The Tragic Life Of Stevie Nicks

The following article mentions domestic abuse allegations and addiction.

Gold dust woman. Mystical high priestess. Fairy godmother of rock. The ethereal and stunning Stevie Nicks has accumulated many titles over her 50-year career in music — and fittingly so. It would be unreasonable to expect anything less from a woman whose life has been a blazing adventure. One best believe what she once told Billboard: "The world is not ready for my memoir, I guarantee you." Sure enough, Nicks' legacy is defined by a magic that eludes worldly explanations. Whatever human scrutiny it has so far allowed has sufficiently established Nicks as rock's most glamorous tragic figure. 

The word that often finds mention in any profile of Nicks or her stamping ground Fleetwood Mac is excess. Against the background of her Grammy-winning band, Nicks lived in the fast lane that rockers like herself have long frequented. A string of health struggles and personal losses running parallel to her other well-publicized setbacks further added to Nicks' life experiences, which first captured public imagination in the 1970s and haven't left it since. Scroll ahead to read more about the tragic life of Stevie Nicks. 

Stevie Nicks isolated herself after the death of her mother

Barbara Nicks' influence on the life of her daughter Stevie Nicks was significant and it is to her that the Fleetwood Mac singer's unrelenting spunk can be traced. "She said to me: you will never stand in a room full of men and feel like you can't keep up with them," Stevie told The Guardian. Throughout her childhood, and even after, Barbara remained a strong source of support for Stevie, who hung on to every wise word her mother had to tell her about life and the fearless woman to become. 

So when Barabra passed away in 2011 following pneumonia, the loss hit Stevie hard. "I didn't leave the house for almost five months," she told The Herald. Though Stevie was mournful about her mother's death, the singer didn't stop feeling her presence. If anything, Stevie felt closer to her mother after her death than when she was living. 

Talking to the Los Angeles Times, she recounted all the times her mother communicated with her long after she had been gone — from warning Stevie about acid reflux to helping her find lost items. "It's so real and creepy, and I always just go 'Thank you, Barbara.'" 

Her tragic relationship with Lindsey Buckingham is legendary

Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham's fraught relationship not only inspired "Daisy Jones and the Six," but is easily responsible for half the lore that surrounds rock's fabled soap opera that is Fleetwood Mac. The start of Buckingham and Nicks' endless saga goes back to the 1960s, when they were school-going kids in California. Their musical inclinations brought them together for a band called Fritz, and their dynamic turned romantic.

"From the beginning, Lindsey was very controlling and very possessive," Nicks told Rolling Stone. And though, as legend famously states, Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac only on the condition that Nicks be welcomed into the band with him, their romance was already on the edge by then. Their split in 1976 all but transfigured rock history, inducing a wealth of hauntingly beautiful lyrics — most memorably for the band's celebrated album "Rumours" — and nearly 50 years of public feuding. 

Things came to a head in 2018, when Buckingham was fired from the band, allegedly at Nicks' behest. Nicks' musings about Buckingham are neatly summed up in her statement to The New York Times: "When it's all said and done and I'm 90 years old, maybe I'll be able to figure that relationship out."

Lindsey Buckingham was allegedly abusive toward her

Even with all its bitter details, Stevie Nicks' saga with her former boyfriend and bandmate Lindsey Buckingham is often made out to be a paradigm of passion. The darkest moments of their relationship, however, lie forgotten under that romanticism. In the 2017 biography "Gold Dust Woman," author Stephen Davis quoted more than one incident of Buckingham allegedly attacking Nicks, including one where he apparently choked her. "I thought he was going to kill me," Nicks said. 

A more public confrontation happened when Fleetwood Mac was touring New Zealand for their album "Tusk" in 1980. Buckingham reportedly mocked, kicked, and even threw a guitar at Nicks mid-performance. The assault, which Buckingham later refrained from confirming, invited a particularly angry reaction from fellow bandmate Christine McVie who slapped him. Though time may have turned down the heat in Nicks and Buckingham's relationship, things have hardly cooled down between them. As Nicks put it to Rolling Stone, "He and I will always be antagonizing to each other." 

She regretted posing topless for an album cover

"Buckingham Nicks" was what started it all. The 1973 outing — which was Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham's debut and only album together as a musical duo — gave the former couple a legitimate entryway into the world of rock and, eventually, Fleetwood Mac. But the album's legacy is more problematic than its successful outcome would have one believe. As Nicks recounted to Mojo magazine, she bought a flowing blouse for the cover shoot. The purchase, on which a young Nicks had spent her last precious dollars, was featured in a few snaps until she was asked to discard it. 

"I'm actually quite prudish. So when they suggested they shoot Lindsey and I nude I could not have been more terrified if you'd asked me to jump off a speeding train," Nicks said. She made her discomfort known on set but her insistence, instead of winning her then-boyfriend's support, triggered his anger. Buckingham apparently chastised 25-year-old Nicks and she gave in. "I couldn't breathe. But I did it because I felt like a rat in a trap," Nicks recalled. The incident, also detailed in "Gold Dust Woman," did not go down well at Nicks' home and almost led to her early exit from the industry. 

