The vocal range of Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks is undoubtedly one of the most impressive in rock. Only possibly trumped by Axl Rose and the late Freddie Mercury, Nicks reigns supreme as the Queen of the mic. So when we found this isolated vocal of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rhiannon’ we were stopped dead in our tracks.
The track ‘Rhiannon’ remains a clear fan favourite and still features in much of the band’s ‘best of’ sets. Written for the band’s 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… 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 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 woman named Rhiannon.
While there is mention of the Welsh legend of Rhiannon in the novel, the characters in the story bear little resemblance to their original Welsh namesakes as both Rhiannon and Branwen are major female characters in the medieval Welsh prose tales of the Mabinogion. This was a fact that Nicks found most intriguing, as she had written the song without the knowledge of the Welsh folklore but found so much of it applicable to her own musings.
Nicks even began work on a larger Rhiannon project based on the Welsh Goddess, writing some songs in anticipation of its completion. There are several so-called “Rhiannon Songs” from this unfinished project including ‘Stay Away’ and ‘Maker of Birds.’ In fact, Nicks wrote the Fleetwood Mac song ‘Angel’ based on the Rhiannon story.
With such an intrinsic connection to both the song and now the subject matter, it seems fitting that we should take a look back at Nicks’ performance of her song. It’s a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the track and Nick’s commandment of both her own instrument and the use of the space between her lyrics show that she was always destined to be a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
Listen below to Stevie Nicks’ isolated vocal performance of Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 iconic track ‘Rhiannon’.