A new Stevie Nicks biography, out November 21, bares all about the singer — drugs, love, failures and triumphs
Stevie Nicks’ truth is somewhere behind the Rumours.
The 1977 Fleetwood Mac album yielded six No. 1 hits, becoming one of the best-selling records of all time. (Rumours yielded one No. 1 hit, “Dreams. —Ed.) One of those songs was “Gold Dust Woman” — now the title of an unauthorized Nicks bio due out later this month.
Author Stephen Davis chronicles the airy-fairy goddess of rock from her childhood through her plans to go on tour with Fleetwood Mac in 2018.
“The fact is that nobody has a clue to what my life was really like,” Davis quotes the singer as saying.
Maybe. But 332 pages later, we have a pretty good idea.
Now 69, Nicks has inspired performers as disparate as Taylor Swift, Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé, Sheryl Crow and the Dixie Chicks. Even if you can’t quite place Nicks, her songs remain inescapable: “Landslide,” “Leather and Lace,” “Rhiannon.”
She’s the blond, petite singer with the sultry voice whose duet with Tom Petty in “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” is even more heartbreaking since his death.
“I fell in love with his music and his band,” Nicks once said of Petty. “If I ever got to know Tom Petty and could worm my way into his good graces, if he asked me to leave my band and join his, I’d probably do it. And that was before I even met him.”
Nicks shared her desire with her manager and Petty agreed to produce a track with her. He came away unimpressed — more so with her entourage than with Nicks.
Petty instead recommended she work with a producer who had helped him, Jimmy Iovine.
It was hardly a match made in heaven. Iovine was scheduled to work on the fourth Heartbreakers album, not to guide Nicks through her solo debut.
And, the author notes, the Brooklyn-born Iovine and the ethereal Nicks were mismatched in personality and style.
“He was like the anti-Nicks,” writes Davis. “Crystal visions were not for him.”
Despite the doubts, they moved quickly from studio cohorts to lovers. She confided in girlfriends how much she loved his “little Greek body,” and when Iovine wasn’t around she called him “the little one.”
Davis tracks Nicks’ other lovers, beginning with Lindsey Buckingham. She was a senior and he was a junior at Menlo-Atherton High School in California when they met in a church where weekly music sessions were held.
Buckingham started playing “California Dreamin’” and she harmonized.
The two then went their separate ways. Three years later, he reached out, asking her to join a band.
She did, and the longtime couple struggled to make it as Buckingham Nicks. She worked hard outside the studio, too — cleaning houses, waiting tables.
Buckingham? Not so much.
Several stories recount Nicks coming home exhausted to find Buckingham and his friends, stoned. He landed some gigs playing guitar and she kept singing and writing.
It was during this period that Nicks read a novel about a Welsh witch and wrote the hit-single-in-waiting “Rhiannon.” And she penned another song, this one titled “Landslide.”
Even though their band failed to take off, people in the industry took notice. Fleetwood Mac, a bluesy British band, asked Nicks and Buckingham to join them.
The group’s new incarnation soon turned messy and complicated. It was the mid-’70s, and drug-fueled nights led to new relationships.
Eventually drummer Mick Fleetwood and Nicks became lovers.
It was about then that Nicks started working with designer Margi Kent. When Nicks assessed her hips as too wide and her breasts as too small, Kent reportedly told her that she “would be easier to dress if (she) added some letters to her bra size.”
She did get implants. Nicks, though, always had a distinct sense of style, going back to when she was a kid. For a fourth grade tap dance recital she wore a top hat, black vest and skirt, white top and heeled dance shoes.
That served as the foundation for the look she honed over the years. She became a fashion icon with her almost magical appearance: Swirling skirts, gossamer fabrics and shawls. Her look would inspire clothing lines, websites and generations of women in swirly skirts.
The genesis of her fashion sense was a mom who sewed her clothes, including a cowgirl outfit Nicks wore at age 5 while singing in saloons with her grandfather.
Her dad’s dad was a singer who never made it. When he realized his little granddaughter could handle complex harmonies, he imagined taking her to the Grand Ole Opry. After decades of toiling in anonymity, he figured the gimmick he needed was singing with his adorable granddaughter.
Stevie’s mother nixed that idea.
Her parents encouraged her but became worried when Nicks, in her 20s, was broke, sick all the time and exhausted. Nicks considered becoming a speech therapist but stuck with singing and writing songs.
She kept filling journals as she went through romances and a brief marriage to her best friend’s widower.
When Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles were touring, Nicks walked into her dressing room one night to find a huge bouquet of roses with a card: “To Stevie: The best of my love – tonight? Love, Don.”
Turns out the ham-handed move was a practical joke from her own bandmates, teasing her about Don Henley.
When she and Henley did hook up, he was far smoother and sent over a stereo, records and beautiful flowers.
Among her other lovers was record executive Paul Fishkin, who helped propel her career.
Fishkin considered Nicks the key to Fleetwood Mac. The band had been kicking around for years. They only hit it big once Nicks and Buckingham joined the band. Still, she held onto her waitressing job — just in case.
Though now the one bringing in the crowds, Nicks had no real sway in the band. Getting the songs that she wanted on the albums became a struggle, according to Davis.
Initially, Nicks lacked the courage that she could go it alone. Fishkin assured her she could.
Around this time, her New Age-y side blossomed. Nicks had also started using a lot of cocaine, landing in rehab for the first time in 1982.
A few years later, when in Australia and unable to get her hands on any coke, she started drinking heavily and fell off stages. Her friends staged an intervention and Nicks went off to the Betty Ford Center.
Then, while on the anti-panic attack drug Klonopin, life turned really scary. Nicks began taking too much and often felt completely out of it. Always small at 5-foot-1 and very slight, Nicks ballooned up to 175 pounds and was smoking three packs of menthols a day.
She checked herself into a hospital and detoxed for 47 days. When clean, she went back to work, touring behind her 1994 Street Angel album. She was brutally honest about her own work.
“I listened to the record — I’m off all the drugs — and I knew it was terrible,” she said. “It had cost a fortune.”
Nicks finished the tour and took stock of herself. She had the breast implants removed, started exercising, quit smoking and worked hard to create music.
She tried collaborating again with Petty, who was going through a divorce. Ultimately she would sing again with her old pals in Fleetwood Mac and she kept moving forward.
Were Nicks to write an autobiography now, it could easily be called “Don’t Stop.”
Jacqueline Cutler / New York Daily News / Saturday, November 11, 2017