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The world lost a special songwriting talent when Christine McVie died on November 30, 2022. Below is a list of every songwriting credit I can find for her (co-writers, if any, are in parentheses). After the list, I provide my ten favorite songs of her. Some of my links are to their songs I first heard on their Live album.
Does anyone else find it funny that Sweet Revenge and Forgiveness are found in succession on her In the Meantime album? Anyhoo . . . .
Top Ten List
I’m a Fleetwood Mac nut. That said, I like to say that I was raised on Rumors, so my bias is clearly for the classic line up of Buckingham, Fleetwood, McVie x2, and Nicks. Rumors was the first album my brother owned, and Live was the first album I owned, so I listened to them both incessantly. They’re both remarkably important to me, and yet none of Christine’s songs off of Rumors made it into my top five. Go figure.
The Chain is not on this list because Christine’s songwriting credit is diluted by the fact that everyone in the band has a songwriting credit to it. But that’s a damn fine song too, and I was thrilled that it got so much screen time in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
I received Mirage on vinyl for Christmas in 1982. This song starts off with a lyric that was downright jarring, so I skipped the song every time I was listening to the album. After a month or two, I let the album play nonstop and heard the whole thing. That’s a month without this song I’ll never get back. That specific lyric, which is repeated in every chorus, still has a bit of that jarring effect on me, but the bridge more than makes up for it.
This is Christine’s only song from her solo career that makes this list, but not her only non-Fleetwood Mac song to do so (see #5). Definitely an 80s song, and definitely an 80s video. I turned 12 in 1980 and 21 in 1989, so you can imagine why this is right up my alley. The video seems to capture Christine’s style in a different, non-big-hair way. She wasn’t flamboyant but rather stood on the strength of her music. This worked far better in the context of a band than as a solo artist, which is why Lindsey and (especially) Stevie had stronger solo careers. Still, that foundation of great songwriting is something you shouldn’t miss. Click through a few of the links on this post and give her a listen.
As I mentioned above, you’d think all of Christine’s songs from Rumors would make this list, and yet this is the only one. It’ll probably be even more surprising in light of the fact that, when I first heard Rumors, You Make Loving Fun became my favorite song by any artist. I could always listen to it at home, but when I was old enough to, for example, go to roller-skating rinks (it was the late-70s, early-80s, kids), I’d always request it from the DJs. If I was in a restaurant with a juke box, I’d give my last quarter to play it. Yet over time, the song fell further down the list of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs, and even on my list of Christine-written songs. Still, if you look at only Christine’s songs, it makes the top ten. How could it not?
When the average person (i.e., non-Fleetwood Mac maniac, assuming any such person exists) thinks of Tango in the Night, they probably think of four songs (whether by name or by melody): Big Love, Seven Wonders, Everywhere, and Little Lies. Big Love and Everywhere are hard to forget considering that they were given new life to new, younger audiences by appearing on The Dance. But it’s interesting to note that of those four songs, Christine wrote two of them without a co-writer. Obviously, everyone in the band contributes at least a little to each song — I love the Mick Fleetwood’s drum part in Little Lies — but Christine deserves the credit for giving them such a solid foundation.
With Monday Morning, Say You Love Me started off the Live album with a one-two punch. Before I won this album as a door prize at a middle school dance, I had never heard Monday Morning, and more importantly I never appreciated live recordings. I thought they were rough and scrappy, and I was right. I just didn’t realize how awesome that was. Not only does it showcase how talented professional musicians are by being able to stay in tune and in beat with each other without the comforts of studio do-overs, but it also allowed them to riff a bit (see the guitar intro to Monday Morning) and switch up the dynamics of a song (see the intro to Say You Love Me). Live got me into that, and I couldn’t tell you how many times in a row I listened to the live rendition of Say You Love Me.
This is from Christine’s 2017 collaboration with Lindsey Buckingham, which flew far too far under the radar. I assure you that this is no token choice just to make sure this wonderful album is represented on the list. I really love how this song drives despite being relatively mellow, and the harmonies are as brilliant as you would expect from members of Fleetwood Mac.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, what I love most about this song is the keyboard part, which often improved songs by other songwriters, sometimes providing the final touch to put it over the edge towards greatness (e.g., Gypsy). It’s also a perverse twist on love songs. You have to appreciate that.
