She seems to have everything a woman could want ‘ fame, beauty, wealth and a staggeringly successful career. Stevie Nicks is both a highly successful solo artist and member of the supergroup Fleetwood Mac, who breeze into Britain next week to play to stadium crowds in London and Manchester.
Yet the title of the band’s latest chart-topping album, Behind The Mask, is oddly appropriate to 42-year-old Stevie. For her public success hides the private heartbreak of a woman who has coped with cocaine addiction, a string of broken relationships and even a disastrous marriage to her best friend’s husband.
And it wasn’t fame and fortune that soured the “American Dream.” She and handsome musician boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham became one of rock’s most celebrated couples in the 70s. Yet the cracks in their relationship were evident long before super-stardom came their way.
Lindsey left Fleetwood Mac three years ago and Stevie now says, “He and I were about as compatible as a boa constrictor and a rat. But we’ve had our final words. We will never be able to work together again, we’ll never even speak again, which is very sad. In any relationship you come down to a point where you say things that you can never take back, and we’ve said them. It breaks my heart.”
Despite their love for each other, she and Lindsey were in daily conflict too long before being chosen from hundreds of hopefuls to join the band. “Rich and famous or starving and poor, we went through the same problems,” she sighs. “He always wanted me to himself, but someone had to go out and earn some money. All he wanted to do was play his music.
“When I came home I’d always get a slight cold shoulder. He wouldn’t quite trust me about where I’d been or what I’d been doing. When we broke up, two years after joining Fleetwood Mac, it was like living a nightmare.”
For Lindsey, excelling at his music was a continual struggle. But it came easy for Stevie. And as her vocals and songwriting began to play an ever-increasing part in the band’s success, a wedge was driven between them.
“He felt I should have to work much harder at it,” she says, “I tried asking, ‘Lindsey, how can I change?’ But everything about me seemed to bug him. My laughter, the way I could deal with a lot of difficult things, all made him cringe. So I changed when I was around him. I became mouse-like and would never dare offer a suggestion.”
Their break-up came as fellow band members Christine and John McVie were also splitting up, but they all remained committed to holding Fleetwood Mac together. The pressure to maintain the band’s phenomenal level of success while working through their personal problems weighed heavy on everyone, but for Stevie there was the added pressure involved in taking the first tentative steps of her own parallel solo career. Also, unbeknown to her, the most heart-breaking and bizarre chapter of her life was about to begin.
It started when she was told that her childhood girlfriend Robin was dying of leukaemia. Unusually for someone with the disease, Robin had still managed to become pregnant by her husband Kim and, knowing how slight her chances of conceiving had been, she refused all medical treatment during her confinement. Instead, she reconciled herself to the fact that she would have to sacrifice any hope of life in order to give birth.
Having spent many painful hours at Robin’s bedside, this resolve led Stevie to make one of the biggest mistakes of her life.
Three days after giving birth to son Matthew, a tiny, premature baby weighing just one pound, Robin died. Distraught, Stevie made a vow to honour the memory of her best friend by marrying Kim and bringing up their son as her son.
“I went crazy, absolutely crazy when Robin died. The only thing I could think of to do was try to take the load off Kim by marrying him and helping raise their son.
“I think in her heart Robin knew I would go after Kim,” Stevie continues. “I had known her for 20 years and him for five, and I felt this baby belonged to me almost as much as it did to them.”
Friends and family found themselves unable to share Stevie and Kim’s logic… “A lot of people refused to come to my wedding. They thought I’d lost my mind, which I obviously had at the time.”
In the early days of the marriage, their shared emotions and the demands of providing round-the-clock care for Matthew united the couple. But as time went on, Stevie became more and more convinced of the mistake she’d made. At times she even doubted that Kim could distinguish between herself and Robin.
“Having been friends from the ages of 14 to 35 we talked the same and had similar mannerisms. So much so that, in a dim light, it was hard to tell us apart.”
The relationship quickly deteriorated. Kim began to keep Stevie away from Matthew, and Stevie realised she’d married someone she didn’t even know.
Uncertain of what to do next she walked into the nursery one day to check on Matthew. “I had got used to going in and finding the cradle rocking without anyone being there and I always knew that it was Robin,” she says. “But on this occasion, it wasn’t rocking, nor the next day either, and that was when I realised she had finally left.
“Somehow, I knew she was telling me, ‘You’d better get out of this right now. Kim will take good care of Matthew, but this is not what God meant for you, Stevie.”
Stevie hasn’t seen either Kim or Matthew since their divorce but prays for the opportunity to see Matthew once more when he is a bit older. “I hope he’ll come to me and I’ll be able to hand him things that were his mother’s and say, ‘This was her,’ look how wonderful she was.”’
The trauma of her broken marriage coincided with spectacular solo success for Stevie in America. When other members of Fleetwood Mac came off tour to enjoy the rewards of their multi-platinum record sales, she would be thrown into another round of recording, promoting and touring.
Like some other high achievers in the 80s, Stevie found herself depending on drugs to see her through her busy schedule. “Eventually, I was working so hard that I lost the belief that I could carry on without them,” she says.
It was then, in 1986, that she checked herself into the Betty Ford Clinic in Palm Springs. “Other people can advise you to do it, but you’re the one who has to make the decision. You have to walk through those doors alone.”
Happily for Stevie, the gruelling schedule of therapy, group discussions and manual work cured her, and she has gone on to reach new heights in her career. But the woman who has become one of the legends of rock knows that the financial rewards of her success can never buy her the family she would so dearly love.
“I’ve probably got about two years left in which I could have a baby, but my diary’s booked solid,” she says sadly. “Then again, if it were to happen with somebody I cared about, everything else would take a back seat.”
Being a night owl and workaholic doesn’t help. “I love being awake at night when there’s nobody around. It’s the only time I ever feel really free. So being involved in my life is difficult for any man unless he understands that the way I am isn’t a personal thing against him. I’m just busy.
“I’ll say, ‘Okay, I’m going to sleep with you for 20 minutes until you go to sleep, and then I’m going to get up again. If you can live with that, then I can live with you!'”
At that, Stevie Nicks gives a deep, throaty laugh. She’s a woman who has lived and loved so much and has no time for regrets. “I wouldn’t change a minute of my life. I’ve been to the very bottom and the very top and, if nothing else, I’ve ended up with a well-rounded personality!”
Alan Jackson / Woman’s Own (UK) / August 20, 1990