Christine McVie, Lancashire-born singer-songwriter and Fleetwood Mac’s first female member, has passed away peacefully at hospital. She was 79.
It’s easy to forget but Christine McVie was a member of Fleetwood Mac long before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined and transformed them from a lumbering sixties British blues band into one of the 1970’s biggest soft rock acts.
Yet it often seems like whenever anyone thought of female vocals in the group, Nicks was the beguiling witchy one that warranted all the attention.
No disrespect to Stevie and her mysterious multi-layered artistry but if we’re talking pure vocals, as a Brit I kinda preferred the sound of McVie. Her singing voice essentially reflected her lyrics: simple, straightforward and really rather pretty.
Even if she occasionally got lost outside of the spotlight that was increasingly aimed at the California couple, McVie was the quiet powerhouse who often contributed standout cuts like Don’t Stop and Hold Me on milestone records like Rumours (which I reviewed in 2022) and the sprawling Tusk.
Lest we forget, that in the UK, the two most successful singles extracted from 1987’s Tango In The Night were both Christine compositions, the gently rocking Little Lies and the shimmering, exquisite Everywhere. Neither were pony, but both 45s went top 5, giving the band their biggest hits since Albatross in the Peter Green era. Whereas Seven Wonders, the album’s sole Stevie single, inexplicably didn’t even make the top 50.
Befitting of another of her songs for the Mac, Christine was the epitome of a songbird and seemed to be more reserved and low-key both on stage and off. It’s hard to really remember much about her in the news, other than her marriage and divorce from John Mcvie and simply being an on-off member of the band.
When I caught the band in Cleveland in 2018, the only songs I got a smattering of video of from about half way back at what was then the horridly named Quicken Loans Arena (actually, the current Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is hardly any less mercenary sounding) was a bit of new member Neil Finn leading on a Splitz End and Crowded House number respectively, and the first minute of Christine doing Everywhere, the above snippet of which I’ve uploaded to YouTube, but will endeavour to go through the complete footage at a later date.
Christine was the stable sensible grounding force in Fleetwood Mac for certain, and I wonder how that band would have fared without her. I’m not just talking about temperament, but also the balance between three strong songwriters and singers with distinct personalities.
Despite the cavernous sports hall and the rather farty local Uber drivers, the Ohio show was a good gig, despite the lack of Lindsey Buckingham: Stevie was floaty, Mick was the eccentric showman, Neil was nervous, John was curmudgeonly (didn‘t smile once) and his ex Christine was her typically humble under the radar self. It‘s what she wanted.
The news impacted me more than I ever thought it would. But then as the least rock ‘n roll member of the group you hardly expected her to go first. Being a woman too, it’s not the natural order we have come to expect. We may have lost Bowie, George, Michael, Prince et al, but off the top of my head if you leave out Amy and Whitney‘s substance related deaths, in recent years the only major female in music whose death came as a bolt from the blue was Donna Summer‘s untimely demise.
Forever remember yesterday and go your own way songbird.