“What a writer wants to do is put stuff out there and make people mull it over in their minds until suddenly it’s something that’s way more important than turning on the stereo.” — Stevie Nicks
There are few superlatives equipped to sum up the mercurial talent of Stevie Nicks. As one of the most prominent songwriters of her generation, she remains the only female double Rock and Roll Hall of Famer in history. Aside from the accolades, Nicks carries around with her something far more valuable, the respect of her peers. Widely thought of as one of the finest rock singers of her time, she’s also an expert songwriter too.
Here, we’ve collated 10 of the singer-songwriter’s best songs from across her career, starting with work with Buckingham and following Nicks through her time as the frontwoman of Fleetwood Mac and on to her shining solo career. Looking through those songs it’s hard to argue with her position at the top of the pile, her legacy unblemished and her canon of work unparalleled.
The list of amazing Stevie Nicks-helmed songs could go on for a very long time. Nicks has always possessed the unique ability to not only write and record songs that are smart, impassioned and honest, but also entirely ubiquitous and attainable. Nicks has perfected the ability to share herself and connect with her fans in the most honest and authentic way, it’s part of why she is so dearly loved to this day.
Below, find Stevie Nicks’ 10 greatest songs of all time and expect to hear some of the most impressive vocals along with it.
Stevie Nicks’ 10 best songs
10. ‘Crying in the Night’
The first song from Buckingham Nicks’ self-titled debut album was destined to be a chart-topper but never reached its potential. It did, however, catch the attention of Mick Fleetwood who would soon seek out the duo for his own band.
It instantly marked Stevie Nicks out as an aggressively honest writer as she warns of the dangers of obsessive love all wrapped up in some power-pop glory. It’s a classic Stevie track.
9. ‘Blue Denim’
Street Angel may well be one of Nicks’ least-loved albums, having been written in the middle of leaving Fleetwood Mac and her prescription drug addiction, but it did hold one beautiful moment, the gorgeous ‘Blue Denim’.
“It’s a song about this guy who came into my life, but left just as quick,” she told WDVE, referring to her on and off-stage partner Buckingham. “And his eyes were that intense.” The track is equally beguiling and has a habit of capturing your mind’s eye and taking it on a ride.
8. ‘After The Glitter Fades’
Perhaps Nicks’ most pertinent vocal performances came on her 1981 solo album Bella Donna and ‘After The Glitter Fades’, a song which is utterly captivating.
It perfectly encapsulates Nicks’ ability to transcend the terrestrial and make her way to the heavens without so much as a look back over her shoulder. The song’s vulnerable moments are perfectly held up by Nicks as she allows her audience another look into her soul.
The track may be relatively forgotten by some but it stuck with us and country legend Glen Campbell who picked it up for a charming cover. For our money, the original is on another level and rightly sees Stevie Nicks as the woman with the magical voice.
7. ‘The Chain’
A patchwork song built out of several different pieces from different members of Fleetwood Mac, the track remains one of the most unifying moments on the album. Moving effortlessly across the seventies spectrum the group show their mettle on this one and announce themselves as patrons of music in every form.
The track may well have been created by the band as a whole but it is Nicks’ lyrics and voice that remain with us after listening. It’s a testament to the singer’s ability to command not only a room but the airwaves too as she flies through the chords with a glint in her eye and a smile on her face.
6.’Rooms on Fire’
Taken from Nicks’ fourth solo studio album, 1989’s The Other Side of the Mirror, the track once again proved Nicks was a fantastic songwriter above all else.
Apparently inspired by her relationship with Rupert Hine, Nicks said of the song: “Rooms on Fire is about a girl who goes through a life like I have gone through, where she finally accepts the idea that there never will be those other things in her life. She will never be married, she will never have children, she will never do those [that] part of life.”
The track was a mainstay of Nicks’ live shows up until 1999 and hasn’t been played since. We hope that the song will get another outing soon enough.
