Friday, April 5, 2013

182: The Self-Empowered Woman: Stevie Nicks

Dear Followers,

Like most baby boomers, I spent years enjoying the music of Fleetwood Mac, especially the vocals of Stevie Nicks (like me, a child of the Southwest but a true California Girl). So when I saw her episode on Oprah's Master Class, I was sure that she more than qualified for inclusion as a Self-Empowered Woman, albeit a complicated one--hope you agree!

Stephanie Lynn Nicks was born on May 26th, 1948 in Phoenix, Arizona, and during her childhood lived in Albuquerque, El Paso, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Her mother was a homemaker and her father was a corporate executive who (like mine) was frequently transferred from one town to the next. Her paternal grandfather, Jess Nicks, had been a struggling country music singer, and he taught Stevie how to sing duets with him by the time she was four years old (2: An Early Sense Of Direction).

For her 16th birthday she received a Goya guitar, and wrote her first song "I've Loved and I've Lost, and I'm Sad But Not Blue." During her adolescence she continuously played Janis Joplin records and lived in her "own little musical world." While attending Arcadia High School in Arcadia, California she joined her first band (9: Music).

Stevie met Lindsey Buckingham during her senior year at Menlo Atherton High School at a party where he was playing "California Dreamin" and she sang harmony with him. Several years later he contacted her to join his band Fritz, which would later be an opening act for Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin--two stars who inspired Stevie's on-stage intensity. Both Nicks and Buckingham were attending San Jose State University: she was majoring in speech communication, and planned to become an English Teacher. But in 1968, they dropped out of school and moved to LA in hopes of launching their music career. At this point, her family cut off their financial support, and she worked for several years as a waitress (14: Risk Addiction).

In 1973, the couple released their first album, "Buckingham Nicks," but it was not a commercial success. The next few years were challenging because Lindsey found work playing the guitar in Colorado for the Everly Brothers, and Stevie was left behind doing menial work. It was during this time that she wrote "Landslide," which was about both her turmoil regarding their relationship and her longing for a musical career (to date, it has over three million airplays). By 1975, they were back in California and had joined forces with Fleetwood Mac, primarily because Stevie was tired of waitressing. Her hunch was right and the "Fleetwood Mac" album became a huge hit (8: Turning No Into Yes).

By this time the band had become regular cocaine users, and Stevie and Lindsey ended their personal relationship even though they were in the same band (15: Forget About Prince Charming). During that time  Stevie began a romantic relationship with Mick Fleetwood, which caused conflict within the band. Much of the 80's, while professionally successful, was clouded in heavy cocaine use. In 1986, a plastic surgeon warned Stevie that her nose was so damaged from cocaine that "The next time you do a hit of cocaine, you could drop dead."

Stevie checked into the Betty Ford Center for 30 days to overcome her addiction, but a psychiatrist in LA prescribed the sedative Klonopin (with the objective of helping her remain cocaine free). Her struggles with Klonopin turned out to be even worse, because (from 1987 through 1994) the psychiatrist frequently increased the dosage. Eventually, she became so addled by the drug that she admitted to having absolutely "no memory" of her 1989 US/Europe tour. Ultimately, she became so ill that she required a 47-day hospital stint (12: Hard Times).  

While some critics have labelled her on-stage persona (black clothes, gothic gloves, etc.) as an indication that she is a witch or involved in Wicca, she refutes this. Although not belonging to any particular faith, she told Redbook magazine that she believes in Angels and knows that she is alive today because "there was a god" looking out for her during her years of addiction (3: Belief In the Unbelievable).

In 1992, Bill Clinton used the Fleetwood Mac hit "Don't Stop" as his campaign theme song, and Stevie joined the band to perform it at Clinton's 1993 Inaugural Gala. At the time, she was severely criticised for her weight gain (which she blamed on the Klonopin); at 5 foot 1 inch she weighed 175 pounds (6: Life is Not A Beauty Pageant).

Even though she has become a music legend (over forty Top 50 hits, as well as over 140 million albums sold), and named "The Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll" and one of the "100 Greatest Singers Of All Time" by Rolling Stone, Stevie decided to stretch even farther. She decided to work in front of the camera by appearing on the TV shows "Glee" and "Up All Night" (13: More Than Meets The Eye).

Stevie's only brush with marriage and motherhood came when she had a very brief marriage to the widower of her best friend, Robin, who had died of leukemia. Stevie was determined to take care of Robin's son, Matthew, but soon realized it was a misguided step. Matthew remained in her life, and she put him through college. She has several godchildren, nieces and a nephew, and has said "I have lots of kids. It's much more fun to be the crazy auntie than it is to be the mom, anyway." She made a conscious choice not to be married or have children because that sort of commitment would interfere with her demanding career. Her choice was to follow her art wherever it might take her. "My mission maybe wasn't to be a mom and a wife; maybe my particular mission was to write songs to make moms and wives feel better" (7: Magnificent Obsession).

In addition to her Fleetwood Mac tours, she has also made 14 single tours as well. In 1998, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and as a solo artist has received eight Grammy Award nominations (plus another five as a member of Fleetwood Mac.) 

Looking forward to your comments...

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