She felt compelled to marry her best friend's husband

In 1983, Stevie Nicks entered into what was to be a short-lived marriage with Kim Anderson, her best friend's widower. The union came about after her friend Robin Snyder Anderson tragically died leukemia that year. Snyder left behind a son, born just two days before her death, per The Guardian

Driven by the impulse to take care of her late friend's baby, Nicks proposed marriage to Anderson. Despite the disapproval of people around them, the pair tied the knot three months after Snyder's death. "It was a completely ridiculous thing. And it was just because I had this crazy, insane thought that Robin would want me to take care of Matthew," Nicks said. It didn't take long for Nicks to acknowledge that the whirlwind wedding had been a mistake.

"We didn't get married because we were in love, we got married because we were grieving and it was the only way that we could feel like we were doing anything," she told Vulture. Nicks' mystical inclinations, which interpreted signs of displeasure from her friend, gave her further proof that her marriage was ill-fated and the pair divorced in three months. She then went on to date Joe Walsh. Nicks and Walsh broke up in 1986 after three years. 

She had a long-drawn struggle with cocaine addiction

Like many classic rockers, Stevie Nicks thrived in the fast lane at the peak of her career, her life a whirlwind of music and drugs. A user of cocaine through the 1970s and '80s, Nicks splurged by the millions for her drug habit, the beginnings of which she traced to her pre-Fleetwood Mac days of working as a cleaning lady. She once used a line of coke that had apparently been left behind by her employers as a way to check her attentiveness, she told ABC News. The incident marked the start of what would turn out to be a struggle with the substance for Nicks. "It was amazing how when people talked about it, how not a big thing it was," she said. "Nobody had any idea how insidious and dangerous and horrible it was."

Evidently, it only escalated for Nicks. "I was a girl, I was fragile, and I was doing a lot of coke. And I had that hole in my nose," she told Rolling Stone, referring to a medical issue brought on by her nasal ingestion of aspirin. Warned by a surgeon about the risks, Nicks decided to check herself into rehab at Betty Ford in 1986. The program was a success, rendering Nicks clean from cocaine but unfortunately leaving her with other troubles. 

She was scrutinized for gaining weight

A doctor, whom Stevie Nicks has described as the only person she can never forgive, put her on Klonopin following her stint in rehab. This was allegedly done with the intention of preventing Nicks' relapse into substance abuse but, as she has reiterated for years, the tranquilizer did more harm than good. 

"This doctor was a groupie — he just wanted to hear me tell stories about rock & roll. So he kept upping my dose for years," she told Rolling Stone. For nearly a decade during the 1990s, Klonopin wreaked havoc on Nicks' health, affecting her creative abilities and weight. The latter was especially highlighted in the press. She gained close to 50 pounds, unable to avert the situation under the influence of the tranquilizer. "I just kind of went underground," she said 

Luckily, a moment of epiphany — which came as Nicks was looking at pictures of herself, according to Out magazine — gave her the resolve she needed to check into rehab once more. This stint proved to be more challenging than her previous one, but it gave Nicks an enduring drug-free life. 

Vocal problems haunted Stevie Nicks' singing career

Widely revered as one of the greatest female vocalists of all time, Stevie Nicks has personified the ultimate musical and emotional experience for generations with her distinctly earthy sound. The knowledge then that the "Dreams" singer's most beloved attribute was ever at risk of being destroyed is, to put it mildly, scary. 

During her years of success with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks neglected her voice as much as she used it. "We were only just starting to use ear monitors, and we'd been using huge floor monitors that blast the sound back at you and you just scream over it," she told The New York Times, recalling a troubled spell between 1975 and 1988. The nodes on her vocal chords progressively worsened the situation. 

In fact, The New York Times' review of a 1977 show at Madison Square Garden noted the distressed quality of Nicks' voice. Music critic John Rockwell wrote, "This observer is no doctor, but unless Miss Nicks undergoes some radical treatment immediately and retrains her singing completely, her days as a performer are surely numbered." Thankfully, it didn't come to that. In 1998, Nicks began training with vocal coach Steve Real and developed a voice care regimen that has kept her singing career thriving for almost three decades since. 

She had a messy affair with Mick Fleetwood

The members of Fleetwood Mac are as revered for their music as they are notorious for their cross-member dramas. While Stevie Nicks' troubled relationship with Lindsey Buckingham took center stage, it didn't shroud the brief affair she also shared with bandmate Mick Fleetwood. The romance materialized in the midst of Fleetwood's second-time marriage with Jenny Boyd. Even so, Fleetwood felt a connection strong enough with Nicks to tell his then-wife about it. "It was a convenient, exciting affair that suited both people but I didn't realise the proportions of it," he told The Telegraph

Fleetwood and Nicks' romantic adventure, spawned during the band's already-unstable "Rumours" era, was doomed to fail. There were other love connections in the mix, most obviously Boyd. News of her husband's involvement with another woman didn't go down well with her and, though she divorced Fleetwood in 1978, Boyd claimed she didn't speak to Nicks for years. Nicks eventually apologized to Boyd, who told Fox News, "Yes, it was devastating. But after all these years, it's all water under the bridge." 

