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Born Stephanie Lynn Nicks in Phoenix, Arizona on May 26, 1948, she earned the nickname Stevie when she couldn't quite pronounce her own name as a toddler. The appellation stuck. Gravitating toward dance at an early age, Nicks also became infatuated with music, singing country music with her grandfather at an early age. The daughter of a Greyhound vice president, Nicks moved throughout the Southwest often as a child, so music remained a constant in her life. Upon her 16th birthday, she received a guitar, swiftly writing her first song, "I've Loved and Lost." Not long afterward, she sang in the Changing Times, a folk-rock group based in Arcadia, California. She left the band once her family moved to Palo Alto in 1966.
That year, Nicks met Lindsey Buckingham at a church social, where she sang harmony on his performance of the Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'." Impressed, Buckingham remembered Nicks, eventually inviting her to join Fritz, a psychedelic band that featured him as a guitarist. Despite having recently signed to 20th Century Fox to record country music, Nicks accepted, breaking her contract and staying with Fritz as they played Bay Area bills featuring such heavyweights as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
Fritz split up in 1970 but Nicks and Buckingham remained together, first as a creative team, then as romantic partners. Moving to Los Angeles, the pair used inheritance money Buckingham received to finance recording demos which helped the duo secure a contract with Polydor Records. Working with producer Keith Olsen at Sound City Studios, the pair cut Buckingham Nicks, a tuneful, mellow, folky album released to no notice in 1973. The label dropped the duo. As they supported themselves -- Nicks worked as Olsen's housecleaner; Buckingham played with the Everly Brothers -- they continued to amass new material. Nicks and Buckingham received their big break when Keith Olsen happened to play their "Frozen Love" for Mick Fleetwood. At the time, the Fleetwood Mac drummer was merely seeking a recording studio but when Bob Welch left the band that year, Fleetwood asked Buckingham to replace the guitarist. Buckingham would only accept the invitation if Nicks could also join the band. Fleetwood agreed to the terms.
Nicks and Buckingham made their Fleetwood Mac debut on the group's self-titled 1975 album. After spending years on the fringes of rock music, the band's commercial fortunes suddenly changed. Christine McVie's "Over My Head" gave the group their first Top 40 hit but it was Nicks' spooky "Rhiannon" that nearly cracked the Top Ten, while her yearning ballad "Landslide" received considerable AOR play. The band rushed into the studio to record a sequel, succumbing to the temptations of their newfound stardom along the way. Buckingham and Nicks split during the album's sessions and their personal drama fueled a good chunk of Rumours, the 1977 album that made the group superstars.
A blockbuster of historic proportions, Rumours spent 31 weeks at number one on the Billboard charts, topping the charts in many other countries across the globe. Four of its songs reached Billboard's Top Ten, with Nicks' shimmering "Dreams" becoming their only single to reach number one. A phenomenon in the late '70s, Rumours retained its popularity over the years, eventually selling over 40 million copies internationally.
The success of Rumours heightened tensions within the already tumultuous band, resulting in the messy follow-up, Tusk. A double album steered by Buckingham, Tusk found its biggest single successes with its paranoid title track and "Sara," a wistful number by Nicks. With Nicks writing and singing so many of the group's biggest songs, the time was ripe for her to go solo. Alongside Danny Goldberg and Paul Fishkin, Nicks launched the Modern Records (1980) imprint, releasing her Jimmy Iovine-produced solo debut Bella Donna in July 1981. Showcasing a tougher side of Nicks suited for AOR radio, Bella Donna topped the American charts thanks in part to its three big singles: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," which essentially featured Stevie Nicks co-fronting the Heartbreakers alongside Tom Petty, the Don Henley duet "Leather and Lace," and "Edge of Seventeen." Bella Donna confirmed Nicks' status as one of the biggest stars in rock music, shifting the balance slightly within Fleetwood Mac. When the group reconvened for the streamlined Mirage in 1982, they pared down the excesses of Tusk as Nicks contributed just three original songs, including the hit "Gypsy."
