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It was the week of June 18, 1977, that Stevie Nicks, a singer born in Phoenix, made her way to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 as the voice of "Dreams," the biggest, most enduring hit on Fleetwood Mac's career-defining "Rumours," a 20-times-platinum triumph that remains one of the biggest-selling albums of all time.
In the 45 years since "Rumours," she's emerged as one of music's most beloved entertainers, headlining arenas as a solo artist while continuing to work with Fleetwood Mac.
In 2019, she was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a second time for the solo career she launched in 1981 with "Bella Donna," having previously been enshrined as part of Fleetwood Mac.
A year later, "Dreams" experienced an odd resurgence when a goofy TikTok video of Nathan Apodaca chugging Ocean Spray cranberry juice from a bottle while skateboarding to the song (and eventually singing along) went viral.
"Dreams," of course, is merely one of the countless classic songs she's written and recorded since "Buckingham Nicks," an album with then-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham that set the wheels in motion for Mick Fleetwood to extend an invitation to the duo to join the band.
Here's one unapologetically subjective countdown of her greatest songs, including several tracks by Fleetwood Mac that have gone on to be reclaimed by Nicks as staples of her solo tours, from "Rhiannon" and "Landslide" to "Dreams."
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20. 'I Can't Wait'
This is the closest she will ever come to sounding like Madonna. And the electronic dance vibe suits her better than most people would've guessed before she cut this track, which somehow charted higher on the Mainstream Rock chart than the dance chart. It's among her most infectious hits, with all the touchstones of a massive '80s pop hit — out of character but all the more intriguing for it. In the liner notes to Timespace, Nicks recalled her friend Rick Nowels bringing her the backing track. "I think this was about the most exciting song that I had ever heard," she said. "The second Rick left, I ran in my little recording studio and wrote 'I Can't Wait.' It took all night, and I think it is all about how electric I felt about this music."
19. 'Planets of the Universe'
Nicks wrote this song about the end of her relationship with Buckingham while work was underway on "Rumours," where it would've been surrounded by a bunch of tracks about the end of that relationship. Which may explain why the guitar riff sounds like such a natural extension of "Rhiannon" from Fleetwood Mac's previous album. It never made it past the demo stage with Fleetwood Mac. But Nicks revived it decades later, topping Billboard's dance charts in 2001. The groove is only so insistent, though, which means it doesn't undercut the haunting nature of the vocal as she frames the fate of their relationship within the larger context of the universe. "The planets of the universe go their way," she sings. "Not astounded by the sun or moon."
18. 'Crying in the Night'
This long-discarded gem from the Buckingham Nicks album made its unexpected live debut on the opening night of the 24 Karat Gold Tour in Phoenix, where she told us, “This was gonna be the single off the Buckingham Nicks record. It was so long ago, I don’t actually remember if it ever was the single or made it out." It's the opening track on the album, which is out of print but you can check it out on YouTube. Stylistically speaking, "Crying in the Night" is not that far removed from the sort of material she and Buckingham ended up contributing to Fleetwood Mac, an acoustic-guitar-driven midtempo song with a bit of a Badfinger vibe that finds her warning of "a tarnished pearl" who's bound to leave you crying in the night.
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This is among the biggest hits she wrote for Fleetwood Mac, a wistful pop song that romanticizes the lifestyle she enjoyed with Buckingham before they made it. There are references to Nicks' favorite clothing store where Janis Joplin used to buy her clothes in San Francisco, and the way she used to pretty up their mattress on the floor with lace and paper flowers. As with any song reflecting on her time with Buckingham, it also touches on the breakup, with Nicks as the gypsy who's "dancing away from you now," reminding him, "Her memory is all that is left for you now."
16. 'Talk to Me'
Released as the lead single from her "Rock a Little" album, "Talk to Me" is one of Nicks' biggest solo hits. It spent two weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and peaked at No. 4 on Billboard's Hot 100. It was written by Chas Sanford, who'd co-written one of the previous year's big rock hits, John Waite's "Missing You." Nicks has said she didn't like the song at first and struggled with the vocals. But you'd never know it to hear her lean into those high notes on the bridge, powering through "Do I seem all that hard, is it all that tough? Now, I've searched through all my cards, well, isn't that enough?" with a grittier vocal than we're used to hearing from her.
It's not at all uncommon to find her sitting on a classic song for years or even decades. That was certainly the case with "Sorcerer," a song she wrote in the Buckingham Nicks days and didn't release until "Trouble In Shangri-La." It almost made it onto "Tusk" and was recorded then shelved during sessions for 1983's "The Wild Heart." A recording by Marilyn Martin appeared in 1984 on the soundtrack to a film called "Streets of Fire." But it was 2001 before we heard her version of the song, a vaguely psychedelic treatment — that guitar could not be more hypnotic — co-produced by Sheryl Crow, who sings and plays guitar on the recording. It's also blessed with one of Nicks' most beguiling vocal tracks in years.
14. 'Bella Donna'
This song clearly held a special place in Nicks' heart. Not only did she choose it to open her solo debut, but she also named the album after it. In an interview with Rolling Stone tied to the album's release, she talked about the title track, a deeply moving portrait of a beautiful woman who's so tired, she disappears. It's "basically a warning to myself and a question to others," she said. "I'm 33 years old, and my life has been very up and down in the last six years." And what Nicks ends up telling herself is "Come in out of the darkness."
13. 'If Anyone Falls'
This synth-driven gem from "The Wild Heart" was written as Nicks was falling out love with one person, falling in love with another, a time when — as she noted in the liner notes to "Timespace" — "Nothing else seemed to matter except this person." There's a dreamlike quality to the production and the lyrics as she sings of "dealing with a man when away from me stays deep inside my heart." In the opening verse, he predicts, "If anyone falls in love, it will be one of us," which leads into a haunting chorus hook that takes place in "the twilight dreamtime."
