Farewell, Christine McVie, the songbird who knew the score

Farewell, Christine McVie, the songbird who knew the score

Christine McVie always came as the adult in the room, which admittedly might not be hard to do when the room is Fleetwood Mac. But McVie was the emotional glue of a band that has spent the last 50 years falling apart again and again, the most stable, sane and down-to-earth member of the most unstable, insane and lost circus. in the rock space. The universally loved woman at the piano who wrote great song after great song, the one everyone else got along with. Christine continued to sing like the songbird who knew the score, and that’s because she always did.

That’s why the world is in shock and grief at the unexpected news of McVie’s death on Wednesday. Like she said rolling stone’s Andy Greene earlier this year, “I was supposed to be like mother Teresa hanging out with everyone or just trying to [keep] everything is nice, cool and relaxed.” Still, she admitted, “Even though I’m a pretty peaceful person, I enjoyed this storm. Although it is said that we argued a lot, we actually spent a lot of time laughing.

This spirit came out of his songs – peaceful and stormy at the same time. She wrote so many Mac classics, focused on her raspy, intimate voice and piano. “Say You Love Me”, “Over My Head”, “Oh Daddy”, “Little Lies”, “Why” – she sang with the voice of a romantic adult, tired of the world, a woman who burned herself and knows better, except she can’t talk herself out of falling, falling, falling again. They were always shocking songs to hear on the radio, but they just grew over the years.

His 1979 solo demo Defense The piano ballad “Never Make Me Cry” is one of his most powerful heartbreakers, and it was the first song this fan played at the terrible news of his death. “Go ahead and do whatever you want,” she tells her wayward lover, even as she swears, “You’ll never make me cry.” The first time she sings this line, her refusal to cry sounds defiant and victorious. But in the end, she makes it seem like the saddest part of the story.

McVie was part of the Mac drama, especially in the Rumors time. She left her husband John McVie, who happened to be the bassist. She moved in with the lighting director, moving her wedding ring to another finger. Not only did she write her hit “You Make Lovin’ Fun” about how great it was to have sex with the new guy, but she had her ex play bass on it for the next 45 years – now it’s a real boss shot. (And to his credit, he played it brilliantly — another boss shot.) In the funniest line, she sings, “Yooo-hoo-hooyou make love fun/And I don’t have to tell you, but you’re the only one!” Of course, Christine – fidelity, true love, of course, that goes without saying. Like John the said wearily years later, “The only two people in the band who haven’t had an affair are me and Lindsey.”

Some of the best moments from recent Fleetwood Mac tours, featuring all five members of the classic lineup, have come during the Stevie Nicks/Lindsey Buckingham solo showcases. Every night Christine would sit next to John on the piano bench, out of sight of most onlookers, just the two of them whispering and laughing together. They always huddled together like two old friends, just sharing a private laugh. It was such a touching sight – so gentle and civilized, in the midst of all that emotion storm and stress. She brought out that warmth in people. Same these people.

Christine and Stevie had a unique chemistry – two singer-songwriters, two frontwomen, in the overwhelmingly masculine world of ’70s LA rock. Stevie always credited McVie with making it possible. As she told me in 2019, “Christine and I made a pact the day I joined Fleetwood Mac. She and I said, “We will never be treated like second-class citizens. We’ll never be allowed to hang out in a room full of smart, crazy rock & roll stars, because we’re just as crazy and just as smart as they are. We just promised each other to do everything we could for women, to fight for whatever we wanted and to get it. That our songs and our music would be as good as all the men around us. And it was.”

They’ve always had a big sister/little sister rapport, with Christine as the world-weary eldest smiling indulgently at her more impulsive and flighty sidekick – Stevie’s Marilyn Monroe-like Jane Russell. This brotherhood sets the Mac apart from its peers at Hotel California. “If I had been the only girl in Fleetwood Mac, it would have been very different,” Nicks said. “So I’m really glad I joined a band that had another woman in it. At first people were like, ‘Does Christine want to another girl in the group?’ And I said, ‘I hope she does. When she meets me, I hope she likes me. She did really like me – we had Mexican food and we laughed and looked at each other and said, “This is going to be awesome.”

