Synopsis: Christine McVie, who died at the age of 79, was a vital member of the complicated cast of characters that comprised one of the greatest bands of all time.
Christine McVie: the voice behind some of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits.
Christine McVie, who died at the age of 79, was a vital member of the convoluted ensemble of individuals that comprised one of the greatest bands of all time.
Fleetwood Mac were on the verge of disbanding as a blues-rock force in 1970, with their leader Peter Green having left after an LSD-induced slump, when the remaining members decamped to a country house to try to find a new direction.
Christine McVie had already given up her career as a singer and keyboardist after realising she would see her husband, Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie, infrequently if they were in different bands.
However, just days before embarking on a US tour, Fleetwood Mac “suddenly felt they needed another instrument to fill out the sound,” she subsequently explained.
“And there I was, sitting around doing nothing and knowing every song by heart because I’d been watching them rehearse for three months.”
So, according to drummer Mick Fleetwood, the band begged her to join the tour as they were “going out the door.”
“I didn’t hesitate when they asked,” she added. “I simply said, ‘Yes, please.'”
That marked the beginning of Christine McVie’s official participation in Fleetwood Mac, as well as the commencement of the band’s new direction.
McVie’s soulful vocals, keyboard and piano playing, and gift for writing timeless pop songs propelled them to era-defining, stadium-filling success – albeit through legendarily messy personal relationships and drug and alcohol excess.
Christine Perfect was born in 1943 in Cumbria, the daughter of a concert violinist and music instructor and a psychic healer.
As the sixties began to swing, she attended art school and began performing with bands, eventually joining the blues band Chicken Shack. Her style never quite blended with the group’s more loud sound, but the gentler songs she fronted were the most commercially successful.
Her cover of Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind reached the top 20, and Melody Maker readers named her the greatest female vocalist in 1969 and 1970. She also recorded a solo album, but she couldn’t bear being a single artist.
Meanwhile, Perfect fell in love with John McVie after supporting Fleetwood Mac on tour, and they married in 1968. She announced her intention to retire and become a housewife.
That is, until Fleetwood Mac requested her to join them on tour, at which point she became a full member. Fleetwood encouraged her songwriting, and her pop-friendly style became increasingly prominent as the group went through additional lineup changes and a run of album releases – most of which were not hits.
They moved to Los Angeles in 1974 with the intention of staying for a few months to start over. Lindsey Buckingham, a singer and guitarist from the United States, was invited to join the band. He agreed, but only if his fiancée, singer Stevie Nicks, could accompany him. The Fleetwood Mac iconic lineup was born.
Christine McVie remembered: “I believe I have improved my performance. I became obsessed with writing. I just felt compelled to do justice to these two outstanding musicians.”
The trio worked well together and all contributed songs to their 1975 self-titled album, which reached number one in the United States.
Rumours, released in 1977, was their artistic and commercial pinnacle. “We just knew we’d got something very, really amazing on our hands when Rumours happened,” McVie added.
Almost every song on the album might have been the standout track on any other album. Don’t Stop, Songbird, and You Make Loving Fun were among McVie’s songs, and they highlighted her talent to compose magnificent choruses and lyrics that were deceptively simple but always heartfelt.
Few people could have written and sung lyrics as seemingly soppy as “I love you, I love you, I love you like never before,” as she did on Songbird, and made them sound so genuine.
Her melodies, however, were never so simple as to be cliched. “That’s the secret to composing a love song,” she explained. “‘I love you, you love me, where are you, I miss you,’ you can’t just say. There has to be a twist somewhere.”
Their last tour, this time with Crowded House’s Neil Finn taking Buckingham’s place, ended in November 2019.
McVie enjoyed being back with the band she helped make rock ‘n’ roll legends. “I know now where I belong,” she said. “It took me 15 years of not being with them to realise it.”
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