The Life And Career Of Christine McVie

When considering Fleetwood Mac — a band known for its witchy mystique, intense internal relationships, and flamboyant rock and roll personas — it may be easy to overlook humble keyboardist Christine McVie, who preferred to remain in the shadows. But the band would not have been the same without her. A songwriting mastermind, McVie wrote or co-wrote 25 songs for Fleetwood Mac during her several-decade tenure with the band — several of which, including "Everywhere" and "Don't Stop" — went on to become some of the group's greatest hits (per SecondHandSongs).

In many ways, McVie was Fleetwood Mac's rock: a steady presence holding the tumultuous band together. She was also an innovator. As Rolling Stone notes, McVie brought Fleetwood Mac from the 1970s into the '80s by incorporating synthesizers into the group's music, a move that enabled the band to stay relevant. In addition, she released three solo albums over the course of her career in between work with her two bands, Chicken Shack and Fleetwood Mac.

McVie was continually praised for her contributions to music, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside the rest of Fleetwood Mac, taking home two Grammys, and winning a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors in 2014 (per People World). She became a mysterious figure when she stopped touring, instead spending many years enjoying a quiet life out of the limelight. Let's take a closer look at the life and career of the legendary Christine McVie.

Her mother was a psychic healer

Born on July 12, 1943, Christine McVie — then Christine Perfect — was raised in a musical family (per Smooth Radio). Her father was a concert violinist and music professor, and her grandfather was a professional organ player. Naturally, young Christine started piano lessons at an early age, though she wouldn't actively pursue music until much later. By contrast, her mother Beatrice was a psychic, medium, and faith healer. And, as McVie told it, she was the real deal.

She told Robin Eggar in a 2004 interview for S Magazine (published in "Fleetwood Mac on Fleetwood Mac") that her mother healed a wart on her nose overnight when she was 11, constantly received thank you calls from the sick people she had healed, and even joined a psychic research society.

In a 2016 interview with The Guardian, McVie recounted another of her mother's miracles: "There was an old friend of my dad's, in Newcastle — this rich old lady who lived in a run-down castle. She had terminal cancer. She sent a pair of her kid gloves to my mother, who wore one during the night, and a couple of weeks later there was a phone call: the doctors were amazed that all the cancer was completely gone." Sadly, Beatrice Perfect passed away at a relatively young age (per "Fleetwood Mac on Fleetwood Mac").

Christine McVie nearly drowned as a child

Christine McVie spent her formative years in the English countryside. According to LancsLive, the Perfects lived in the small Lake District towns of Greenodd and Bouth — then both part of Lancashire County but now considered within the borders of Cumbria County — before eventually moving to the larger city of Birmingham for her father's music teaching job.

In a 2022 interview with The Guardian, McVie recalled her years in her native Cumbria fondly and described it as being beautiful. But her most vivid recollection involved a near-death experience in Greenodd. "My distinct memory is of nearly drowning," she told The Guardian, "I slipped in the mud and fell in the river, and they had to get me out using a fishing net." Luckily, she survived the harrowing experience.

As LancsLive notes, the River Crake winds its way through the small village of Greenodd — once a port known for shipping copper, limestone, and gunpowder overseas — before connecting to the larger River Leven. It was one of these waterways that nearly claimed McVie's life.

She spent her wedding night with Joe Cocker

Christine McVie rekindled her love for music soon after college. According to Rolling Stone, she joined a blues band called Chicken Shack in 1967, singing and playing the keyboards nightly. In a 2022 interview with The Guardian, she explained that she met bassist John McVie when Chicken Shack opened up for his band, Fleetwood Mac. "He had a wonderful sense of humor, the most endearing person," she told Rolling Stone in 1984. Though he was engaged to someone else at the time, the two fell in love, and he broke off the previous engagement and proposed to her.

Christine and John McVie married in 1968 with guitarist Peter Green — a founding member of Fleetwood Mac — serving as their best man (per Smooth Radio). As Christine explained to The Guardian, they had a most unconventional honeymoon, booking a local hotel in Birmingham so they could be close to her mother, who had fallen ill. By happenstance, legendary blues singer Joe Cocker made an appearance that night. "He was staying at the same hotel and he got plastered with us, on our wedding night," she said. "Until we kicked him out."