It was probably the last moment in Fleetwood Mac history that someone said those words. The band was a constant hurricane of heartbreak, betrayal and rock excess. “There was blood floating around in the alcohol,” McVie later recalled. “The studio contract endorsement for refreshments was like a phone book. Exotic cuisine delivered to the studio, cases of champagne. And it had to be the best, regardless of what it would cost. Dumb. Really stupid. Someone once said that with the money we spent on champagne overnight, they could have made an entire album. And that’s probably true.

She began in the 1960s under the name of Christine Perfect, one of the rare female instrumentalists of the English blues macho scene. She found her voice playing piano in the band Chicken Shack with tunes like “When the Train Comes Back”, from their 1968 debut. She married McVie in 1970, becoming Fleetwood Mac’s dominant songwriter, with unsung classics like her. Mystery to me Ballad “Why? »

She became a superstar in her own right after Mick Fleetwood recruited a new guitarist named Lindsey Buckingham, who insisted they hire his girlfriend as well. For their first rehearsal together, she performed “Say You Love Me”. “I heard this amazing sound – our three voices – and I was like, ‘Is that me singing? ‘” McVie recalled. “I couldn’t believe how great this three-part harmony sounded. My skin turned into goosebumps.

In the Defense At the time, she got engaged to Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, who brought a whole new level of mayhem into her world. He moved into her mansion days after meeting her, spending her money, and drinking her vodka. He soon married (and ditched) a 19-year-old girl, who happened to be Mike Love’s daughter. McVie mourned him with “Wish You Were Here”, the finale of Mirage, the previous year he drowned drunk and was buried at sea. As she said rolling stone this year, “Dennis was a little crazy.”

Yet she turned the sexual and narcotic wreckage into classic songs. “Think About Me” is her rockiest hit of the late ’70s. She sneers the chorus, sounding both soulful and cynical about romance in the Me decade: “I’m not holding you back / It’s maybe that’s why you’re here.” But she made it romantic. She made a modest solo record in 1984 – you can hear the best moments from last year Songbird (a solo collection). But she really shone when the Mac died in 1987, Tango in the night. “Everywhere” was a modest hit at the time, but enjoyed a resurgence in subsequent years as the album became a millennial fan favorite. In “Little Lies,” her most astute Mac hit of all time, she’s generally resigned to being tricked, lying to, being treated like dirt. But he’s got that booming chorus featuring each of the band’s lead vocalists, top notch fan service, where his pleading vocals clash with the bitter “Tell me, tell me liiiies!”

She’s exhausted herself in rock star life. As Nicks said rolling stone, “We have reformed with Dance in 1997, but it only lasted a year before Christine broke down and said, “I can’t do this anymore – I have panic attacks.” She sold her house, car and piano and returned to England, never to be heard from again. McVie had developed a dread of flying – understandable, considering the time she had spent on planes chartered by Mick Fleetwood. “The nomadic stuff had me a little stale, really,” she said. rolling stone in 2014. “I had a delusional idea that I wanted to live the ‘Country Lady’ life – basically hanging out with my Range Rover and my dogs and baking cookies or something. I don’t know what I was thinking. , really. I just wanted to live a normal domestic life with roots.

Tendency

But she made a triumphant return for the 2015 tour. In 2017, she and Lindsey released their very strange collaboration album Buckingham McVie, featuring four-fifths of the Mac. It was supposed to be a studio reunion blockbuster, but Nicks bailed out. So it ended with “On With the Show”, a theme song from the band’s On With the Show reunion tour – two years after it ended. A typical Mac self-sabotage moment. The band kicked out Buckingham in a spectacularly messy cut, but McVie still sounded great on the 2019 summer stadium tour, his last.

Characteristically, McVie was low-key and private about her latest illness. Talk to rolling stone this year, she casually revealed that the band members were no longer in contact and had gone their separate ways again. “I don’t feel physically ready for this,” she says. “I’m in pretty poor health. I have a chronic back problem that weakens me. Asked about her goals, she replied, “To stay alive, hopefully. Well, I’ll be 80 next year. So hopefully just a few more years, and we’ll see what happens. We didn’t have those extra years of Christine McVie. But she’s scattered so many great songs across so many albums — some classic hits, other obscure cult favorites — that you can spend years catching up to her greatness. These are songs that people will always sing to themselves on those lonely late-night bluesy moments that Christine McVie always knew how to capture.


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