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Music

The song Stevie Nicks wrote for Joe Walsh

People write songs about each other all the time, but not everyone is happy to admit it. So it’s to Stevie Nicks‘ credit that she’s not only happy to spill the beans on who inspired the songs, she’s also happy to offer the background to them.

“I guess in a very few rare cases,” Nicks explained, “some people find someone that they fall in love with the very first time they see them, from across the room, from a million miles away. Some people call it love at first sight, and of course, I never believed in that until that night I walked into a party after a gig at the hotel, and from across the room, without my glasses, I saw this man and I walked straight to him.”

It’s a unique love story that not only involves Nicks, one of the most bewilderingly brilliant songwriters of her generation, but another musician shaped by the sunshine state. Nick continues the story of bumping into her potential love interest, The Eagles’ Joe Walsh: “He held out his hands to me, and I walked straight into them. I remember thinking, I can never be far from this person again… he is my soul. He seemed to be in a lot of pain, though hid it well. But finally, a few days later, (we were in Denver), he rented a jeep and drove me up into the snow-covered hills of Colorado… for about two hours. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going, but he did tell me a story of a little daughter that he had lost. To Joe, she was much more than a child. She was three and a half, and she could relate to him.”

Clearly, the bond meant something to both of them, and the Fleetwood Mac songwriter found herself confiding in her newfound friend. “I guess I had been complaining about a lot of things going on on the road, and he decided to make me aware of how unimportant my problems were if they were compared to worse sorrows,” Nicks elaborated. “So he told me that he had taken his little girl to this magic park whenever he could, and the only thing she EVER complained about was that she was too little to reach up to the drinking fountain. As we drove up to this beautiful park, (it was snowing a little bit), he came around to open my door and help me down, and when I looked up, I saw the park… his baby’s park, and I burst into tears saying, ‘You built a drinking fountain here for her, didn’t you?’ I was right, under a huge beautiful hanging tree, was a tiny silver drinking fountain. I left Joe to get to it, and on it, it said, dedicated to HER and all the others who were too small to get a drink.”

Moved by this gesture of love, Nicks decided to match it by writing a song of her own. “So he wrote a song for her, and I wrote a song for him,” she explained. “‘This is your song,’ I said to the people, but it was Joe’s song. Thank you, Joe, for the most committed song I ever wrote. But more than that, thank you for inspiring me in so many ways. Nothing in my life ever seems as dark anymore, since we took that drive.”

Nicks is known for her confessionals. Many of the tracks on Rumours expressed her disappointment at the band’s hostility to one another, and ‘Edge of Seventeen’, nominally considered her most assured solo hit, demonstrates her capacity to understand love from a long-distance. Yet there’s something particularly moving about this track, not least because it holds true to the muse of the track, and the daughter for whom the muse has based his life around.

Inspiration can come from almost anywhere: Paul McCartney was inspired to write ‘Jet’ when he watched the ponies trot around his Scottish farmland. John Lennon absolved himself from any regrets he had with his mother by committing them to tape on ‘Julia’. And Lindsey Buckingham got his own back at Nicks by writing the lacerating ‘Go Your Own Way’, a rollicking number that called his former lover for their desire to choose the physical over the intellectual.

Nicks’ tune, by contrast, comes from a gentler place and holds a fitting yearning melody that brings the piece to more complete territories. As ever with the songwriter, the lyrics take centre stage, and the song, gorgeously written, holds a place as one of the more engaging works about the human spirit.

With any luck, Nicks will continue to bring her truth to the masses, much as other songwriters can bring theirs. But it would be nice if more songwriters were as open as she is about what drives them to write. It’s all part of what makes the world go round, and the more we can enjoy it, the more the world can enjoy us for what we bring to it.

Stream the tune below.