Christine McVie, keyboardist, co-lead singer, and writer of Fleetwood Mac passed away on Wednesday, November 30, 2022 at the age of 79. She was instrumental in the making of many of the band’s greatest hits, and I wanted to take time honoring her.
Joining the blues band Chicken Shack in 1967, Christine Perfect helped the band reach its first minor hit – a cover of the Etta James song I’d Rather Go Blind, a song that Perfect would later rerecord for her eponymous debut solo album. It was on tours with Chicken Shack that Perfect would have multiple run-ins with then blues-rock band Fleetwood Mac. Mac’s founder, Peter Green even asked her to be featured on keyboards on the band’s second album, 1968’s Mr. Wonderful. When working alongside Fleetwood Mac, Perfect grew close to the bassist and the namesake of the Mac part of Fleetwood Mac, John McVie. She would soon marry McVie in 1969, taking his name and leaving Chicken Shack in fears of not seeing each other much when both working in separate bands.
McVie released her debut album, titled Christine Perfect and later retitled to The Legendary Christine Perfect Album following her success in Fleetwood Mac. The album was blues and soft- rock, featuring a mixture of original songs and covers, including one of When You Say from the Fleetwood Mac album Then Play On. After helping with backing vocals and even painting the cover album of Mac’s fourth studio album, Kiln House, McVie officially joined the band.
Future Games was the first Fleetwood Mac album to feature McVie as a full-fledged member, which also had Bob Welch on guitar, which started shifting the band away from blues rock, and more towards folk and pop rock. McVie wrote and sang lead on two of the album’s nine tracks.
McVie’s time with Fleetwood Mac continued with Bare Trees, Penguin, Mystery to Me, and Heroes are Hard to Find. With each new album, Christine contributed more and more and became an integral force of the band. Some of the best pre-Buckingham-Nicks Fleetwood Mac songs are by her from this era, and I highly recommend songs like Spare Me a Little of Your Love, Remember Me, Did You Ever Love Me, The Way I Feel, Why, and Come A Little Bit Closer. Each song carries the soul that McVie would be famous for bringing into her later with the band and the Rumours five would even cover many of the songs on tour. The songs, helped by Welch’s guitar, Mick Fleetwood’s drums, and John McVie’s bass feel like they would fit right in with the band’s albums of the late 70’s and 80’s.
After Bob Welch left the band at the end of 1974, Fleetwood Mac needed a guitarist. Mick Fleetwood, the band’s drummer, met with producer Keith Olsen who played a recently recorded album, Buckingham Nicks, which impressed the band. They approached Lindsey Buckingham to join as guitarist, who agreed on one condition: that his girlfriend, Stevie Nicks could also join. The band agreed to this on one other condition: that Christine McVie felt comfortable with Nicks. Christine knew that since Nicks didn’t have a dedicated instrument like the rest of the band, along with her unique style and fashion, she would likely become the figure head of the band. McVie never felt threatened, and agreed to the two joining the band, a decision that everyone in the band knew was right when they heard McVie sing with harmonies with the two newcomers, who added more pop to the blues.
With Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks now in the band, the self-titled Fleetwood Mac album was released to moderate success. However, after touring for months on months, the album reached no. 1 on the US Billboard 200. The album was home to many of the band’s biggest hits, such as Landslide, Rhiannon, and Say You Love Me. Alongside Nicks’ Rhiannon, McVie was the writer and lead vocalist of three of the album’s singles Over My Head, Warm Ways, and Say You Love Me. The band had made for themselves and drew up plenty of talk as they worked on their next album, Rumours.
After the release of the White Album, Fleetwood Mac was in a rough spot. Not only had Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks broken up, but Mick Fleetwood discovered his wife and mother of his two children, was having an affair, and Christine McVie and John McVie had begun to file for divorce, ending eight years of marriage. The McVies stopped talking to each other about anything but music and the next album. The making of the next album was fueled by this breakup energy and lots of cocaine and other drugs, resulting in exhausting and tension-filled studio sessions.
Christine’s contributions to Rumours (named after wild speculation from the press), while also fueled by the tensions between the bandmates, provided more upbeat and softer music to balance Buckingham’s angst filled songs and Nicks’ more emotional songs. Track 4, Don’t Stop, was one such upbeat track, becoming the album’s third single and one of the band’s biggest hits, even being used by Bill Clinton as theme music for his 1992 presidential campaign. You Make Loving Fun is a song written about an affair McVie was having at the time, which she originally told her ex-husband was about her dog so as to not fuel any more fights, and became the album’s fourth single. Oh Daddy is a slower paced song dedicated towards Mick Fleetwood, who along with being an actual father, had to be the dad of the group during the recording sessions. Songbird is a beautiful piece comprising of just piano, vocals, and supporting guitar by Buckingham, and is one of her most famous songs. She wrote it in one night, and was recorded in an auditorium to get the right feel. The song has likely been played in thousands of wedding since it released. McVie, along with the rest of the band, contributed towards writing The Chain, with a demo of hers being used for many of the instrumental parts of the song, including the famous solo used for coverage of Formula One.