5. ‘Stand Back’
Taken from 1983 effort The Wild Heart, the single ‘Stand Back’ has a more curious composition story than you might imagine. Having married her friend’s widower following her death, Nicks and Kim Anderson were driving to their honeymoon when Nicks heard Prince’s ‘Little Red Corvette’ on the radio. She was taken aback.
Nicks began humming a tune inspired by the song and made Anderson stop the car so they could grab a tape recorder and, by process of humming the tune, laid down the bare bones of the song.
To this day, it remains a part of Nicks’ performances and was yet another reminder that even without a backing band she was a force to be reckoned with creatively.
During the recording of Fleetwood Mac’s seminal record Rumours, songbird Stevie Nicks would often escape the intensity of the studio to take a break in the King of Funk, Sly Stone’s room, as it was just down the hall in the same rehearsal space. It was there that Nicks would write one of the most beloved songs.
“It wasn’t my room, so it could be fabulous,” she recalled in the 1997 Classic Albums documentary on Rumours. “I knew when I wrote it that it was really special. I was really not self-conscious or insecure about showing it to the rest of the band.” The recording process was a scene that was worthy of escaping.
‘Dreams’ is a product of that highly-charged situation and sees Nicks firmly take aim at her now-ex-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham with unnerving ferocity and marksmanship.
3. ‘Edge of Seventeen’
The solo career of Stevie Nicks would be a pathway for so many other artists to follow. She went out on her own, away from some famous bands and arguably did it better than ever before. ‘Edge of Seventeen’ was Nicks’ all-powerful introduction to her solo career.
Nicks the Queen of Rock was born when Jimmy Iovine moved away from working with Tom Petty to take on her 1981 album Bella Donna. “It was Jimmy that said, ‘I will produce your record and we’ll make you a Tom Petty record, expect it’ll be a girl Tom Petty record,’” Nicks recalled. “I found that very exciting and I was jumping off the walls. That’s how it all started.”
The song, which wasn’t the first release from Nicks under her new guise away from Fleetwood Mac and Lindsey Buckingham, did offer something different to ‘Edge of Seventeen’ from the first two singles ‘Stop Draggin My Heart Around’ and ‘Leather and Lace’. Those two releases both featured Nicks singing as part of a duet.
While the ‘Rhiannon’ singer was naturally excited to have the great Tom Petty and Don Henley provide ample vocal support on the two previous releases, ‘Edge of Seventeen’ suddenly meant more knowing that Nicks was finally out on her own. It saw her shine as a solo star and promised that Nicks was a talent beyond any band.
The track ‘Rhiannon’ remains a clear fan favourite and still features in much of the band’s ‘best of’ sets. Written for their seminal self-titled album in 1975, shortly after Nicks and her then-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham joined the band, it has to be one of the greatest pop songs ever written, the most perfect pop song, written about a witch.
Nicks was known to preface the song’s performance at their live dates with the words: “This song’s about an old Welsh witch” and she’s true to her word. Nicks discovered the folkloric Rhiannon in the seventies through a novel called Triad by Mary Bartlet Leader. The novel revolves around a woman named Branwen who is possessed by another wild woman named Rhiannon.
It marked Nicks out as not only a writer capable of drawing from her own experiences but of using the mythical to tell her story.
The track features on the band’s self-titled 1975 album, which along with Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s introduction, looked to truly kick start the success of Fleetwood Mac. This beautifully rich and luxurious song is one of the mainstays of that success. It stands among the most performed Fleetwood Mac songs and is a pivotal moment of their live show.
The song’s emotive language and Stevie Nicks’ undeniably pure and vulnerable vocal allows the mind to wander towards this track being a love song but, in truth, the track is located in more vocational areas of the soul.
It centres on a moment when Nicks, having lost her contract with Buckingham and Nicks, was truly worried that she may never achieve her dream. It is this longing that lands the song as one of Nicks’ finest.
The track is so ubiquitous with Nicks’ gorgeous and yet touchingly subtle vocal that it feels inextricable from her and her romantic past that it can feel too easily placed within the “love song” arena. The truth is that it most likely is a love song, but not as we would hope to define it.
This is an ode to Nicks’ only one true love; music.