From Fleetwood Mac classics to solo gems.
Christine McVie served as the beating heart of Fleetwood Mac. The band came undone more times than most, but through it all, she was a steady, brilliant presence that kept the group rooted in their purpose.
Born Christine Perfect, the English singer-songwriter began building a long and varied career in the mid-Sixties, when she began performing around Britain’s blues scene. She would join the band Chicken Shack but inevitably leave after marrying Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie and joining his band. The rest was much more than history: What McVie created with several incarnations of the group’s line-up would go on to change rock and pop history.
Though her start was in the blues, McVie became most notable for her rich grasp of pop melodies and hooks. She would help translate the band’s Seventies rock sound into slick Eighties synths, keeping the best-sellers at the top for longer than anyone may have anticipated.
Though she retired in 1998, McVie couldn’t stay away from music long. In her final years, she toured again with the band’s classic line-up. Her last album, released in 2017, was made as a duo with Lindsey Buckingham (along with contributions from Mick Fleetwood and John McVie). It turned out to be a true testament to her enduring, unwavering talent on all fronts.
In celebration of her life, here are some of Christine McVie’s best and most essential songs.
‘When the Train Comes Back’ | 1968
Christine McVie specialized in spinning pop-radio gold for Fleetwood Mac in the Seventies — but first, she became part of the band because of her deep connection with the blues. On the 1968 debut LP from Chicken Shack, the band where she got her start, she wrote a lonesome lament that fits in right alongside covers of classics by Freddie King and John Lee Hooker; you might not even notice it’s an original until you see “C. Perfect” in the songwriting credits. Chicken Shack weren’t exactly Zeppelin (“We had an underground following,” she wryly observed later), but her rich, smoky vocals on “When the Train Comes Back” show a star in the making. — S.V.L.
‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ | 1970
McVie released her first solo album under her already very memorable birth name, Christine Perfect. She related her 1970 solo debut in between her tenures in the bands Chicken Shack and Fleetwood Mac, continuing both bands’ taste for the blues. The album is a mix of classic covers and Perfect originals. The standout was a previous hit with Chicken Shack, her soulful and mournful cover of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Her stellar performance on the song would hint at ballads to come from McVie, like “Oh Daddy” and “Songbird.” — B.S.
‘Show Me a Smile’ | 1971
A beautiful highlight from the Danny Kirwan/Bob Welch era of Fleetwood Mac, “Show Me A Smile” is the last song on their excellent 1971 album Future Games, a slow, gently flowing ballad sung from the perspective of a new parent welcoming a child into the world, full of fragile hope and a heartbreaking sense of life’s hard road ahead. “Soon you’ll be a man/My little one/So have fun while you can/Or there’ll be none,” sings McVie, who herself never had kids. “I never found the right man. Not through want of trying,” she once said. — J.D.
‘Spare Me a Little of Your Love’ | 1972
One of McVie’s gifts was her ability to write and sing about romantic yearning without ever sounding desperate or pitiful; even when she was grappling with love, she retained her dignity. That side of her was beautifully showcased in his contribution to the Bob Welch-era Mac, which has the groove and bounce of some of her later, poppier songs (along with some terrific churning organ). McVie makes her case for more time with someone in her life (“Now I know how the sun must feel/ Every time it shines”). But as always, she sounds level-headed and sensible. Her warm, stoic delivery implies that her quest may be for naught even as she revels in the giddy high of new love. — D.B.
‘Say You Love Me’ | 1975
On “Say You Love Me,” Christine McVie sings “Have mercy, baby on a poor girl like me” and “say that you love me.” Her tender pleading on the song helped transform Fleetwood Mac into hitmakers. The band hadn’t made the charts for half a decade by the time they put out their self-titled 1975 LP, but thanks to “Say You Love Me” and Stevie Nicks’ “Rhiannon,” they scored a couple of hits that both made it up to Number 11. With the chorus’ lush harmonies and gentle groove of “Say You Love Me,” they settled on the sound that would define their Seventies soft-rock reign. “The first time I started playing ‘Say You Love Me,’ and I reached the chorus, [Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham] started singing with me and fell right into it,” she once said. “I heard this incredible sound — our three voices … and my skin turned to gooseflesh.” — K.G.
‘Over My Head’ | 1975
When Christine’s effortless gift for melody met the gauzy, golden soft-rock production of Fleetwood Mac’s classic era, the results were pure pop heaven. She ushered in the Buckingham/Nicks years in ’75 with this luxuriously midtempo bubble bath of a song, all about — what else? — a love affair that makes you feel either really, really good or actively horrendous. “I’m over my head,” she sang, voice warm enough to banish any doubts. “But it sure feels nice.” — S.V.L.
‘You Make Loving Fun’ | 1977
The romantic drama and turmoil of the Buckingham-Nicks break-up often overshadows the just as messy divorce between the McVies. Christine had her own biting words for what brought the end of her relationship with John, but she did so in her own brilliantly pop way. On “You Make Loving Fun,” McVie sang about her affair with her band’s lighting director Curry Grant. The result is a lovely and tender ode to their short-lived romance, that makes for one of the few romantic songs on the album. To keep the peace with her still-husband at the time, however, she told John it was about their dog. — B.S.
