Tragic Details About Stevie Nicks

Search in your mental index of rock and roll queens, and you will not find one like Stevie Nicks. This musical goddess of all things ethereal, who most recently made history as the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, has clearly set the bar in the music industry. From her outrageously cool outfits to her bewitching lyrics about love, life, gypsies, and even Greta Garbo, Nicks has a boho energy all of her own making. And, she's willing to sweep her fans up and take them with her as she performs her own emotional ballet on stage.

What is the cost of becoming a whimsical and unapologetic yet powerful diva of the music world? If you're Stevie Nicks, the cost can be quite painful at times. For nearly 50 years, the artist has worn her heart on her sleeve for all to see, balancing her career with her relationships as the world watches eagerly. But fear not for Nicks, who can't be counted among the faint-hearted. She's weathered everything the universe has thrown at her — all the while willingly sharing her triumphs and sacrifices with her fans. Here's an intimate look into how Stevie Nicks has climbed her own enchanted ladder to the top.

Stevie Nicks was born to perform

The tour of Stevie Nicks's life begins in Phoenix, Arizona. It was 1948 when Stephanie Lynn Nicks came into the world. Her parents, Barbara and Jess, were typical young newlyweds — he was a corporate executive, and she was a homemaker, according to Biography. Nick's grandpa, Aaron Nicks, was an aspiring country music singer who taught her to sing at the age of four, built a guitar for her, and began taking her with him to local music gigs. Ultimate Classic Rock says that following a successful tap dance performance in the sixth grade, Nicks knew she wanted to be a performer.

There was much in store for Stevie Nicks as she attended Menlo-Atherton High School. There was a boy: Lindsey Buckingham, a high school classmate, was singing at a party Nicks went to in 1966, per MTV. On a whim, Nicks "brazenly burst into harmony with him," as Buckingham played. The two didn't see each other again for two years until Buckingham called out of the blue and asked Nicks to join his band. The group was called Fritz, and Nicks was a welcome addition. She also fell in love with Buckingham, and the duo remained together as Fritz opened for Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Santana before breaking up in 1971. Nicks and Buckingham, however, remained together and formed their own band: Buckingham Nicks. 

Nicks gives into Buckingham's pressure

Within two years, Buckingham Nicks was signed by Polydor Records, Factinate says. Their debut, self-titled album came out in 1973 and "went largely unnoticed," per Biography. Except for one thing: The couple appeared nude from the waist up. Fleetwood Mac News, quoting from a 2014 eBay listing of images from the photo shoot, says it was the first time "a music duo appeared on the cover of their LP topless." But there was more to the story. In his biography Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks, author Stephen Davis explains that after Nicks demurred when asked to take off her blouse, the abusive Buckingham threw a fit. "This is art!" he had said.

Nicks gave in, hiding the album and refusing to show it to her father. It was not the first or last time she would give in to Buckingham. Following the virtual failure of the album, the couple struggled financially. Buckingham continued working on his music, but Nicks worked at a variety of jobs to keep the couple afloat, including dental assistant, maid, and waitress. In 1994, Nicks told the Island Ear (via In Her Own Words), "I worked at the Copper Penny, Clementine's and Bob's Big Boy. I supported Lindsey and I for years."

Buckingham Nicks joins Fleetwood Mac

In 1975, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham finally got their due: They were asked to join Fleetwood Mac. Nicks would later tell NPR about Mick Fleetwood calling the couple on New Year's Eve and asking them to dinner. But they were already working on their second album, and Buckingham wasn't too excited about the idea of joining another band. Nicks was unsure as well since Christine McVie was already playing with Fleetwood Mac alongside her husband, John. "At the beginning, people said, 'Does Christine want another girl in the band?'" Nicks told Rolling Stone in 2019. "And I said, 'I hope she does. When she meets me, I hope she likes me.'"

McVie did indeed like Stevie Nicks. Together, the ladies "made a pact," said Nicks, that "We will never be treated like second-class citizens. We will never be not allowed to hang out in a room full of intelligent, crazy rock and roll stars, because we're just as crazy and just as intelligent as they are." It worked, and the band was thrilled with Stevie Nicks' songs. Two of them, "Rhiannon" and "Landslide," appeared on Fleetwood Mac's first album with Buckingham and Nicks, making the Billboard 200 list in 1976 with three hits in the top 20, according to ABC News Radio

Shattered relationships were the price of fame for Stevie Nicks

As Fleetwood Mac skyrocketed to fame, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, along with Christine and John McVie, weren't doing so hot. Nicks was already embittered about working as a waitress while Buckingham turned down $500 gigs at steakhouses in the old days. She hoped for a better relationship with Fleetwood Mac, per Billboard. "You and I have to sew this relationship back up," she told Buckingham. "We have too much to lose here. We need to put our problems behind us." But life was now more complicated, and even the McVies problems escalated when Christine had an affair with a lighting director in 1976. But she also became a mentor for Nicks as the group worked on their next album, Rumours.

