Stevie Nicks: ‘Angel’ on her own

Finding inner peace has taken years for Stevie Nicks. She didn’t find it in her longtime base of Los Angeles, which she left after January’s earthquake. She didn’t find it in the later years of Fleetwood Mac, which she left after the group sang at President Clinton’s inauguration.

Finally, though, Nicks has found a measure of peace from living in the desert beauty of Phoenix — and from concentrating on a solo career that for years she had to juggle with Fleetwood Mac commitments.

“I gave it the old college try. I gave it everything you could give it,” she said of Fleetwood Mac, for which she sang such hits as “Rhiannon,” “Gold Dust Woman” and “Dreams.”

Nicks, who headlines Great Woods July 22, is back with a new album, “Street Angel,” which is rich in rock-survivor wisdom and features a haunting version of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” with Dylan on guitar and harmonica. There’s also a passionate tribute to biologist Jane Goodall and several of the straight-from-the-heart love songs for which Nicks is known.

“I’m a much happier person now,” Nicks, 46, said recently from Arizona. “My life is easier and I’m really looking forward to going on the road this time. Probably that has a lot to do with the fact I haven’t just come off the road with Fleetwood Mac. Whenever I’d come off the road from Fleetwood Mac, I’d be exhausted.

“Not being with Fleetwood Mac has made more of a change than I ever expected,” Nicks said. “To not be on call to Fleetwood Mac is really something, because up until the inauguration, I was. There was no getting out of a call from Fleetwood Mac. If they needed you, you had to go, no matter what else was in your life or what was planned. There was nothing else that came first. I look at that now and I’m kind of amazed that I let that go on for so long. And I don’t mean `Why didn’t I leave?’ I just mean that I could have been not as wimpy a person.”

Nicks has a new song, “Greta,” about a restless wanderer who “packs her bags and she goes back to the Valley of the Sun.” Which is what Nicks did after last winter’s quake in LA. “There was no possible way I was going to wait around for another earthquake,” said Nicks.

Nicks still maintains a home in LA, but her heart is clearly in Arizona. “It’s hot here — it’s 106 degrees today. But when the sun goes down, I sit outside and it’s so beautiful. If you have any problems, you go outside and they disintegrate. I’ve grown to really depend on my desert-sky time. . . . I guess that’s why the Indians became very spiritual, because it’s very easy to get into a spiritualistic kind of mode here.”

Her more relaxed life has also enabled Nicks to feel better about the aging process. “I’m enjoying the wisdom of getting older,” she said. “I look at it that you’ve become a wiser woman, more of a teacher, more of an adept person. . . . I really dislike all the `I’m getting old’ complaints from people who are bothered by it. In other cultures, the older people were the most revered.

“Personally, I still feel that I can do all the things I could when I was young and still have just as good a time, like riding around the desert in a Jeep or climbing Camelback Mountain. I can still do all that, but there’s a certain wisdom I didn’t have before. Like the thing about going outside. Rather than going to a psychiatrist, I can look up at this incredible red mountain, watch the sky and feel how good the air feels on my face. And {unlike therapy} it doesn’t cost $150.”

Nicks’ newfound confidence led her to approach Dylan to play on “Just Like a Woman,” a song she always wished to record, she says. Its verse of “She makes love just like a woman / But she breaks just like a little girl” had long resonated with her.

“Bob Dylan and I met about eight years ago. I went along on a tour he did with Tom Petty when they went to Australia,” she said. “My friend Rebecca and I just decided we were going to watch because we knew Tom wasn’t even going to get a microphone, that anything he sang he’d have to sing with Bob. This was going to be an incredible blending of egos. So I went there for 32 days and became good friends with Bob — as good a friend as you can be with Bob, that is. He’s very much a loner, very much by himself. You don’t run up to Bob and say, `Hi, Bob.’ You kind of wait for him to even notice that you’re in the room. You just let him come to you at his own time.

“During that period, I told him that I was going to do Just Like a Woman’ one day, and I don’t think he believed me. He just said,Cool. If you can do it from a woman’s point of view, then great.’ So I called him when the song was pretty much done and he came down to the studio to listen to it. I said, You hate it, right?’ And he said,No, I don’t. I really like it.’ I said, Well, would you consider singing on it?’ And he said,No, I won’t sing on it, but I’ll play some guitar and maybe some harmonica if you want me to.’ And I thought, `Well, praise God.’ It was really important to me that he liked it. . . . I never would have put that song on the record if I didn’t think he was pleased.”

A friend more recently acquired is Jane Goodall, the famed, tireless defender of chimpanzees. Nicks has a new song, “Jane,” which pays this tribute: “She is never gonna feel like she’s done enough.” It sounds like a mystical Van Morrison tune.

“I met Jane in Dallas at the end of 1991. I came back, got all her books and I was just so impressed. She was a lot like me when she was young. She definitely was going to be devoted to something and so was I. I think that some kids are like that and some aren’t. We were both diligently looking for something to devote our lives to — and we both found something.

“Her stories of what some people do to chimpanzees are so horrible. They shoot them full of AIDS, put them in a little cell all by themselves and let them die of AIDS, alone. With no human touch, with no love. . . . She told me she would go and visit some of these little monkeys that were dying. And when she would hold them, tears would come down their faces. Actual tears.”

At the moment, Nicks is rehearsing for her first tour in three years. She’s enlisted a band featuring drummer-musical director Russ Kunkel, who has toured with James Taylor and Jackson Browne. Other notables include guitarist Rick Vito (who was in Fleetwood Mac) and saxophonist Marty Greb, who toured with Bonnie Raitt.

“I’m getting ready to go out and do a really fun tour. Things couldn’t be any better,” she said. “And they wouldn’t be any better if I was 10 years younger, because physically I don’t feel much different than I did then. If anything, I probably feel better because I’m not so pushed to be going and going every second. I can choose how fast I want to go now.”

Steve Morse / Boston Globe Newspaper / June 17, 1994

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Stevie Nicks, Stand Back 1981-2017, compilation

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