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When Stevie Nicks turned down songwriting advice from Prince

@SamWKemp

As you would expect of a musician who has, over the course of her career, released several pioneering pop records, Stevie Nicks has a number of friends in high places — and Prince was just one of them. However, when it came to songwriting, they didn’t always see eye to eye, something that became startlingly apparent as their friendship developed.

The relationship between Prince and Stevie Nicks began when the Fleetwood Mac singer asked the Purple One for some feedback on a song that she was working on in the studio. Nicks had been a fan of Prince for quite some time and was greatly influenced by this work, going so far as to base her track ‘Stand Back’ on Prince’s ‘Little Red Corvette’. But never one to be recklessly plagiaristic, Nicks gave Prince a call to let him know: “I called him and said, ‘Can you come to the studio and listen to this song? I’ve sung over your song and written another song and you may hate it and if you do, I won’t do it,'” Nicks recalled. “He came over to Sunset Sound and he loved it — he played piano and guitar on it.”

But what was a purely professional relationship for Nicks was something entirely different for Prince. “Prince and I were just friends,” Nicks once said. “I think he would have been happy to have had a relationship. But I really wanted a musical relationship, and I had smartened up, even then. You’ll break up and never speak again. But he wasn’t interested in just that.”

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So, as you can imagine, their friendship was already strained when Prince offered Nicks some advice that she didn’t want to hear. Prince knew the music industry well. He understood how it worked on a practical level, and that’s how he had managed to subvert the stereotypical image of the macho rock star. He revelled in a level of sexually ambiguous sensuality that hadn’t been seen from male rock stars before.

Prince was overtly sexual in his output and regarded his freedom as a recognition of his self-worth — but Nicks’ understanding of her own sexuality was slightly different. The singer previously admitted that she regretted posing topless on the cover of her debut album with Buckingham Nicks, the band that preceded Fleetwood Mac. She didn’t like the idea of using sex to sell records, believing that an artist should be valued on the quality of their music alone. So when Prince suggested that she try to be more openly sexual in her music, she made her opinion abundantly clear. “You have to write about sex, so you must not be intrinsically sexy,” she told Prince. “I don’t have to write about sex because I am intrinsically sexy”.

What Prince had mistaken for shy sensibilities was, in fact, quite the opposite. Nicks felt confident enough in her sexuality not to make it a part of her creative life. How Prince responded to Nicks’ criticism is unclear, but it certainly didn’t ruin their friendship. They remained firm friends right up until his death in 2016. Even though she didn’t agree with him all of the time, she continued to rely on him even after his death. “When I’m nervous, I’ll talk to Prince,” Nicks said. “In my solo act, when I do ‘Moonlight,’ I wear this white wolfy coat — I put this coat on and I try to transform into a Dire Wolf from Game of Thrones. And before I go on, I always say, ‘Walk with me, Prince'”.

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