Christine McVie dies aged 79 – the greatest Fleetwood Mac song you’ve probably never heard

Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie has died of a short illness at the age of 79. Here’s my tribute:

Christine McVie was one of the two ‘Macs’ of Fleetwood Mac. She was the key melodic link between the first, more bluesy era of the band, to their transition to a second, more melodic pop-rock era. She was the best friend of Stevie Nicks and the accessible musical soulmate of Lindsey Buckingham. She was the former wife of John McVie and the half-century long confidant, rock and grounded yin to Mick Fleetwood’s flamboyant yang.

Fleetwood Mac might’ve been able to sell out stadiums minus Christine McVie during the 16-year hiatus she had from the band (1998-2014), but they could never have done so without her songs. And now that she’s gone, it really feels like this should be it for Fleetwood Mac as a touring (and very occasional recording) attraction. Not because fans would necessarily want it to end, but because just as it never sat right kicking Lindsey out a few years back, no dollar signs in the world should tempt Mick, Stevie and John into thinking the banner of “Fleetwood Mac” should fly again onstage.

But the music will fly and soar as it always has. Indeed, the music of Fleetwood Mac remains as popular as ever, in part because of viral Tik-Tok videos, but more because no matter how old you are or how old these songs are, they connect emotionally.

Stevie might’ve been the biggest star and sex symbol, Lindsey might’ve been the guitar god and mad pop scientist, and Mick might’ve been the closest a non-singing drummer in a band with three lead singers gets to being a frontman. And yes, there was also the quietest member of whatever lineup Fleetwood Mac put forward, the nonchalant, seemingly disinterested, always brilliant bassist, former hubby, John.

But Christine shone because she brought all those very different personalities together. Christine shone because before Lindsey and Stevie became more prolific songwriters, she penned the lion’s share of Fleetwood Mac’s hits: Say You Love Me, Over My Head, Don’t Stop, You Make Loving Fun, Think About Me, Hold Me, Everywhere, Little Lies, As Long As You Follow… Those are all Christine songs.

And Christine shone because her mellow, warm voice was a counterpoint to Stevie’s husky vibrato, while being so symbiotic to Lindsey that few casual listeners realise Don’t Stop is a vocal duet between the two.

There was also something about the detached cool of Christine’s personality that resonated with fans who were drawn to the characters in rock’s greatest soap opera as much as the music. Christine was in her late 20s when she joined Fleetwood Mac and well into her mid-30s by the time Rumours made them megastars. That fame came to her later in life gave her a whiff of enjoying being a rock star without really ever needing it.

Though who knows – Christine returned to Fleetwood Mac after realising retirement in the English countryside wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be when you’ve been a member of, you know, FLEETWOOD MAC. So in 2014 she picked up the phone and for four mostly glorious years, the Mac was whole again.

That is until decades of Lindsey-Stevie tension boiled over in 2018 into the unseemly removal of Lindsey from the band. Mick has done so much right in his stewardship of this band, but thinking Lindsey was just another member to be replaced is a misjudgement right up there with blowing a reported 8 million pounds on cocaine back in the late 70s / early 80s and being forced to declare bankruptcy.

But let’s not dwell on that now. Instead, here’s a song that I’d rate as the best Fleetwood Mac song most people have never heard. Why was released in 1973 on the Mystery To Me album not long before Lindsey and Stevie revitalised the band. The building blocks to becoming a force of mass appeal are there though with Christine constructing a devastating, direct lament for John.

There’s no use in crying, it’s all over
But I know there’ll always be another day
Well my heart will rise up with the morning sun
And the hurt I feel will simply melt away

You make me feel, I just can’t carry on
But I know I won’t always be that way
‘Cos my heart will rise up with the morning sun
And the hurt I feel will simply melt away

You don’t have to give up
Why is it all wrong
Why don’t you love me
Why won’t you just be strong

Heartbreaking. But hopeful too. And lyrically, so concise – something you only realise when you read the words. Listening to Why, it feels like a minor epic. From that slow, mournful opening, to the soaring harmonies of the finale, Why has been my favourite Christine McVie song from the first time I heard it.


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