Featuring an uncredited synth part by Prince, "Stand Back" gave Nicks another Top Ten hit in 1983. Its accompanying album, The Wild Heart, peaked at number five while generating the additional Top 20 single "If Anyone Falls," as well as rock radio hits "Enchanted" and "Nothing Ever Changes." Nicks once again reached the Top Ten with "Talk to Me," the first single pulled from 1985's Rock a Little, which also featured "I Can't Wait." At the conclusion of the album's supporting tour, Nicks entered rehab, spending the next year getting sober. This recovery period coincided with Fleetwood Mac reconvening to record Tango in the Night.
The album featured three Nicks songs, including the single "Seven Wonders." On the eve of launching their supporting tour for the record, Buckingham left the band; he was replaced by Rick Vito and Billy Burnette. Despite some health problems, including a burgeoning addiction to prescription medication, Nicks soldiered through the supporting tour, then turned her attention to recording 1989's The Other Side of the Mirror with producer Rupert Hine. Nicks agreed to participate in Behind the Mask, a 1990 Fleetwood Mac record featuring Vito and Burnette, but she left shortly afterward due to Fleetwood dismissing her request to include "Silver Springs," a Rumours-era B-side she wrote, on her 1991 compilation Timespace: The Best of Stevie Nicks.
Nicks spent the early '90s recovering from her addiction to prescription medication, during which time she also completed her 1994 album, Street Angel. After its release, Nicks and Buckingham mended fences, recording a song for the soundtrack of 1996's Twister, a pairing that evolved into a full reunion of the Rumours-era lineup for a 1997 tour called The Dance -- its success was accompanied by a live 1997 album also called The Dance. The following year, Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, while Nicks released the three-disc retrospective Enchanted.
Nicks returned in 2001 with Trouble in Shangri-La, an album that featured guest spots by Sheryl Crow, Macy Gray, Sarah McLachlan, and Natalie Maines; the album debuted at number five and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for "Planets of the Universe." Fleetwood Mac reconvened without Christine McVie for Say You Will, a 2003 album the group supported with an international tour. Nicks supported the 2007 release of the compilation Crystal Visions: The Very Best of Stevie Nicks with a tour, then delivered her first live solo album, The Soundstage Sessions, in 2009; it featured a cover of Dave Matthews' "Crash into Me" as a single. Another Fleetwood Mac tour without Christine McVie followed in 2009; Nicks finished In Your Dreams -- her first studio record in ten years -- in 2011. Produced by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, In Your Dreams found her singing a mix of Bob Dylan-inspired folk songs, Italian love ballads, and rock anthems. It debuted at six on Billboard's Top 200 and generated an adult contemporary hit in "Secret Love."
Nicks rejoined Fleetwood Mac in 2013 for the Extended Play release and a tour that eventually blossomed into a full reunion with Christine McVie. In 2014, Nicks released 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, a collection of newly recorded versions of old songs; it debuted at seven on the Billboard charts. In 2015, she continued to tour with the reunited Fleetwood Mac, and the following year her first two albums, Bella Donna and The Wild Heart, were given deluxe reissues.
In 2016 and 2017, Nicks toured with the Pretenders. As Fleetwood Mac was gearing up for a 50th Anniversary tour in 2018, they parted ways with Lindsey Buckingham, replacing him with Neil Finn and Mike Campbell. Nicks was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a solo act in 2019, making her the first woman to be inducted twice. To accompany her induction, Rhino/WMG released the anthology Stand Back: 1981-2017. In October 2020, she released the song "Show Them the Way," which featured contributions from Dave Grohl and Dave Stewart. In 2023, Nicks released Complete Studio Albums & Rarities, a ten-CD box set featuring remastered versions of all her albums along with two discs of non-LP rarities. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine