Fleetwood Mac hitmaker Christine McVie has died at 79
Christine McVie, the singer, songwriter and keyboardist who became the biggest hitmaker for Fleetwood Mac, one of music’s most popular bands, died on Wednesday. She was 79 years old.
Her family announced her death on Facebook. The statement said that she died in the hospital, but did not specify where she was or the cause of death. In June, Mrs. McVie said Rolling Stone that she is in “pretty poor health” and has suffered debilitating back problems.
Ms. McVie’s commercial power, which peaked in the 1970s and ’80s, was on full display on Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits anthology, released in 1988, which sold more than eight million copies: She either wrote or was a co-author. half of its 16 songs. Her number doubled that of the next most prolific member of the band’s singer-songwriter trio, Stevie Nicks. (A third, Lindsey Buckingham, scored three of Billboard’s biggest hits on that collection.)
The most popular songs that mrs. McVie wrote favoring bouncy rhythms and lively melodies, numbers like “You say you love me” (which hit the Billboard Top 10), “You make love fun” (who just broke it), “hold me” (No. 4) i “Don’t Stop” (her top shot, which reached 3rd place). But it could also be associated with elegant ballads, like “Over My Head” (No. 20) i “Little Lies” (which broke the publication’s top five in 1987).
All of these songs had clearly defined, easy-to-sing melodies, with hints of soul and blues at their core. Her compositions had a simplicity that reflected their construction. “I don’t struggle with my songs,” Ms. McVie (pronounced mc-VEE) told Rolling Stone in 1977. “I write them fast.”
In just half an hour, she wrote one of the band’s most beloved songs, “songbird”, a sensitive ballad that has served as the band’s closing encore at concerts for years. In 2019, the band’s leader, Mick Fleetwood, told the New Musical Express that “Songbird” was the piece he wanted to play at his funeral, “to send me flying.”
Ms. McVie’s lyrics often captured the more heady aspects of romance. “I’m definitely not a pessimist,” she told Bob Bruning, author of the 2004 book The Fleetwood Mac Story: Rumors and Lies. “I’m basically a love song writer.”
At the same time, her words explained the longing and disappointments that can hide beneath the exciting surface. “I’m good at pathos,” she told Mojo magazine in 2017. “I write a lot about romantic despair, but with a positive attitude.”
Ms. McVie’s vocals conveyed an equally nuanced range of feelings. Her soulful contralto could sound alternately maternally wise and sexually alive. Its yellowish tone had the heady effect of a bourbon with a rich bouquet and a smooth finish. He found a graceful place in harmony with the voices of Ms. Nicks and Mr. Buckingham, together forming the signature sound of Fleetwood Mac.
“It was that chemistry,” she told Mojo. “The two of them just chirped in perfect three-way harmony. I just remember thinking, ‘That’s it!’”
A strong instrumentalist, Ms. McVie played an array of keyboards, often leaning toward the deep sound of a Hammond B3 organ and the formality of a Yamaha grand piano.
She earned five gold, one platinum and seven multi-platinum albums with Fleetwood Mac. The band’s biggest hit, “Rumours,” released in 1977, was one of the most powerful moves in pop history: it was certified double diamond, representing sales of over 20 million copies.
In 1998, Ms. McVie was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame along with various lineups of Fleetwood Mac, reflecting the frequent (and dramatic) personnel changes the band experienced throughout its labyrinthine history. Ms. McVie has served in incarnations dating back to 1971, but has also had uncredited keyboard and singing roles since the band’s second album, released in 1968. Before joining Fleetwood Mac, she scored a No. 14 UK hit with blues band Chicken Shack on Etta James’s cover “I’d Rather Go Blind” for which she sang lead.
Christine Anne Perfect was born on July 12, 1943, in the Lake District, England, to Cyril Perfect, a classical violinist and college music professor, and Beatrice (Reece) Perfect, a psychic.
Her father encouraged her to start taking classical piano lessons when she was 11 years old. Her focus changed radically four years later when she came across sheet music for Fats Domino’s songs. At the time, she told Rolling Stone in 1984, “It was goodbye to Chopin.”
“I started playing boogie bass,” she told Mojo. “I got hooked on the blues. Even today, the songs I write use that left hand. It’s rooted in the blues.”
Ms McVie studied sculpture at Birmingham College of Art and for a time considered becoming an art teacher. At the same time, she briefly played in a duo with Spencer Davis, who, along with a teenage Steve Winwood, would later find fame in the Spencer Davis Group. She helped form the band Shades of Blue with several future members of the Chicken Shack.
After graduating from college in 1966, Ms. McVie moved to London and became a window dresser in a department store. A year later, she was asked to join the already formed Chicken Shack as a keyboardist and sometimes singer. She wrote two songs for the band’s debut album, “40 Blue Fingers, Freshly Packed and Ready to Serve”.
She was twice voted best female singer in the Melody Maker readers’ poll, but left the band in 1969 after marrying John McVie, the bassist of Fleetwood Mac, which had formed in 1967 and had already recorded three albums. In the same year, she recorded a solo album, “The Legendary Christine Perfect Album”, which she later described to Rolling Stone as “so weak”.
“I just hate hearing it,” she said.
