding day as she sang along to “Little Red Corvette” by Prince.
She later called Prince to tell him about her inspiration and he immediately came to the studio and recorded the famous synthesizer parts. Although not credited in the liner notes, Prince and Nicks split the royalties for the song in half.
Stevie is known for being an expressive dancer on stage, but the party doesn’t end there. During the recording sessions for her first album with Fleetwood Mac, she would dance nearly non-stop, as if she was possessed by the music, even as the other members were performing overdubs and other monotonous studio work.
As recording engineer Ken Caillat recalled, “She believed she had magical powers. She probably thought she was chanting up a good mix.”
A self-diagnosed insomniac, Nicks decided to use all of her late-night free time to learn photography. An early pioneer of the selfie, she developed her dreamlike style by documenting her private moments backstage and in hotel rooms while on tour. Her tool of choice was the Polaroid camera armed with a wired remote control.
She eventually released many of her never-before-seen portraits in an art exhibition, “24 Karat Gold,” curated by fellow musician Dave Stewart from eighties pop powerhouse, the Eurythmics. Here she is backstage at a concert in Los Angeles in 1985.
The Excess Of The ’70s
Mick Fleetwood was blown away by Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar playing on his and Nicks’ debut album, Buckingham Nicks, and jumped at the chance to fill the spot recently vacated by the former Mac guitarist, Bob Welch.
At the band’s first official meeting with the newest members of the group, Stevie had just gotten off work from her restaurant job where she was required to dress as a flapper from the 1920s. In a true show of seventies rock excess, the rest of the band arrived in a pair of white Cadillacs.
“Sara, You’re The Poet In My Heart”
Described by Nicks as her favorite song, “Sara,” from the 1979 album Tusk, was originally 16 minutes long, with many of the original verses edited out to suit the time limitations of an LP. Much speculation on the meaning of the lyrics has been written throughout the years, with Nicks seeming to confirm them all.
This lyrical collage touches on her relationship with Mick Fleetwood, Fleetwood’s future wife, Sara Recor, as well as Nicks’ unborn child with Don Henley of the Eagles. “If I ever have a little girl I will name her Sara,” Stevie said.
She Has A “Shawl Vault” For All Her Stage Costumes
Stevie Nicks is known for her unique style which often includes one of her custom shawls. During her live shows, she will often change shawls depending on what song is being performed.
“Rhiannon,” “Gold Dust Woman,” and “Edge of Seventeen” are just a handful of the songs that have an associated cover-up. She even has a massive, temperature-controlled “shawl vault” where the wraps are preserved when she is not on the road.
A Touching Tribute From Tom Petty
On her album, “Bella Donna,” Nicks asserted herself as a powerful solo performer, stepping outside of the massive shadow of Fleetwood Mac’s success. The album’s first hit single, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” was the only track not written by Nicks. It was written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell with the music performed by the Heartbreakers.
Not long before his death, Petty was quoted as saying, “some of my best musical memories of her are sitting on the couch and just playing the guitar while she sings.” This photo was taken on September 18, 1981, in Irvine, California.
She Could Be A Distraction In The Studio
Despite writing Fleetwood Mac’s only number one Billboard hit, “Dreams,” Nicks was often seen as an irritation in the recording studio by her partner, Lindsey Buckingham, a notoriously ill-tempered perfectionist.
This was only compounded by what the rest of the band noted was her nearly effortless ability to write good songs. Ken Caillat, the band’s engineer, was quoted as saying, “she only knew about three chords, and she could make 30 songs out of them.”
The Tambourine Is An Accessory
Stevie is often seen onstage playing tambourine, but it’s really just a fashion accessory and is muted with gaffer tape. Usually adorned with ribbons, it fit in perfectly with her gypsy-inspired style and gave her something to do with her hands during long instrumental jams.
When she handed her tambourine off to Bill Clinton as Fleetwood Mac played his 1993 inauguration ball, the president appeared confused when he was unable to produce any sound from it.
After the success of the Rumours album, Fleetwood Mac’s record company, Warner Bros., was eager to get the band back in the studio to record more hits. Tusk was the resulting double album. The level of experimentation musically (as well as narcotically) during the recording sessions for Tusk is legendary.
At the time of its release, it was estimated to be the most expensive rock and roll record ever made. Despite critical adoration and album sales of over four million, it was considered a failure by Warner Bros. simply by comparison to its predecessor.
Being In Fleetwood Mac Kept Her Ego In Check
In 1997, Nicks sat down with Spin to discuss her career. “I think if I had just done my solo career and had been able just to be me, I probably would’ve been more ego’d out than I was,” she admitted.
“Being in a group of five really does keep your ego in place. It’s not as easy to get totally conceited when you’re in a band.” This group shot is from 1975.
Stevie Is A Mystic
Nicks’ strong spiritual side comes through in her music and lyrics and she has always had a firm belief in mysticism and the power of magic. The subject has fascinated her as long as she can remember, due in no small part to her mother’s love of fairy tales.
She also believes that she has had past lives and that at some point she may have been beheaded! “I totally believe in magic. Because my life, I think, has been very magic, and magical things have come true for me time after time after time,” she said.