Thursday, January 16, 2014

Stevie Nicks, The #44 Female Artist of the Rock Era

We set the ground rules for the special at the beginning, but it's worth repeating here.  This special ranks The Top 100 Female Artists of the Rock Era* for their chart success, album sales and awards as female artists.  It does not include their other contributions to the Rock Era via groups or permanent duos, nor does it begin to factor in their influence.  Thus, an artist such as this great lady at #44 is ranked only on the basis of her solo recordings, not her incredible work with Fleetwood Mac, nor her incredible talent as both a songwriter and a lead singer.  A special of that nature would be called The Top 100 Women of the Rock Era.  When you consider her entire body of work as a singer and musician, obviously Stevie Nicks would be in the Top Five or Top 10 of All-Time in that ranking!

Nicks was born in Phoenix, Arizona.  Her grandfather Aaron, a country music singer, taught Stevie to sing, performing duets with her by the time she was four years old.  As a child, Nicks had difficulty pronouncing her given name of Stephanie, instead pronouncing it "tee-dee", which became her nickname, Stevie.  Her father's career as a food business executive required frequent moves, and the family lived in Phoenix, Albuquerque, El Paso, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco during Stevie's youth.

Stevie wrote her first song at age 16, and joined the band The Changing Times while going to Arcadia High School in Arcadia, California.  Nicks met her future musical and romantic partner, Lindsey Buckingham, during her senior year at Menlo Atherton High School.  Buckingham asked Nicks a few years later to join him in a band called Fritz.  Fritz was a popular live act in the Bay Area, opening for Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

Buckingham and Nicks both went to San Jose State University, where Nicks majored in Speech Communication in hopes of becoming an English teacher.  But the pair dropped out in 1968 to move to Los Angeles in pursuit of a music career.

After Fritz broke up in 1972, Nicks and Buckingham continued to write and record together.  They recorded a demo tape and signed a recording contract with Polydor Records.  Their subsequent album Buckingham Nicks in 1973, however, was not successful, and they were dropped from the label.  Stevie worked several jobs to help support the partnership, including waiting tables.  After Bob Welch left Fleetwood Mac, drummer Mick Fleetwood contacted Buckingham to invite him to be Welch's replacement.  Fleetwood later included Nicks upon Buckingham's insistence that he and Stevie were "a package deal".  

Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in 1974 and contributed immensely to the group's success.  After several Fleetwood Mac albums, Stevie had accumulated a rather large backlog of songs she had written that hadn't found their way to Fleetwood Mac releases because the group included three talented songwriters (Buckingham, Nicks and Christine McVie).  

In 1978, Nicks sang most of the backing vocals on Walter Egan's album Not Shy, including the hit "Magnet & Steel".  During the recording of the Fleetwood Mac album Tusk and the subsequent world tour, Stevie wrote material for a solo album.  Nicks, Danny Goldberg, and Paul Fishkin founded Modern Records to record and release Stevie's material.  In 1978, she teamed with Kenny Loggins for the duet "Whenever I Call You Friend".  It was a smash hit, rising to #1 in Canada and #5 in the U.S.

Nicks also sang vocals for John Stewart on the 1979 hits "Gold" and "Midnight Wind".  Stevie began her solo career in 1981 with the album Bella Donna, which became a #1 album and went Platinum less than three months after its release. It has since been certified Quadruple-Platinum.  The lead single, a collaborative effort with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers called "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around", hit #3 in the United States, #5 in Canada and #10 in Australia.

"Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" was nominated for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the Grammy Awards.  Another song on Bella Donna, a duet with Don Henley, was a much underrated #6 in the United States--"Leather And Lace".

While we're talking underrated, we must mention the next single, which mysteriously peaked at #11.  It was a #4 Rock song and #5 in Canada, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female--"Edge Of Seventeen".

Nicks was nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist at the American Music Awards for her great release.  "After The Glitter Fades" was another hit from Stevie's solo debut.

Nicks embarked on the White Winged Dove Tour before recording the Mirage album with Fleetwood Mac.  After the group's tour, Nicks set out to record her second solo album.  Stevie released The Wild Heart in 1983, which has now sold over two million copies.  The great song "Stand Back" became one of Stevie's biggest hits, reaching #5 in the United States and #10 in Canada.

Nicks received a nomination for an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, and "Stand Back" earned Stevie another Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female.  Stevie performed at the second US Festival, toured the United States later in the year, and performed "Stand Back" on Saturday Night Live.  Nicks followed that up with the single "If Anyone Falls", which hit #14.

Here is another song from the album--"Enchanted".

After the Wild Heart tour, Nicks began working on her third solo album.  She recorded songs in 1984, but was unhappy with the result, so she recorded a new group of songs the following year, and released the album Rock a Little.  Nicks released the single "Talk To Me", which gave Stevie her sixth Top 10 hit on the Rock chart.  It shot up to #1 with that audience, #4 overall and #6 in Canada, and gave Stevie a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female.

This was an important time in Stevie's life.  Prior to the tour beginning, she went to see a plastic surgeon.  "What do you think about my nose?" Stevie recounted on The Chris Isaak Hour in 2009.  "Well," the doctor said, the next time you do a hit of cocaine, you could drop dead." 

Stevie had been addicted to the drug for ten years or more.  Nicks thought to herself, and, remembering the influence Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix had on her music and her life, Stevie told a U.K. interviewer, "I would be very sad if some 25-year-old lady rock and roll singer ten years from now said, "I wish Stevie Nicks would have thought about it a little more.  That's what stopped me, and made me really look at the world through clear eyes."   

Countless rock stars and ordinary human beings like you and I have died of drugs, lacking the strength to better their lives.  To Stevie's great credit, she checked herself into The Betty Ford Clinic for 30 days to confront her addiction.  Her next single, "I Can't Wait", reached #6 on the Rock chart and #16 overall.

In 1985, Nicks and Fleetwood Mac worked on the album Tango in the Night.  In 1989, Stevie released the album The Other Side of the Mirror, which contained the hit "Rooms On Fire".  The single gave Stevie her second Rock #1, and it peaked at #12 in New Zealand and #16 overall in the U.S.

In 1991, Nicks released her greatest hits package, Timespace:  The Best of Stevie Nicks.  Another track on the album, "Whole Lotta' Trouble", was nominated for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female at the Grammy Awards.

Stevie has released three studio albums since then, and has had some success on the Dance and Rock charts, but further mainstream success has eluded her.  Nicks did receive a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female for "Planets Of The Universe" from her 2001 release Trouble in Shangri-Las.
She has continued to record with Fleetwood Mac and toured occasionally as a solo performer and with Fleetwood Mac in various lineups. 

In addition to the artists referred to above, Stevie has collaborated with and/or sang backing vocals for Phil Collins, B.B. King, Ringo Starr, Sheryl Crow, Chris Isaak, Todd Rundgren, Bob Welch, Dave Stewart, Robbie Nevil and Warren Zevon, among others.

Many singers, including Belinda Carlisle, the Dixie Chicks, Taylor Swift, Sheryl Crow, Michelle Branch, Mary J. Blige, Sarah McLachlan, Laura Branigan and Kelly Clarkson, credit Nicks as a major influence. 

Stevie has sold over 10 million records in the United States alone.  She has had eight Top 10 hits as either a solo performer or from session work with other artists, and another five Top 10 songs on the Rock chart.

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