Before they were famous: Stevie Nicks

A woman whose love of cocaine never interrupted her deeper love for music, Stevie Nicks is one of the most influential female artists of the past century. She’s the hippy queen more focussed on artistry than fame, a woman that takes pride in originality rather than the Madonna style antics of female musicians, trying to trump each other with controversy. She’s Stevie, baby.

Stevie Nicks’ actual name is Stephanie Lynn Nicks. She was born on May 26, 1948, in Phoenix, Arizona. Her family moved more often than a gypsy as her father developed a good standing in the business world, investing in large scale food manufacturers. She lived in Albuquerque, El Paso, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

She was raised by her mother and grandfather. Her mother, Barbara Nicks, was extremely protective and kept her in the house most days. Along with her mother nurturing her and constantly telling her fairy tales and inflaming her imagination, her grandfather, an amateur country-western musician, taught her the guitar and how to sing. Her parents owned a local bar and Nicks would sing there, standing on tables and entertaining the guests. Her grandfather kept singing with her and when she got her first guitar at sixteen, she began to write her own songs. She was well on the way to becoming a successful musician.

“I just wanted to listen to rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll and R&B, and I just was in my own little musical world. I had it planned out. In sixth grade, I was wearing a black outfit with a top hat.”

Nicks played high school events and formed her own band, The Changing Times. They played folk songs after Nicks was inspired by The Mamas and the Papas. A few years later, Nicks met her first love, Lindsey Buckingham, who was also a musician. They met during a party while he was singing the song ‘California Dreamin’ and Nicks got up and chimed in with him; which is possibly one of the most movie inspired love stories, just sayin’. When they got flirty with each other, Buckingham asked if Nicks would join his band, The Fritz. She said yes and for the next three years they played with three other band members, climbing the ladder and eventually opening for Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

In the seventies, Nicks attended university, studying speech communication (whatever the fuck that is) and playing full time in The Fritz. The other band members were still in high school and Nicks got tired of travelling back and forth from university. She stayed in the band for the next three years even though some of the band members resented her because of her talent and rising fame.

“I was just a girl singer and they hated the fact that I got a lot of the credit. They would kill themselves practicing for ten hours and people would call up and say, ‘We want to book that band with the little brownish-blondish haired girl.’ There was always just really weird things going on between us. I could never figure out why I stayed in that band. Now I know it was in preparation for Fleetwood Mac.”

The band broke up after those years and Nicks and Buckingham stayed together. They both dropped out of university and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a music career. In 1973, they both, as a duo, got a record deal with Polydor Records and produced their first album: Buckingham Nicks. It was not successful and Polydor Records dropped them. They became poor and Buckingham was suffering from mononucleosis. Nicks got a waitressing job, working for $1.50 an hour. Her mother, being the protective hen that she was, was worried for her and sent her money. She did not, however, support her, because she was trying to coerce her to return home.

It wasn’t until she joined the band, you guessed it, Fleetwood Mac,that things changed. When they got the offer, Nicks turned to Buckingham and said: “So since I think that we can additionally add something to their band, I think we should do this because we could be dead by next year because of lack of food.”

After some time following the song, ‘Dreams’, the band was making it worldwide and that’s when Nicks got into cocaine. Much like the hippies of the seventies, Nicks rode that white powdered horse, surviving on its sweet nectar every day.

“Even in my really bad, drugged-out days, I didn’t go away. I still toured, still did interviews. I never gave up the fight. That’s why I’m who I am today, because I didn’t leave. And I think I made the right choice.”

Stevie Nicks has never left our side and, of course, we are all the better for that.

Happy listening, Vulturites.

Jacob Reid

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