If Fleetwood Mac and “underrated” could somehow go in the same sentence, we’d be talking about Christine McVie, who died on November 30 at 79. Though never as big of a personality as Stevie Nicks or Lindsey Buckingham, the singer, songwriter, and keyboardist was a cornerstone of the group even before she joined the band, playing keys in studio sessions and painting the album art for 1970’s Kiln House. Once she became an official member (she’d infamously married the bassist, John McVie), she asserted herself as one of the group’s core songwriters. On 1977’s smash Rumours, she penned and performed some of their biggest (“Don’t Stop”) and most indelible songs (“Songbird”), a trend that continued for years, with McVie responsible for the group’s later hits like “Little Lies” and “Everywhere.” McVie faded out of the band in the 1990s, eventually retiring in 1998 due to a phobia of flying — but spent her last years as an official member again after rejoining in 2014. Below, Vulture staffers celebrate their favorite contributions from Fleetwood Mac’s Songbird.
“Don’t Stop” is the first Fleetwood Mac song I remember, and I’d say it’s the perfect introduction. The hook feels instantly familiar, like you’ve spent your whole life with it, even if you haven’t. It’s easy enough to shout along, and it’ll pull you in by the second chorus. McVie understood the power of simplicity, writing her best songs as vessels for basic, evocative declarations. This one — “Don’t stop thinkin’ about tomorrow” — was directed at her husband, John, as their marriage deteriorated during the recording of Rumours. That powerful chorus anchors one of McVie’s most upbeat songs, a swinging rock number held down by her piano, which she pounds like a percussionist. (Some fans don’t know that she also sings co-lead on the song with Lindsey Buckingham — if anything, a testament to how well their voices blend, while also an unfortunate example of how her integral contributions to the band can fade to the background.) Along with the chorus, the last verse packs one of the album’s most empathetic moments: “All I want is to see you smile / If it takes just a little while / I know you don’t believe that it’s true / I never meant any harm to you.” The only thing to stop the tears from rolling is that damn catchy chorus rushing around the corner. —Justin Curto
All Fleetwood Mac songs written by Christine McVie could be described as mystical, dreamy, and transcendent of time and space. But no song is more memorable and distinct than “Everywhere,” which she wrote and performed lead vocals for — and one that my best friend plays every time he gets the aux after a drink or two. The moment the ascending chimes hit, I’m on a stupid little high, wanting to spin and float around in a room with a stupid grin on my face. It’s deliriously fun to chant McVie’s blissful and bashful “OoooooAaaaaa … I want to be with you everywhere.” I recommend doing it immediately and often. — Morgan Baila
“Over My Head”
Out of all of McVie’s vocal performances, “Over My Head” is my favorite. The rhythm and instrumentation alone make it a classic, easy listening soft rock track, but I like how it puts a spotlight on McVie’s husky, bluesy voice. It was the first Fleetwood Mac song that I truly loved. She wrote it about bandmate Lindsey Buckingham, which is not the last time another bandmate would be the focal point of her songwriting.
In college, I had a collection of my dad’s CDs that I’d play in my car. One day, I was chatting with my dad about this song in particular, and to my surprise, he told me that he used to jam with McVie’s brother, John Perfect, back when my dad owned a disco club in the Philippines. According to my dad, Christine sent John a four-track Tascam recorder, which he and my dad used to record John’s jazz band. Now whenever I listen to “Over My Head,” I think about springtime in college, my dad, and how I’m now the same age he was when he was bobbing his head to Christine’s voice on the radio. —Jeremy Rellosa
When I saw the news about Christine McVie’s death, this song immediately started playing in my head. The last track on side one of Rumours, the quintessential (and most successful) Fleetwood Mac album, shows us McVie’s voice, as a singer and songwriter, in full emotional bloom. Like the best ballads, its beauty lies in its simplicity: It is carried entirely by the sound of piano keys and the soaring, yet always controlled, lilt of McVie’s voice. As she has said in multiple interviews over the years, “Songbird” came to McVie in the middle of the night: She wrote it in a half-hour, then stayed up all night until one of the band’s producers was awake and could help her record it. I’ll say that again: She wrote this gorgeous, enduring piece of music in 30 minutes. It has taken me more than 30 minutes to write the blurb about that song. “Songbird” isn’t just a song, it’s a gift from the heavens that was sent to Christine McVie and it sounds, every time, like something holy.
In an interview with The Guardian earlier this year, McVie even described “Songbird” as “sort of a little prayer for everybody,” which explains why it jumped to mind immediately after the news of her passing. Now more than a few of its lyrics — “For you, there’ll be no more crying / For you, the sun will be shining … And I wish you all the love in the world / But most of all, I wish it from myself” — sound like a prayer, one written by and for the great Christine McVie. — Jen Chaney
“Tusk” music video
Christine McVie is not the central force in the “Tusk” video — it’s Mick Fleetwood’s ever-ecstatic facial expressions, and Stevie baton-twirling, and the cardboard cutout of John McVie, and the stunning Trojans marching band. It’s the entire scene. But there, in the middle of it all, is McVie, looking unflappable and unfazed by any of it. She puts the big trojan helmet on; in nearly every shot she’s holding a full-to-brimming glass of white wine. It’s so tempting to call her a background figure — except there she is, staring straight at the camera and doing a sly little shrug, runaway winner for coolest person in the stadium. —Kathryn VanArendonk
Before the international breakthrough Fleetwood Mac initiated when Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined — injecting a grizzled blues-rock act with pop smarts, mysticism and headline-making drama — it was Christine McVie’s piercing, reedy, gorgeous voice making the major inroads to the sound of modern pop. In a different period of emotional tumult than the one rock fans love to talk about with this band — the early ’70s, when guitarist Bob Weston left, having had an affair with drummer Mick Fleetwood’s wife — the “Songbird” crafted the devastating “Why,” the stunning closer from 1973’s otherwise patchy Mystery to Me. It’s a pep talk for a person in a tight spot. The refrain (“My heart will rise up with the morning sun / And the hurt I feel will simply melt away”) has an air of uncertainty, as all promises of better times uttered on the worst days do. As the singer trust falls into the pained chorus that gives this song its title (“You don’t have to give up / Why is it all wrong? / Why don’t you love me? / And why won’t you just be strong?”), “Why” lacerates as a breakup anthem for people who pine for an ex when they hear it and as a motivational song about how hard it is to get through any given day sometimes. Whatever baggage you brought, Christine sang you through it. “Why” was a staple on the tour for the ’75 self-titled; this version from an appearance the next year on The Midnight Special almost smokes a white-hot version of “Rhiannon” (in a good year for performances of that one) by easing off of some of the guitar theatrics from the studio recording and just letting McVie knock you down. —Craig Jenkins
“You Make Loving Fun”
“You Make Loving Fun” was my first exposure to the talent of McVie. It’s easy to get swept away in the songcraft, from the driving rhythm to the way she effortlessly tackles the word believe. Its spellbinding melody draws you into her magical world of tenderhearted miracles. But the real beauty is in the transcendent simplicity of the song; an ode to her affair (or, as McVie told her then-husband, her dog) that conveys an easy, uncomplicated relationship told through a simple four-word phrase. And that, essentially, is what Fleetwood Mac has always been best at: harnessing deeply personal nostalgia through universally felt emotions. McVie in particular was always consistently able to balance that core ethos with a dedication to pop perfection. —Reanna Cruz
Sometimes all you need is two words to bewitch your audience. Christine knew that. —Devon Ivie