Stevie Nicks' musical milestones didn't always get their dues

For all the musical regard she commands today, Stevie Nicks has had to weather her fair share of moments in life where her creative talent was put under question. One such instance, which dates back to the 1970s, could have potentially altered the course of rock history by divesting the world of what turned out to be one of the greatest breakup anthems ever written. 

"Silver Springs" — which Nicks described to People as "probably the best song I've ever written" — was composed in the wake of her split from Lindsey Buckingham and originally meant to make the tracklist of Fleetwood Mac's 1977 masterpiece "Rumours." Her bandmates turned that decision over, first cutting the song from the album entirely and ultimately including it as a B-side to "Go Your Own Way" — Buckingham's own take on the famed breakup. 

"Silver Springs" has since taken on a life of its own, gaining Nicks a whole new legion of young admirers on TikTok. Back in the day, her characteristic audacity that is so popular on current social media wasn't always favored — especially by men. Nicks told The Guardian that Buckingham apparently refused to listen to her debut solo album "Bella Donna" when she gave him a copy. "They were full-on jealous," Nicks said. "They hated that kind of confidence in a woman."

She has lived with the Epstein-Barr virus for a long time

Stevie Nicks' glamorous rocker image hardly betrays that she has tackled a string of health issues in the background of her highly successful career. For years, Nicks has lived with the Epstein-Barr virus, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes as a herpesvirus that spreads from skin-to-skin contact. The virus induces fatigue and throat inflammation, symptoms that negatively impacted Nicks' ability to perform live in the 1990s. Decades passed but the condition didn't entirely leave her, with Nicks feeling the effects of the disease as recently as 2020, according to Rolling Stone. Nicks has long attributed her sickness to the faulty breast implants she got in 1976 and later got removed.

Her sensitive health took a further hit in 2019, when Nicks was hospitalized with double pneumonia and asthma right after she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Though it wasn't Nicks' first brush with pneumonia – she also contracted it back in 2011 — the latest incident prompted the "Rhiannon" singer to give out solemn warnings to take the coronavirus seriously. As she told Variety in 2020, "It's going to kill you. And I've said that if I get it it'll kill me. I have compromised lungs." 

The deaths of some famous music icons impacted her

Stevie Nicks belongs to an exclusive league of icons, some of whom she counted among her closest friends. Nicks and the late Tom Petty became pals all the way back in the 1970s. Understandably, Petty's death was a loss that deeply affected Nicks, who stated during her acceptance speech at a MusiCares event in 2018, "He was one of my best friends. My heart will never get over this." 

Petty and Nicks' decades-long collaboration didn't just establish them as a musical powerhouse — with duets like "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" and "Insider" becoming unforgettable soundtracks to their pairing — but also as friends who weren't afraid of real talk. Following Petty's death, Nicks recalled for Rolling Stone that the Heartbreakers' frontman had served as a life advisor to her on many occasions, inspiring her 2014 song "Hard Advice." 

She shared a similar friendship with Prince, with the lore around it particularly hinged on her 1983 number "Stand Back," which was inspired by Prince's "Little Red Corvette." Prince, in turn, sought some lyrical direction from Nicks on a track, but she didn't feel like she could take on the "overwhelming" song. "I'm so glad that I didn't, because he wrote it, and it became 'Purple Rain,'" she told Star Tribune. Nicks has expressed regret over not seeing Prince before he died in 2016. 

As far as Stevie Nicks is concerned, Fleetwood Mac is at its end

As the only two women in Fleetwood Mac's history, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks didn't take long to establish their own two-member sisterhood. "We made a pact, in the very beginning, that we would never be treated with disrespect by all the male musicians in the community. And we really stuck to it," Nicks told The New Yorker. The two singers' relationship endured for decades until Christine McVie's heartbreaking death in 2022. 

The Grammy awardee's death – spurred on by cancer and a stroke – seemed to mark a critical point in Nicks' life, leading the singer to express rare skepticism about Fleetwood Mac's future. "When she died, I figured we really can't go any further with this. There's no reason to," she told Vulture, eulogizing McVie's status within the band. "Without her, what is it?" 

Famously allergic to excess public attention, McVie left the band in 1998 citing a fear of flying and retired to the English countryside. The keyboardist and vocalist rejoined the troupe after a 15-year hiatus, much to the delight of her admirers. Nicks was perhaps the most thrilled to have McVie back in the band. As Nicks told the Star Tribune in 2015, "I never want her to ever go out of my life again."

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