Joining the band
Her disappointment with that record, combined with her reluctance to perform, forced Ms. McVeigh to leave music for a while. But in 1970, when the main draw of Fleetwood Mac, the guitarist Peter Greensuddenly left the band after a devastating acid trip, Mick Fleetwood invited her to fill their ranks.
At first, she found the call to join her favorite band “a nerve-wracking experience,” she told Rolling Stone. But she rose to the occasion by writing two of the catchiest songs on her first official release with the band, “Future Games” (1971). That release found the band veering away from British blues towards progressive Southern Californian folk-rock, with the help of American player, singer, songwriter and guitarist Bob Welch.
The band fine-tuned that sound on their 1972 set “Bare Trees,” which sold better and featured one of Ms. McVie’s deepest songs, “Spare me a little of your love.” The band’s 1973 release, “Penguin,” went gold. The next collection, “Heroes Are Hard to Find,” was the first to enter the U.S. Top 40. But only after Mr. Welch’s departure and the recruitment of the romantically entangled team of Ms. Nicks and Mr. Buckingham for a 1975 album simply titled “Fleetwood Mac.” , that the band began to display their full commercial brio.
Ms. McVie’s song “Over My Head” started off with a bang in the Billboard Top 20; her “Say You Love Me” peaked at #11. After a slow build-up, “Fleetwood Mac” eventually reached the top of the Billboard charts.
A little more than a year and a half later, the group released “Rumours,” which generated a lot of interest not only for its four Top 10 hits (two of which were written by Ms. McVie) but also for some very dramatic behind-the-scenes happenings within the band, which they broadcast in verse and openly discussed in the press.
During the making of the album, two couples in the band — Ms. Nicks and Mr. Buckingham and the married McVies — broke up. Ms. McVie’s song “You Make Loving Fun” celebrated an affair she was having with the band’s lighting director at the time. (She first told Mr. McVie the song was about her dog.) The upbeat “Don’t Stop” was meant to guide her ex-husband to a new life without her.
“We wrote those songs in spite of ourselves,” Ms. McVie told Mojo. “It was a therapeutic move. The only way we could get these things out was to say them, and it came out in a way that was difficult. Imagine trying to sing those songs on stage with the people you’re singing them about.”
It helped ease the pain, she told Mojo, that “we were all very excited,” adding, “I don’t think there was a sober day.” And the mega-success of the album gave the members a different peak. “The sound of knowing you’ve written one of the greatest albums ever written; it was such a phenomenal time,” Ms McVie told Attitude magazine in 2019.
But the group longed to stretch themselves creatively. The result was a less commercial-sounding follow-up to the double album, “Tusk,” released in 1979. Although not anywhere near the success of “Rumours,” it sold more than two million copies and spawned three hits, including Mrs. McVie’s “Think of me.”
In the ’80s
The group slowly started the new decade with the release of 1982 “Mirage”, which hit No. 1 with the help of Ms. McVie’s “Hold Me,” a Top Five hit inspired by her tumultuous relationship with the Beach Boys. Dennis Wilson. Two years later, Ms. McVie released a solo album that reached the top 30, while its biggest single, “He got me” broke the top 10
In 1987, a reconstituted Fleetwood Mac released “Tango in the Night,” which featured two hits written by Ms. McVie, “everywhere” and “Little Lies”. (“Little Lies” was written with the Portuguese musician and songwriter Eddie Quintel, whom she had married a year earlier. They would divorce in 2003.) Mr. Buckingham left the group soon after, upending the dynamic that had made their recordings stellar. 1990’s Behind the Mask barely went gold, producing only one Top 40 single (“Save me,” written by Ms. McVie), while “Time,” released five years later, was the band’s first failed album in two decades.
Ms. McVie did not tour with the band to support “Time.” But the early 1990s brought major attention to her hit “Don’t Stop” when it became the theme for Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign. In 1993, Mr. Clinton convinced the five musicians who played on the hit to reunite to perform it at the inaugural ball.
They reunited in 1997 for a tour that produced the live album “The Dance,” one of the best-selling concert recordings of all time. However, by the following year, a growing fear of flying and a desire to return to England from the band’s adopted home of Los Angeles, inspired Ms McVie to retreat to the English countryside.
Five years later, she agreed to add some keyboard parts and backing vocals to Fleetwood Mac’s largely overlooked album, Say You Will, and in 2006 produced a solo album, In the Meantime, which she recorded and co-wrote with her guitarist nephew. By Dan Perfect.
Finally, in 2014, driven by boredom and a growing sense of isolation, she reunited with the top Mac line-up for the massive “On With The Show” tour. After that, Ms. McVie began writing a lot of new material, as did Mr. Buckingham, which resulted in a self-titled album in 2017, as well as a joint tour. The full band also played that year; although Mr Buckingham was fired in 2018, Ms McVie continued to tour with the group in a line-up that included Crowded House’s Neil Finn and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell. In 2021, Ms. McVie sold the publishing rights to her entire 115-song catalog for an undisclosed sum.
Information about her survivors was not immediately available.
Throughout her career, Ms. McVie prided herself on never being categorized by her gender. “I kind of became one of the guys,” she told British newspaper The Independent in 2019. “I was always treated with a lot of respect.”
Although she always acknowledged the special chemistry of Fleetwood Mac’s most successful line-up, she believed that her role was beyond her.
“Band members leave and other people come in,” she told Rolling Stone, “but there was always that space where the piano should be.”
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