Christine McVie created the album artwork for Kiln House

Prior to embarking on her musical journey, Christine McVie had planned on becoming an art teacher, as she explained to Johnnie Walker in a 2021 radio interview. She earned a diploma in sculpture from Birmingham Art College (per Rolling Stone) before moving to London to work as a department store window dresser for about a year. "I was bored, not doing much of anything and not earning any money at all," she told Rolling Stone in 1984. When her friends asked her to join their band, Chicken Shack, she didn't hesitate. But her days in the visual arts world were not over yet.

In 1970, after leaving Chicken Shack to devote more time to her marriage, McVie spent a lot of time hanging out with the members of her husband's band, Fleetwood Mac, while they rehearsed at a rented space called Kiln House. As she explained to Robin Eggar in a 2004 interview for S Magazine (published in "Fleetwood Mac on Fleetwood Mac"), she got back to her artistic roots by creating the brightly colored, detailed drawings that became the cover artwork for the band's 1970 album "Kiln House" (pictured). "I did them to add to my many talents," she said of the drawings, humbly adding, "Well, questionable talents. I'd smoked a joint when I did that."

She was a fan of Fleetwood Mac before joining

After performing alongside and marrying a member of Fleetwood Mac, Christine McVie was well acquainted with the band's music. In fact, she was quite a fan. As she explained in a 1984 interview with Rolling Stone, she was especially fascinated by the antics of then-guitarist Peter Green and then-vocalist Jeremy Spencer and would watch them play whenever she had time off work. "They were my heroes, you know, and had been for years and years," she told Johnnie Walker in a 2021 radio interview.

In 1970, Green unexpectedly left the band mid-tour following a negative experience with LSD that left him permanently altered (per Rolling Stone). The remaining members were left heartbroken — and desperate for a worthy replacement. Luckily, one was already on hand. "They came out of the rehearsal room and said, 'Hey Chris, do you want to join?'" McVie recalled to The Guardian in 2022. "I couldn't believe my luck. I said: 'Are you serious?! I'm just a girl who plays piano.'"

She had just ten days to rehearse with the band before her first show in New Orleans. As she explained to Rolling Stone, "It was a nerve-wracking experience, playing with my favorite band onstage." The first Fleetwood Mac album to feature McVie as a full-fledged member was 1971's "Future Games." Adding McVie to the lineup did change Fleetwood Mac's sound, namely because they replaced a guitarist with a keyboardist. But it only added to the band's commercial appeal (per The Guardian).

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Christine McVie lived in Elton John's old house

As the 1970s continued, Fleetwood Mac started gaining a significant following. According to Rolling Stone, the band members relocated to Los Angeles in 1974 to pursue new opportunities and even greater success. Initially, Christine and John McVie lived with John's friend and former bandmate John Mayall at a party house with eerily similar hijinks as those depicted in "Almost Famous." But before long, Christine McVie purchased her own private and luxurious Beverly Hills house.

She styled her new dwelling in Coldwater Canyon with Chinese and deco touches. According to Uncut, she also added an English pub and a sculpture studio. As Rodeo Realty notes, the more than $7 million estate features a slate-roofed flagstone mansion with ocean and mountain views, a rose garden, and nearly one acre of well-landscaped grounds. It also has a respectable list of previous owners, including Anthony Newley, Joan Collins, and the one and only Elton John.

Christine lived in L.A. for decades — far longer than she would have liked. As she explained to Robin Eggar in a 2004 interview for S Magazine (published in "Fleetwood Mac on Fleetwood Mac"), she never wanted to leave England to begin with. So, she quit the band and moved back to the English countryside in 1998, citing her father's death and the 1994 L.A. earthquake as the last straws. She told Eggar, "I thought, 'I have got to get out while I still can. I want to go home now.'"

She interviewed Stevie Nicks before she joined Fleetwood Mac

According to Christine McVie's 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, drummer and band leader Mick Fleetwood knew he wanted American guitarist and vocalist Lindsey Buckingham to join Fleetwood Mac after hearing the "Buckingham Nicks" album. But Buckingham had one condition for joining Fleetwood Mac. He insisted on bringing his other half — his vocalist and girlfriend Stevie Nicks — along as well. Concerned that two women in the band could be problematic, Fleetwood asked McVie to meet with Nicks and basically interview her. The meeting's terms were simple: If McVie didn't approve, Nicks would not be permitted to join Fleetwood Mac.

