Stevie Nicks is an artist of mythic proportions. After first making minor waves as part of the duo Buckingham Nicks in the early 1970s, she and her songwriting and then-romantic partner, Lindsey Buckingham, joined the iconic rock dynasty Fleetwood Mac in 1974.
The duo would add a dose of songwriting firepower and mysticism to the legendary British group, who, at that point, were going through what can only be described as a total rebirth.
The addition of Buckingham and Nicks would give Fleetwood Mac their most commercially successful and iconic era. 1975’s Fleetwood Mac and 1977’s Rumours, became two of the era’s most enduring records, and two of the most widely celebrated studio albums of all time.
Moving into the ’80s, the band would go stratospheric until tensions between the now long separated Buckingham and Nicks became too much, resulting in a physical altercation in 1987, which would see Buckingham quit almost immediately.
The interesting thing about Fleetwood Mac is that the off-stage, extra-musical tales of the band are just as iconic as the music. The band are characterised by both their penchant for penning a classic as they are all the tales of in-fighting, heartbreak and, of course, excess.
Although every member struggled with excess, Nicks’ struggles with the demonic white powder are well known. Like with any addictive substance, it started off as purely a recreational activity, but typically, and in the spirit of the era, it quickly escalated into something much more severe. Notoriously, she suffered several incidents in her hard-partying career, and one of them almost left her blind, but this didn’t stop her commitment to cocaine.
Around the time Rumours was released, Nicks was in the throes of an all-consuming cocaine addiction, and it is said that it was due to her initial reluctance to join Fleetwood Mac, and the terrible stage fright she suffered before going on stage, that both exacerbated her habit.
In 1986, she would finally listen to the advice of her bandmates and visit the Betty Ford Clinic in a final bid to get clean from cocaine, which ultimately proved successful. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. The stint in rehab lead to a crippling nine-year addiction to drugs such as Valium that were prescribed by her doctors to help her stay clean.
Thankfully though, she has now been clean for quite some time and uses her influence to alert people to the dangers of cocaine abuse.
It wasn’t just her bandmates that persuaded her to go the rehab either. She has explained that one of her favourite songs she’s ever written is ‘Mabel Normad’, taken from her 2014 solo album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault. There’s a reason for this; the song is inextricably tied to her road to recovery. As the title of the song suggests, it is about the silent film comedienne. Although, lyrically it discusses her struggles with cocaine addiction and how it led to her death in 1930 aged just 37.
When Nicks penned the song in 1986, she had an epiphany and realised that at that point, there were many parallels to be drawn between her and Normad’s lives, and she had a dawning realisation that she would end up the same way. “I saw a documentary about Normad when I was at my lowest point with the blow”, Nicks said.
She explained: “I was watching TV one night, the movie came on, and I really felt a connection with her. That’s when I wrote the song. Less than a year later, I went to rehab…”
The song holds a place in Nicks‘ heart for good reason. Without it, it’s possible she wouldn’t be alive today to tell her tale and to treat audiences worldwide to her incredible voice. It helped her to confront her issues, and take the steps to combat them. This wasn’t the end of the road by far, but it was a start.
Listen to ‘Mabel Normand’ below.