‘Don’t Stop’ | 1977
As Fleetwood Mac all but fell apart during the making of Rumours, Christine McVie found a glimmer of hope in the darkness. She wrote the upbeat “Don’t Stop,” which she sang with Lindsey Buckingham, simply as a meditation on positivity: “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow … it’ll soon be here,” goes the chorus. “Yesterday’s gone.” “‘Don’t Stop’ was just a feeling,” she once said. “It seemed like a pleasant revelation to have.” She wasn’t alone in that feeling: The song became a Number Three hit on the Billboard chart, and 15 years later it became Bill Clinton’s theme song for his 1992 presidential bid. “It would definitely be a great song for an insurance company,” McVie once joked. “But I’m definitely not a pessimist. I’m basically a love-song writer.” — K.G.
‘Songbird’ | 1977
In this 1977 ballad, McVie’s vocals are aching with devotion, although it’s unclear if the relationship is destined to soar or if it’s unrequited. “I wish you all the love in the world,” she sings. “But most of all, I wish it for myself.” One of McVie’s four solo writing credits on Rumours, it’s also the title track of her latest release, Songbird (A Solo Collection), which came out in June. The lone Fleetwood Mac song on an album of solo work, it’s included as a new orchestral version. McVie’s yearning vocals are paired with a swelling orchestral arrangement by Vince Mendoza, but nothing beats the romance of her sparse piano score on the original. — A. Marks
‘Think About Me’ | 1979
“Think About Me” is the song on the Mac’s apocalyptic 1979 double-album Tusk that keeps the sunny vibes of their biggest mid-Seventies hits going, and a bit of a decoy considering what fans were going to get from the rest of the record. It’s a McVie-Buckingham writing credit, with a hot solo and lyrics that hint at the resignation and loneliness inside the California free-love dream, making the song a perfect example of McVie’s ability to add a deeply human ambiguity to easy-listening radio rock. — J.D.
‘Over and Over’ | 1979
On Tusk, Fleetwood Mac — Buckingham especially — was happy to toy with the band’s sound and pare things down when needed. McVie apparently wasn’t averse to that approach, either. Reflecting whatever relationship she was in at the time (perhaps Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, whom she was dating during this period), “Over & Over” is unusually forlorn for her: “Don’t turn me away/And don’t let me down/What can I do to keep you around?” She and the band wed that subdued message to a simple, lilting melody and backbeat that stays locked into sullen mode. It’s like the world’s most inconsolable hymn. — D.B.
‘Hold Me’ | 1982
Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hit since “Don’t Stop” started off as an unfinished number that McVie had written with singer-songwriter Robbie Patton. McVie sang the song by herself on the demo, but it soon transformed into one her most iconic duets with Lindsey Buckingham (the song was a staple on the duo’s final 2017 tour together). “Some of these things just happen organically,” McVie later said of turning the song into a duet with Buckingham. “I don’t think it was a plan…It became obvious to me that Lindsey would eventually do it. — J.B.
‘Got a Hold on Me‘ | 1984
A couple of years after Fleetwood Mac released their mega-selling Mirage album, Christine McVie released her second solo effort, a self-titled LP that included the hit “Got a Hold on Me.” As with many of her biggest hits, the song’s themes are love and positivity. On the song’s chorus, she and her backing band trade lines — “I got a love/I got somebody/This love/Got a hold on me” — and the whole vibe of the song, which she cowrote with sometime Hall & Oates guitarist Todd Sharp, reflects the easygoing feeling of some of her best Fleetwood Mac songs. Fittingly, Lindsey Buckingham played guitar on the track, while Steve Winwood added synths to McVie’s keyboard parts. The track made it to Number 10 on the Hot 100 and topped both the Adult Contemporary and Top Rock Tracks charts. — K.G.
‘Little Lies’ | 1987
McVie’s ability to make some of the most innately likable and satisfying melodies in pop history went unmatched during Fleetwood Mac’s Eighties run. This twinkling Tango in the Night cut was co-written by McVie and her then-husband Eddy Quintela and helped further establish them as one of rock music’s most enduring and best-selling bands. “Little Lies” was Fleetwood Mac firing on all cylinders: McVie’s pillow-soft vocal performance is accented by furious harmonies and interjections from Buckingham and Nicks, a sublime showcase of the band’s three vocalists working in hard-earned unison. “Little Lies” would be the band’s most recent Top 10 hit. — B.S.
‘Everywhere’ | 1987
This synth-heavy, sparkling gem off Tango proved that McVie was the pop mastermind of the Mac. It was the band’s last single to break the Top 20 in the U.S., a feat that, to McVie, seemed effortless. “I don’t struggle over my songs,” she told us in 1977. “I write them quickly and I’ve never written a lot. I write what is required of me. I don’t really write about myself, which puts me in a safe little cocoon . . . . I’m a pretty basic love song writer.” — A. Martoccio
‘Feel About You‘ | 2017
After ending her semi-retirement in 2014 to rejoin Fleetwood Mac, McVie also struck up some creative inspiration by joining Buckingham in the studio to record some new material. The end result is McVie’s final album, the collaborative reunion Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie. The LP, which features Mick Fleetwood and John McVie’s iconic rhythm section, is a pure celebration of the studio magic and chemistry she and Buckingham have always had together. “Feel About You” is a bubbly insta-classic that sounds like no time passed between “Everywhere” and now. — B.S.
From Rolling Stone US.