The West Australian's Simon Collins (per Fleetwood Mac News) plucked the best songs and lyrics from the Rumours album as the obvious prelude to the impending romantic breakups. There was Buckingham's "Second Hand News" and "Never Going Back Again," Nicks warning, "women, they will come and they will go" in "Dreams," and even Christine McVie's "You Make Loving Fun" (about her affair). So as Rumours took off to become #1 on Billboard, and won a Grammy for Album of the Year, the players who "only love you when they're playing" looked elsewhere for love. Nicks even had an ill-fated affair with Mick Fleetwood.

Stevie Nicks' voice takes a downward turn

Although the members of Fleetwood Mac did split up, everybody made a concerted effort to keep the band together. Unfortunately, Biography says, touring night after night took its toll on Stevie Nicks' vocal cords. A July 1977 concert review by New York Times writer John Rockwell revealed Nicks had nodes on her vocal cords. Not only was her voice hoarse, but "her midrange notes were painfully shredded," to the point that a few concerts were canceled. The sound of Nicks' voice onstage also was costing the band in the way of bad reviews.

Stevie Nicks publicly addressed her issues in August of 1977, according to Stevie Nicks Info. "The doctor has told me that my speaking voice is destroying my singing voice," she was quoted as saying, explaining that her speaking voice aggravated the nodules. The songstress recuperated by refraining from talking, gargling, and "taking face saunas" as Fleetwood Mac took a break from its world tour. "I just have to do the best I can do," Nicks said. But Rockwell had noticed something else, too. Nicks, he said, "pushed her lackadaisical loopiness too far" and that her "meanderings were more a cause for concern than for fascination." What Rockwell did not say outright was that Nicks was now doing a lot of drugs and drinking a lot of alcohol.

Stevie Nicks' disastrous dating life

Stevie Nicks' newfound freedom included romancing the Eagles' frontman, Don Henley (pictured with Nicks in 2002). The relationship began in the late 1970s, per Smooth Radio. Nicks' 1981 debut album, Bella Donna, featured Henley on one of the tracks — the ever romantic "Leather and Lace." But although it was rumored that Henley wanted to marry Nicks, the couple eventually broke up. A decade or so later, in 1992, Nicks told VOX magazine (via Tinseltown Mom) that she had once been pregnant by Henley, as well as three other men. Nicks decided to terminate her pregnancies. "To give up four babies is to give up a lot that would be here now," she said. "So that bothers me, a lot, and really breaks my heart."

In 2009, Nicks elaborated further to The West Australian's Simon Collins (via Fleetwood Mac News). "I chose purposely — my choice — to not be married or have children so I could follow being a true artist," she said. She also explained Henley's claim (per Billboard) that she named the unborn child Sara and wrote her 1979 song of the same name "to the spirit of the child." Not so, said Nicks. "Had I married Don and had that baby, and had she been a girl, I would have named her Sara," she said. But the song, she said, was actually about Sara Recor who later married Mick Fleetwood.

A well-meant but messy marriage for Nicks

There is another memory haunting Stevie Nicks: her marriage to Kim Anderson, the widowed husband of her lifelong friend, Robin Snyder. In 1983, Nicks told VH1's Behind the Music (via In Her Own Words) that Robin contracted leukemia and was given three months to live. Worse yet, she was pregnant. In order to handle her grief, Nicks told the Guardian's Craig McLean, during her visits to the hospital she "was so high on coke. I'd drink half a bottle of brandy on the way there, 'cause I couldn't stand it." her friend admonished her not to come back "until you're not high." And when Robin Snyder died, Nicks said, "I went crazy. I just went insane. And so did her husband."

The baby, Matthew, was born two days before Snyder died. In a heartfelt attempt to manage their grief and care for the child, Nicks suggested marriage to Anderson, according to Smooth Radio. "Everybody was furious," Nicks recalled. "It was a completely ridiculous thing. And it was just because I had this crazy, insane thought that Robin would want me to take care of Matthew." She came to her senses when she walked into the baby's room one day and found the child's cradle sitting still instead of rocking like usual. "Robin wants this to end — now," she remembered thinking. She and Anderson divorced three months later, but Nicks remains in touch with Matthew.

Life in the fast lane: Stevie Nicks' drug use

Yes, Stevie Nicks spent most of the early 1980s as high as a kite. She tried to quit her cocaine habit as early as 1982, Stevie Nicks Info says, but slipped while filming her epic video, "Gypsy." She also began chain-smoking cigarettes, and in 1986, discovered that her cocaine usage had literally burned a hole in the septum of her nose, according to Biography. Nicks' parents and friends finally intervened in the late 1980s. "I was very worried about her," Nicks' close friend Tom Petty told Rolling Stone magazine (via the The Fix). "If the phone did ring and they said, 'Stevie died,' I wouldn't have been surprised."