I’m glad Chevy is getting everyone on board on this song, even though it’s a shameless play at capturing the glory of the cranberry juice guy. As I discussed in my R.I.P. post, Christine had a way of breaking the tension on albums. She was capable of writing energetic music (see #1 below), but Lindsey and Stevie were mass-producing high-energy songs, especially while their relationship was crumbling. Sometimes you needed something light, and Everywhere was one of those songs that did that. It not only gave you a needed step back while listening to the first side of Tango in the Night, but also when listening to a random mix of Fleetwood Mac music. Their best songs were often heavy, but a random list of their best songs usually included Everywhere.
I imagine this might be a surprise choice, especially so high. The composition is fairly simple, and it has a droning quality to it, at times as much white noise as music. But I always loved this song, and I associate it with getting swept up in the fervor of the Miracle on Ice from 1980 and picking up street hockey. The song was still getting plenty of airtime during that event. I never grew out of my love for this song, and it remains one of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs. Music is often about association, right?
Other than the aforementioned The Chain, which involved the entire band, Tango in the Night was the one and only Fleetwood Mac album where Christine teamed with Lindsey to write some songs (at least to the extent that a co-songwriting credit was appropriate). It produced this song, which is a driving combination of Christine’s sultry, bluesy voice and Lindsey’s terrifying guitar work. It produced my favorite song among any with a songwriting credit for Christine.
So, there it is. Those are my favorites. If you disagree, that’s great; to each his or her own. But I hope this list has given you an excuse to revisit or discover some of her work. Most of us didn’t know her, so we’re not in true mourning. Instead, we’re in a position to celebrate her legacy. Do so. You won’t regret it.
I don’t get bothered by many celebrity deaths because I don’t know the people. However, even I experience the sense of mortality that those deaths impose upon us. Christine McVie has died. As a member of Fleetwood Mac, Christine was an important part of one of my two favorite bands. The other is Rush, who lost who lost Neil Peart just under three years ago. Around that time, I googled all the members of those bands for their ages. It painted a grim picture, but despite some scares, everyone held on until this morning. Because I rarely go to concerts, I’ve never seen either band live, so I was excited to see Lindsey Buckingham had a concert scheduled for nearby Tysons Corner, Virginia. Unfortunately, he cancelled the show at the last minute. Stevie Nicks is on tour, but she isn’t scheduled to be anywhere near me. I may never get the chance to see any of them live, but I can live with that. I’m appreciative that as long as I’m still around, I get to hear their music anytime I want.
The fact that Fleetwood Mac stayed together was always a mystery to me. I understand the idea of being professional even in the midst of personal breakups, but the nature of their jobs was such that Lindsey and Stevie were constantly taking shots at each other through their music. Just looking at Rumors for the moment, you have Lindsey telling Stevie that loving her was a mistake because she had no sense of loyalty (Go Your Own Way), leading Stevie to respond that he was the one abandoning her (Dreams). One of my favorite songs of all time (Silver Springs), which almost made the album, and to which I have a mild, personal connection, was even more biting, as its musical composition drove as deeply as the lyrics did. Then you have the entire band coming together to write a song (The Chain) filled with the bitterness that accompanies a failed relationship. Lindsey and Stevie always had to sing these songs with and to each other as if they were just words.
As completely fucking brilliant as those songs are, too much of anything can grate on you. Christine provided the counterbalance. Despite being in one of the couples that was splitting at the time of writing those songs, she gave us the needed break from that anguish with the optimism (Don’t Stop) and gave us a sense that she was willing to move on (You Make Loving Fun). Even disregarding the lyrics, her compositions changed the tone at just the right times within the album, and it was just as brilliant as the rest of it.
I could go on with other albums, but I’m sure you get the jist. Instead, consider some music that might be new to you. If you get the chance, take a listen to her unheralded album with Lindsey Buckingham entitled, rather unimaginatively, Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie. It’s a nearly perfect album for Fleetwood Mac fans.
Here are some thoughts on how that one came together.
R.I.P. Christine McVie. Your musical legacy is on solid ground.
I know what music I’ll be listening to for the next week.