CLEVELAND, Ohio — Stevie Nicks’ selection as the first female two-time inductee in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame may not be the most controversial in its 34-year history — you’d probably have to go to the hall’s induction of any hip-hop act for that — but it’s close.
Already in the hall — and rightfully so — as a member of Fleetwood Mac, Nicks’ solo career has been respectable, but not stellar, and some music fans and professionals have argued that it hasn’t been exemplary enough to merit her history-making induction.
There are other women — Tina Turner, for example, who is in the hall as part of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue — who come to mind as more likely and deserving candidates to be inducted as performers.
It’s possible to make a case for Nicks’ inclusion as a songwriter, of course. Her abilities with a pen are beyond reproach. Rolling Stone has named her in past polls as one of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time. That may be a bit of a stretch, but there’s no doubt that she can write.
According to an old story by the magazine in 1980, she wrote her first song at the age of 16, “I’ve Loved and I’ve Lost, and I’m Sad But Not Blue.”
She also wrote two songs that were huge hits for Fleetwood Mac, “Rhiannon” and “Landslide.” Both tunes were on Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled 1975 album and helped cement them as a group.
As for her own reaction, Nicks is ecstatic, and shared that with Rolling Stone upon learning of her history-making inclusion.
“I joined Fleetwood Mac at the beginning of 1975,” she told the magazine’s Andy Greene. “We started talking about the solo album at the end of 1979, so my solo work was just a little over four years behind Fleetwood Mac.
“It has made my life amazing because I’ve been able to have these two amazing careers and live in two completely different worlds,” she told Greene. “I did dedicate it to [producer] Jimmy Iovine, him and several others. But it was Jimmy that said, ‘I will produce your record and we’ll make you a Tom Petty record, except it’ll be a girl Tom Petty record.’ I found that very exciting and I was jumping off the walls.”
The daughter of a food-services executive and a homemaker, she met Lindsey Buckingham when both were in high school in California. She was a year older, but the foundation was pretty much laid then. They were in a band together after that, Fritz, then Buckingham Nicks after that.
Their history has been pretty well told since then — her cleaning and waitressing to support him as he toured with the Everly Brothers, him telling Fleetwood Mac he’d only join if she came along, etc. Their eventual split, then reconciliation as friends and band mates. And of course, there’s the latest incident, in which she reportedly told the other members of Fleetwood Mac that either he went or she would.
What really happened there is something only the band members know, though with the dollars involved — there are lawsuits pending over the ouster and royalties — we may all know more than we really want to about the subject.
There’s also no doubt that Nicks has her own unique style. It’s possible that came from the way she was raised: by an overprotective mother who reportedly didn’t let her socialize as much as other kids. As a result, Arizona-born Nicks reportedly spent a lot of time alone, playing records in her room as her family moved from state to state for her father’s job.
Trust me, as an Army brat who went to 22 different schools by the eighth grade, and 24 all told, I can relate to the loneliness … and the ability to find comfort and companionship in a pen and paper, especially with the aid of a little vinyl spinning at 33⅓ RPM.
We could find out the truth eventually, though, and it would be in her own words. She reportedly has kept journals since joining Fleetwood Mac and has been urged to write her memoirs. Those journals would likely be the foundation for a book.
“I like to tell all my fairy goddaughters and my niece that when I’m gone they can sit on the floor and go through all these journals, and they can walk through my life, and they can smell the gardenia perfume on the pages,” she said in a 2014 story in US Weekly. “They can have it in their hands, who I was.”
“I wouldn’t write a book unless I could really tell the truth, and say all the people are in it are represented right. … If I’m gonna talk about all the people in my life, I need to be old enough and so do they, that nobody’s gonna care. … I would never write a book about the bad parts. I would mostly revel in the fantastic parts, of which there were so many,” she was quoted as saying in that US Weekly piece.
It would, no doubt, be fascinating reading. It would probably include stories of shopping with Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick in the 1960s, when she developed her ethereal fashion style. And if honest — and there’s no reason to believe it wouldn’t be — it would tackle her almost legendary affinity for cocaine.
At one time, for example, she and the Eagles’ Joe Walsh were a romantic item, but it fell apart in large part because of their mutual substance abuse issues. Both have been clean for a long time now, just for the record. But the ghosts of our pasts are our constant companions.
The question remains whether her solo catalog of just eight albums really warrants this particular induction. Only her first solo album, 1981’s “Bella Donna,” hit No. 1 on the charts. Nothing else has risen above No. 5, and her last solo studio album, 2014’s “24 Carat Gold: Songs From the Vault,” which featured redos of songs she’s written and demoed over the course of her career, peaked at No. 7.
Certainly Rock Hall fan voters think she deserves induction as a solo artist; she finished second behind victor Def Leppard with nearly 430,000 votes. They clearly adore the wispy singer-songwriter with the wispy voice.
You might ask, in the words of Tina Turner, what’s love got to do with it? Judging from the reality that she will be on the Barclays Center stage on Friday, everything.
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