Nicks checked into the Betty Ford Clinic in 1986. Three songs came from the experience. "Welcome to the Room, Sara" and "When I See You Again" appeared on Fleetwood Mac's Tango in the Night album in 1987, and "I'm Doing the Best I Can (Escape from Berlin)" appeared on Nicks' own The Other Side of the Mirror album in 1989. By then, however, the singer had been prescribed Klonopin by her psychiatrist and was addicted to the drug. She entered rehab a final time in 1993. "My only advice to anybody who is watching me talk right now is to say, 'Save your money,'" she told viewers on Oprah Winfrey's Master Class series in 2013, "because it's gonna cost you $50,000 to go to rehab. You will have to go or you will die."

Rock on, gold dust woman

In 1990, Fleetwood Mac produced its first real flop, Behind the Mask. According to the Los Angeles Times, Nicks left the band in September to pursue her solo career full time. Fleetwood Mac-UK attributed her departure to an argument with Mick Fleetwood, who would not allow Nicks to use her own song, "Silver Springs," on a solo project, Timespace. Upon leaving the band, Nicks compiled some of her other hits for Timespace instead, which was well received (per Amazon). What followed was a successful tour during 1991 and 1992.

Nicks did reunite with Fleetwood Mac, briefly, in about 1992. Presidential nominee Bill Clinton decided to use the band's hit song, "Don't Stop," for his successful campaign. But both Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham stayed on just long enough to perform a single concert at Clinton's inaugural ball in January of 1993 before resuming their solo acts. But "I never wanted a solo career," Nicks told Rolling Stone in 2011. "I always wanted to be just in a band. But I just had so many songs!" So although she supported her own solo career, Nicks did rejoin Fleetwood Mac once more in 1997 when the band put out their next album, The Dance. And although she still has her solo gig, Nicks also remains part of Fleetwood Mac. 

Stevie Nicks had image issues

In 1998, Nicks told People magazine she remembered very clearly that day in 1986 when her plastic surgeon told her, "If you want your nose to remain on your face, stop [using cocaine] right now." Another told her one more snort could cause a brain hemorrhage. But her stints in rehab caused the petite singer's weight to go up to 175 pounds. Her weight was obvious at the Clinton performances, and at the end of her 1994 tour, Nicks decided, "I would never sing in front of people again. Singing is the love of my life, but I was ready to give it all up because I couldn't handle people talking about how fat I was." She also discovered she had Epstein-Barr virus, which explained why she was constantly tired.

Unfortunately, Stevie Nicks' weight became the talk of the music world. University students Marceline and Carol L. Thompson even wrote a paper about the waning popularity of Nicks' albums during the early 1990s because of her heaviness. The women theorized that because female fans could no longer identify with the once fairy-like singer, and sadly, they listened to her music less. The decline in album sales was not lost on Stevie Nicks, who vowed not to "go on stage ever again if I don't lose this weight." And she did, embarking on a high-protein, low carb diet in 1995 to shed 30 pounds.

A life of amazing achievements

So let's tally up Stevie Nicks' hard-earned accomplishments: Since 1977, according to the Grammys website, Nicks has earned two Grammys with Fleetwood Mac, has been nominated for a Grammy an amazing 14 times, and has two recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame. She has yet to receive a Grammy for her solo work, but let's look at her other achievements. Bottle Rock cites an array of deserving honors: Since 1981, Bella Donna has sold more than five million copies in the U.S. alone. That same year, Rolling Stone named the singer "The Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll," as well as one of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time." 

Other of Nicks' albums — The Wild Heart, Rock A Little, and The Other Side of the Mirror — went platinum. Altogether, between her own albums and those with Fleetwood Mac, she has sold over 140 million records. And there is more. In 2006, says Anti Music, the Stevie Nicks Soldier's Angel Foundation was formed to help soldiers heal through the gift of iPods loaded with music. Nicks founded the organization (and wrote a song about it in 2011) after visiting wounded soldiers, per Song Facts. In 2015, Nicks was given the Outstanding Achievement Award by the USO (pictured with USO officials and Mick Fleetwood) for her efforts.

Stevie Nicks still remains a fighter

There is no doubt that Stevie Nicks is a fighter. In 2019, the rock icon made history yet again: she was inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for the second time (the first being in 1998 as part of Fleetwood Mac). No other woman in music history has achieved such an honor. She was inducted by musician Harry Styles, whom Nicks told Rolling Stone "is the son I never had." Indeed, the lady has a lot to be thankful for. She is rich in fans, rich in friends, and just plain rich; The Richest estimates her net worth at a cool $75 million dollars.

Nicks also continues to tour, and her "24 Karat Gold The Concert" was recently made into a film. The lady has few regrets, though one is that she never got to meet Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "I wanted to hold her hand and give her a huge hug and thank her for all she had done for women, and for all she would continue to do," Nicks wrote on Facebook. She sufficed by honoring Ginsburg another way. "She was a political rock star. As a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, the first female to be inducted twice, compared to 22 men having been inducted twice, I Stevie Nicks, induct Ruth Bader Ginsburg into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Life." Ginsburg would probably like that.