According to McVie in a 2021 radio interview with Johnnie Walker, the legendary interview took place at a Mexican restaurant. "It just so turned out that I really did like her," McVie explained, "She had a great sense of humor, and we got on really well. So, I said, 'Okay, my signature of approval.'" As Ultimate Classic Rock notes, Buckingham and Nicks joined the band the very next day on December 31, 1974, and the rest is history. Speaking about her relationship with Nicks, McVie told Rolling Stone: "She and I are not competitive in any way at all. We're totally different, but totally sympathetic with each other. We are dear, dear friends."

Christine McVie's ballad Songbird was a gift from the spirit realm

Christine McVie's piano ballad "Songbird" offers a tender moment on Fleetwood Mac's iconic 1977 album "Rumours" and became a popular closing song at the band's live shows (per Rolling Stone). But its borderline supernatural creation process caused McVie to describe the song to The Guardian as "a strange little baby."

In a 2015 interview with Mojo Magazine (via Songfacts), McVie explained: "I had a little transistorized electric piano next to my bed and I woke up one night at about 3:30 am and started playing it. I had all words, melody, chords in about 30 minutes. It was like a gift from the angels." Without a tape recorder to capture it, McVie furiously wrote the lyrics down and lay in bed unable to sleep for fear she would forget the song. "I can't tell you quite how I felt," she told The Guardian in 2016, "It was as if I'd been visited — it was a very spiritual thing."

The next morning, she rushed into the studio to record "Songbird." According to a 2022 interview with producer Ken Caillat in Music Radar, the final version was recorded at the University of California's empty Zellerbach Auditorium in 1976, with McVie playing the piano alone to create the impression that she was performing after everyone had left a concert. Regarding the song's meaning, McVie told The Guardian in 2022 that it was "sort of like a little prayer for everybody."

Her dalliance with the band's lighting director inspired a hit song

By 1973, the McVies' marriage was strained by constant proximity due to sharing a band as well as John's alcoholism. As Christine told Uncut in 2003, "I was seeing more Hyde than Jekyll." Then, Christine had an affair with Martin Birch, the band's sound engineer. They barely spoke after that, communicating only as needed to continue performing, and eventually called it quits mid-tour in 1975. According to Rolling Stone, the pair divorced in 1976 but remained amicable as bandmates.

Christine then began dating the band's handsome lighting director, Curry Grant. In her book, "Storms: My Life with Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac," Lindsey Buckingham's then-girlfriend, Carol Ann Harris, claims that Grant was a notorious playboy who had focused his energy on Christine in the "Rumours" era. Nonetheless, the two stayed together for three years, though it caused tension in the band. "Wherever John was, he couldn't be," Christine told Uncut, "There were some very delicate moments." As Rolling Stone notes, Christine wrote the hit song, "You Make Loving Fun," about Grant, though she told John it was about her dog to keep the drama to a minimum.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Christine McVie dated a Beach Boy

According to Uncut, Christine McVie ended her relationship with Curry Grant and started a new relationship with Dennis Wilson, the drummer for The Beach Boys. "He was a mess, but he was charismatic, charming, and really handsome," she told the BBC (via udiscovermusic) in 2017, "He swept me off my feet big time." McVie describes their romance as "a very rollercoaster affair," and, in a 2004 interview with Robin Eggar for S Magazine (published in "Fleetwood Mac on Fleetwood Mac"), she stated, "I found him insane. Because of that, I found him very attractive. I found him funny ... but he was barking mad."

It was the ultimate case of opposites attracting and McVie admitted to "mothering" Wilson. He would disappear for days at a time only to return. Each time, McVie would take care of him and help him get sober. But then the cycle would repeat. According to The Guardian, Wilson developed serious addictions to cocaine and alcohol and was frequently homeless. Per Rolling Stone, he and McVie finally called it quits after years of tumultuous dating. The relationship had a bad end, and McVie did not stay in regular contact with him. Just four years later in 1983, Wilson died when he went diving in frigid waters while heavily intoxicated and drowned (per The Guardian).

