“We all really basically have a lot of magic … it’s only those of us that choose to accept it that really understand it.” — Stevie Nicks
Whatever constitutes the ethereal nature of ‘star power’, Stevie Nicks has it in proverbial bucket loads. The acclaimed singer is not only the first female double Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, a marvellous feat if ever there was one, but she’s also insanely likeable. Far removed from the ego-driven machismo of seventies rock standards, Nicks operates, both in and outside Fleetwood Mac, with a relatable and connected presence, the kind that confirms she may have star power but also a heart too. Connected both with the music and lyrics she is singing but the audience that is watching or listening to her. It feels as if Nicks is never undervaluing her experience as a rock goddess.
That’s because, like millions of other people, Stevie Nicks is a fan. She’s a fan of music, a fan of the feeling it can provide and, as it turns out, a fan of a lot of other stars too.
While the noted admiration of Tom Petty and John Lennon, two of Nicks’ undying heroes, is par for the course, Nicks has often used her time on the stage to share her own tributes to some of the best in the business with some searing covers of classic songs. Below, we’re checking out the best of the best.
It’s not easy to pick up another’s song and make it your own. In fact, to do it with sincerity and originality is one of the most tremendously difficult tasks in all of music. But, somehow, no matter the artist or genre or style, Nicks grabs the song by the scruff of the neck, drapes it in lace, flashes a splash of gold dust and poof! Suddenly the song is as much a part of her canon as ‘Landslide’, ‘Rhiannon’ or ‘Stop Dreaggin’ My Heart Around’.
There’ been a plethora of different artists covered during her career too. Whether it’s from her friend and collaborator Tom Petty or the sixties legends The Crickets, Nicks has never shied away from giving a song her all. That’s because, at heart and underneath all the rock star mystique, Nicks is still just a fan.
Find below Stevie Nicks’ five greatest covers of all time.
Stevie Nicks’ best covers:
‘Just Like A Woman’ – Bob Dylan
It’s always a scary thing to pick up the work of an esteemed artist. When the artist in question is the “voice of his generation” and, arguably, one of the greatest songwriters of all time — aka, the freewheelin’ troubadour, Bob Dylan — that fear is likely multiplied tenfold. There’s no doubt that those nerves crept in a little when Nicks recorded ‘Just Like A Woman’ for her fifth studio album Street Angel in 1994.
We can tell because Nicks seems unwilling to take her vocals beyond the register of Dylan’s original. Of course, that is a sign of respect, and we’d imagine, the uncanny Dylan-esque drawl she adds to the song is simply a habit we all share when belting out a freewheelin’ tune. But there’s a genuine sense of kinship with the song as she flips the protagonist of the story, and it is soon revealed that she’s singing about her own breakability.
It’s a beautiful piece of genuine admiration and honest talent.
‘Rock and Roll’ – Led Zeppelin
The greatest artists will always try to push themselves creatively. Whether that means they delve into different genres or align themselves with some of the greatest to pit their wits against the best, in this cover, Nicks does both with aplomb. Though she’s always been a mainstay of rock and roll, it’s sensational to hear Nicks deliver a pure rock vocal on this cover of Led Zeppelin’s smash ‘Rock and Roll’.
Ditching her usually caramel tones for some razor-edge and ready to cut you in half is an experience worth having. Performed in 2007, it sees Nicks later in her career change up her approach and, for a brief moment each night on stage, turn into a recreation of Joan Jett standing at your front door chewing gum and swinging a baseball bat. It may be a departure from her usual style, but it somehow works better than ever expected.
‘Free Fallin” – Tom Petty
Of course, this simply wouldn’t be a Stevie Nicks without her paying tribute to her pal and longtime collaborator, Tom Petty. The singer and his band, The Heartbreakers, provided Nicks with one of her most iconic hits with ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’, and this cover is right up there with one of the best. There’s a soft-rock edge and Nicks’ golden vocal to confirm this song is meant for dusky evening strolls.
So much so it was included as part of the Party of Five soundtrack, confirming its spot as a piece of nineties nostalgia that few would want to turn away from.
Despite it being Petty’s original composition, it’s hard not to hear this song as one of Nicks’ own. When the world lost Petty, Nicks was one of the first to share her sadness and to celebrate his 70th birthday; she penned an open letter that read: “He was my best friend that was a man, a peer, someone I could really talk to about pretty much anything.
When people say, “It’s lonely at the top,” they’re serious. There just aren’t that many people in our tribe. For instance, if Tom called, unless I was on stage, I called him back immediately. If he asked me to go on tour with him, I packed a bag. His first wife Jane said, ‘Besides me, you were the best friend Tom ever had.'”
‘Lay Down Your Arms’ – Harry Nilsson
Picking up a classic Harry Nilsson song isn’t a new venture. The singer-songwriter, who sadly passed too soon following his devotion to debauchery, wrote songs that spoke to the soul of everybody that heard them, including, judging by this piece, both Stevie Nicks and Ringo Starr.
The Fleetwood Mac songstress joined the Beatles drummer for a calypso-infused performance as part of the 1995 tribute album, For the Love of Harry – Everybody Sings Nilsson.
Naturally, Nicks’ warm and honeyed vocals add some extra quality to Starr’s nuanced delivery. Never famed for his vocal performances, Starr’s showing here is a perfect balance to Nicks’ impeccable showing. Think of him as the salt to Stevie’s caramel.
‘I Still Miss Someone (Blue Eyes)’ – Johnny Cash
One of the greatest performers to ever pick up the mic, if Johnny Cash provides a cover of your track, you know you’re in good hands. While this cover, taken from 1989’s The Other Side of the Mirror, may have come before Cash turned into a professional tribute act to music as a whole with his stunning American Recordings, that wouldn’t have helped the naturally nervous Nicks.
‘I Still Miss Someone (Blue Eyes)’ is a classic piece from 1958, and given Nicks’ position as a knowledgeable music fan, she would have been well aware of the gravity of covering Cash. Luckily, she’s as skilled as anybody when given the time and space to enact her sound, and she delivers in spade on this performance.
Of course, there is plenty of synth and smoky tones — this is the eighties after all — but it is juxtaposed by the 8-bit country charm of the whole affair.