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Music

The song Mick Fleetwood wants played at his funeral

@SamWKemp

We all want to go out in style. I often think about the famous last words of Buddy Rich, who gave one of my favourite exit lines before passing away during surgery in 1987. As the nurse was prepping him for theatre, she asked, quite sensibly: “Is there anything you can’t take?” to which he replied, “Yeah, country music”. That’s top-shelf stuff, really. Unfortunately, some of us will shuffle off this mortal coil without being able to conjure the correct words in the correct order. That’s where music comes in.

While many of us would rather not think about our musical choices once we’ve departed, it’s worth giving it some thought. That last song is an opportunity to capture everything we are in a single piece of music. It’s also an opportunity to hearten the people who have come to bid us farewell. Judging from Mick Fleetwood’s choice, he’s hoping a few tears will be shed. Ah, don’t we all.

Responding to the question of which song he’d like played at his funeral, the Fleetwood Mac founding member seemed a little taken aback. “The song at my funeral, which will be in five minutes! Wow, that is maudlin. I’d probably pick ‘Songbird’ by Christine McVie, to send me off fluttering.”

A fine choice indeed. Proof of her strength as a songwriter in her own right, this 1977 track from the B-side of Rumours was written, sung, and performed by McVie, giving her the chance to show off the warmth of her voice and control of imagery. Like so many of McVie’s songs, ‘Songbird’ is written not from her own perspective but from that of an outsider looking in.

Explaining her approach to songwriting, McVie told Uncut: “If you take ‘Songbird’ as an example, that was written in about half an hour. If I could write a few more like that, I would be a happy girl. It doesn’t really relate to anybody in particular; it relates to everybody. A lot of people play it at their weddings or at bar mitzvahs or at their dog’s funeral. It’s universal. It’s about you and nobody else. It’s about you and everybody else. That’s how I like to write songs.”

‘Songbird’ has endured as one of the most poignant songs of the 1970s precisely because of its ambiguity. Located somewhere between melancholy and euphoria, the track captures the essential selflessness of love. “And I wish you all the love in the world/ But most of all, I wish it from myself,” Mcvie sings as the shimmer of ivory keys laps quietly on.

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