Rumours released to instant success, selling over 10 million copies in under a month. It is heralded as the band’s best album, as well as one of the best albums of all time. To this day it is currently the 8 th highest selling album of all time, having sold over 40 million copies, and regularly is in the top 10 vinyl selling charts every month.
Following the success of Rumours, Fleetwood Mac wanted to try something different and not just try to replicate the sound of Rumours. Buckingham took charge and in 1979, Tusk released. McVie provided six of the twenty songs in this double album which is known for its avant-garde style. McVie opened the album with Over and Over¸ beautiful and calming song that invokes the style of Rumours and was used by the album as a sort of bait into the wildly different The Ledge and other songs provided by Buckingham. One of the singles of the album is McVie’s Think About Me, which is beloved despite selling poorly.
Tusk sold poorly, especially in comparison to Rumours, so the band decided to so back to a more pop-rock sound for the band’s 13 th album, 1980’s Mirage. Here, McVie contributes four songs, Love in Store, Only Over You, Wish You Were Here, and Hold Me, which became one of the biggest songs for the band and one of the band’s first music videos. Following Mirage, McVie released her second solo album, also self-titled, called Christine McVie.
The next album Tango in the Night, is perhaps the biggest showcase of Christine McVie in the band. Here she wrote and co-wrote five songs, either alongside Buckingham or with her then husband Eddy Quintela. Along with the beautiful Mystified (and its even more beautiful instrumental demo on the deluxe edition), Isn’t It Midnight, and You and I, Pt. II, McVie wrote and sang two of the biggest hits of the band and of her career: Little Lies and Everywhere. Even just last month, Everywhere topped iTunes charts due to its presence in a car commercial.
After Tango, Lindsey Buckingham stepped away from the band and they hired Rick Vito and Billy Burnette to replace him on guitar and vocals for the 1990 album Beneath the Mask. While the album was not as big a success as the ones created by the Rumours Five, it still sold well and Christine’s songs Save Me and Skies the Limit both performed reasonably.
Stevie Nicks was the next member of the band to step away, with her leaving after rights disputes. Rick Vito also left, with one-time band members Dave Mason and Billy Burnette coming in for Time. The album did not do well, missing the charm of Nicks and Buckingham, but the highlights of the album remained with McVie. I Do, Hollywood, Nights in Estoril, and Sooner or Later all show off McVie’s talents, but my favorite song of the album, and one of my favorite songs of her is the penultimate track, All Over Again. This song was written as a farewell to Fleetwood Mac as most knew it, with the lines “Well it’s time to move on to the rain, and finally break the chain” as a nod to The Chain.
After Tango released and her father died, she took a break from touring and never embarked on the Time tour. However, after Buckingham, Fleetwood, and both McVies collaborated on a solo project of Buckingham’s, they decided to have a reunion. With Nicks joining them, they went on tour and released the live album The Dance, which reached number one in the US album charts. In the album, McVie did live performances of Everywhere, Say You Love Me (ft. some killer banjo by Buckingham and a rare backing vocal performance by John McVie), and Don’t Stop, which featured the University of Southern California Marching Band. Also featured was an original song by McVie, Temporary One.
Following the tour, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, but stepped back from Fleetwood Mac due to a developed phobia of flying, which was later treated. She only had minor contributions to the 2003 album Say You Will, which despite still being a great album, definitely felt different without McVie present. However, she did release another solo album in 2004, In the Meantime.
It wasn’t until 2014 that McVie rejoined Fleetwood Mac, spending the time between away from the public eye and with her family. She joined the band for tours since then, and in 2017 she and Buckingham released Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie, which featured every member of the Rumours Five except Nicks, and is essentially a Fleetwood Mac album in everything but name. The album is an underrated gem, with hits by both artists, and Christine’s vocals and arrangements are as great as ever. She contributes Feel About You, Too Far Gone, Carnival Begin, Game of Begin, and my personal favorite, Red Sun, which encapsulates the homeliness and comfort that makes Christine’s songs so good.
McVie’s most recent release was from this past summer, Songbird (A Solo Collection), which encompasses many remixes of Christine’s solo work as well as two previously unreleased songs and a beautiful and majestic orchestral version of Songbird. This was the last piece of work
released before she passed, and though many wanted a farewell tour of Fleetwood Mac, she stated in interviews that she was skeptical of it ever happening. And it looks like it never will.
The chain has finally been broken. Christine McVie is the first of the Rumours Five to pass, a group that managed to make an album so universally beloved and a soundtrack of any bad breakup. Not to mention the countless other hits and songs McVie has contributed to, along with the keyboards and backing vocals on many of the other Fleetwood Mac favorites like Dreams or Go Your Own Way. Sympathies from around the music world have been shared through social media to McVie’s family, from classic rock musicians like the Heart sisters and Bob Seger, to modern musicians who grew up on McVie’s work. Some musicians who are on tour have even sung some of her songs at concerts, such as Keith Urban singing Say You Love Me or Harry Styles singing Songbird. And of course, McVie’s bandmates have all written notes and messages about McVie’s death and her legacy. Christine McVie may have passed, but her music lives on and will continue to touch the lives of listeners and fans for years to come.