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Touring had always been a challenge for her

Christine McVie shocked the world in 1998 when she left Fleetwood Mac and essentially vanished. In a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, she explained that her fear of flying had become a panic-inducing phobia, which made touring difficult. She was also tired of the instability. "I wasn't just burned out," she explained, "But I was tired of traveling and living out of a suitcase. I'm quite a domestic person by nature and the nomad thing had got a bit stale on me, really." McVie moved back to England and worked on restoring her new house. She told Rolling Stone: "I had some deluded idea that I wanted to live the 'Country Lady' life — basically hang out with my Range Rover and my dogs and bake cookies or something."

Eventually, she grew tired of the country, conquered her fear of flying through therapy, and returned to Fleetwood Mac 16 years later. The band embarked on several reunion tours in 2014 and 2015, but things kind of fell apart in 2018 when Lindsey Buckingham left the band (per Rolling Stone). Amid discussions of a farewell tour, McVie was faced with a new touring challenge: aging. "I don't feel physically up to it," she told Rolling Stone in 2022, "I've got a chronic back problem which debilitates me. I stand up to play the piano, so I don't know if I could actually physically do it ... The mind is willing but the flesh is weak."

Christine McVie enjoyed being in the background

While she took center stage for a few of her songs — like "Songbird" and "Everywhere" — Christine McVie predominantly stood near the back playing her keyboards, synths, and organs. In fact, according to a 1980 issue of "Contemporary Keyboard," her set-up at one point included so many instruments that she was nearly invisible on stage. "It was like being in a prison," she joked to the magazine, "People would look and say, 'Christine is back in her cave.'" Though she pared down her keyboard array over the years, the fact of the matter was, she really didn't mind being in the shadows.

"I wasn't so fussed about being adored," she told Robin Eggar in a 2004 interview for S Magazine (published in "Fleetwood Mac on Fleetwood Mac"). McVie later admitted in a 2021 radio interview with Johnnie Walker that she had no desire to be a frontperson and instead preferred to be back with the rhythm section of the band. For her, the enjoyment came from jamming with drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, and the many other musicians she played with over the years. "I've never felt like I was a solo artist," she told Rolling Stone in 2022, "I always liked to be part of a group."

She chose her career over having children

Despite being married twice, Christine McVie never had children, though she would have liked to. McVie found that being a woman in music came with several alarming double standards (per The Guardian). First, few partners understood or accepted the demands of her profession. McVie and Stevie Nicks were considered pioneers at the time, as in the 1970s and '80s, men dominated music, and women were still expected to tend to their husband's needs at home. Second, the rigorous nature of touring and performing made birthing and raising a child nearly impossible.

"[B]oth Stevie and I, we were married to Fleetwood Mac," McVie told Robin Eggar in a 2004 interview for S Magazine (published in "Fleetwood Mac on Fleetwood Mac"), "That was what we did and it was a harsh marriage ... There was no time for relationships of our own." Having given their 30s and 40s to the band, both Nicks and McVie ultimately sacrificed their chances at motherhood. "There were never any children [for me]," she told The Guardian in 2013, "There was always a career in the way. It was a case of one or the other, and Stevie would say the same. The lads went off and had children but for Stevie and I it was a bit difficult to do that."

Christine McVie wrote many of Fleetwood Mac's biggest hits

While some of the band's more flamboyant songs like "Gypsy" and "Rhiannon" are attributed to iconic frontwoman Stevie Nicks, most of Fleetwood Mac's sweet and catchy love tunes were written and performed by the mellow-voiced Christine McVie. In fact, as People observes, she sang lead on more songs than Nicks or guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.

A true artist and musician at heart, McVie was skilled at crafting the perfect lyrics and melodies to accompany her piano and keyboard arrangements. "I'm a pretty basic love song writer," she told Robin Eggar in a 2004 interview with S Magazine (published in "Fleetwood Mac on Fleetwood Mac"), "I've been told that I have a way of saying the obvious in a nonobvious way."

Over the course of her career with Fleetwood Mac, McVie wrote or co-wrote 25 songs (per SecondHandSongs), eight of which ended up on the band's popular 1988 album "Greatest Hits." A few of her most beloved songs include: "Don't Stop," "Everywhere," "Songbird," "You Make Loving Fun," Over My Head," "Hold Me," "Little Lies," and "Say You Love Me." Sadly, McVie died on November 30, 2022, at age 79 (per People). But her brilliant musical offerings live on.