12. 'Gold Dust Woman'
In a 1997 interview with VH1, Nicks said this song was "really my symbolic look about somebody going through a bad relationship, and doing a lot of drugs, and trying to… just make it, trying to live, trying to get through it to the next thing." It also draws on her experience of watching groupies operate. As she told Crawdaddy in 1976, it's "about women who stand around and give me and Christine (McVie) dirty looks but as soon as a guy comes in the room are overcome with smiles." What ultimately matters is the raw emotion she invests in the haunted chorus of "Well, did she make you cry? Make you break down? Shatter your illusions of love? And is it over now? Do you know how to pick up the pieces and go home?"
11. 'Leather and Lace'
This romantic ballad was her second hit duet from "Bella Donna," hitting No. 6 on Billboard's Hot 100. Nicks had written this one as the title track for Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter's 1981 duets album "Leather and Lace," but for whatever reason, that fell through. So Nicks recorded her own version with Don Henley. And it sounds like something that would definitely speak to Eagles fans, a wistful, country-flavored soft-rock song whose mood is complemented by the use of what certainly sounds like a celeste. It also went Top 10 on the Adult Contemporary charts and would've sounded right at home in that format.
10. 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around'
This is the single that set her on her way to a second Hall of Fame induction, a hit duet with Tom Petty recorded with his backing band, the Heartbreakers, for "Bella Donna." It remains her highest-charting entry on the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at No. 3. The song was written by Petty and right-hand man Mike Campbell for use on a Heartbreakers record, but producer Jimmy Iovine arranged for Nicks to sing it, which turned out to be a brilliant move. She really makes the song her own, despite phrasing occasional lines in a way that could not be more Petty-esque. It also features one of Petty's most expressive vocals. And their distinctive voice blend together really nicely on the chorus. They make sense together.
9. 'After the Glitter Fades'
"Well, I never thought I'd make it here in Hollywood" is the perfect point of entry to this country-tinged lament, a song she's said was written in the early '70s, when she and Buckingham were struggling to make it. It didn't see the light of the day until years later as an understated highlight of the "Bella Donna" album, where Dan Dugmore’s haunting pedal steel and Roy Bitten's twinkling piano do much to underscore Nicks' bittersweet delivery as she sings of the dream that "keeps coming even when you forget to feel" and seems to find some comfort in the thought that "the feeling remains even after the glitter fades." It peaked at No. 32 on Billboard's Hot 100.
8. 'Rooms on Fire'
Nicks told the BBC this hit from 1989's "The Other Side of the Mirror" is "about a girl who is a rock 'n' roll star who has pretty much accepted the fact that she will never ever be able to be married or have those children that she wanted or the husband that she wanted or that deep, deep love that she wanted and she's accepted it." The song itself is more upbeat than that explanation suggests with a chorus that could be among her most contagious pop hooks, where she sings, "Well maybe I'm just thinking that the rooms are all on fire every time that you walk in the room" (a line inspired by her feelings for producer Rupert Hine). This song hit No. 16 on the Hot 100.
7. 'Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You?'
This deeply moving ballad was written in response to "Song for Emma," a song Joe Walsh had written to honor the memory of Emma, his three-year-old daughter who died of injuries sustained on her way home from nursery school in a tragic automobile accident. A melancholy piano sets the tone, then Nicks begins to sing. "Has anyone ever written anything for you?" she asks. "In all your darkest hours, have you ever heard me sing? Listen to me now." In the liner notes to "Timespace," she calls this "the most committed song I ever wrote." And you can hear how much it means to her in her heartbreaking delivery of a song she says came spilling out of her in about five minutes after sitting down at the piano in her Paradise Valley home after a trip with Walsh to visit Emma's favorite park.
6. 'Silver Springs'
It's still amazing to consider that they left this song off "Rumours." Yes, it could be argued that the album did all right without it. But it would've made a more compelling masterpiece if they'd included it. It opens with Nicks at her vulnerable best, trembling her way through an opening line about how "you could be my silver spring, blue-green colors flashin'" with no hint of the fiery intensity to follow as she taunts her former lover (the one over there on guitar) with a vow of "I'll follow you down til' the sound of my voice will haunt you" and "You'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you." It should've been the final track (and it shouldn't have faded out so quickly).
"Rhiannon" was the first hit single Nicks contributed to making Fleetwood Mac one of the most successful pop acts of all time, a suitably bewitching portrait of a woman who "takes to the sky like a bird in flight." In an interview with Rolling Stone, Nicks explained that the song had been inspired by "Triad: A Novel of the Supernatural," which tells the story of a Welsh woman who believes she’s been possessed by a woman named Rhiannon. As Nicks told Rolling Stone, “I wrote this song and made her into what I thought was an old Welsh witch. It’s just about a very mystical woman that finds it very, very hard to be tied down in any kind of way.” The song peaked at No. 11 on Billboard's Hot 100 and according to the website setlist.fm, remains the Fleetwood Mac song her fans are most likely to hear at a solo show, narrowly edging out "Dreams."
4. 'Stand Back'
Nicks wrote this synth-driven single by humming an alternate melody to Prince's "Little Red Corvette" when it came on the radio as she and the man she'd just married were driving to a luxury resort in Santa Barbara, recording a demo that night in their honeymoon suite. When she told Prince the story? He came by the studio to add those very Prince-like synthesizers. In a 1998 interview with WMGK, Nicks said when this song starts out, "I almost feel like I'm hearing it coming out of a club or something." The single peaked at No. 5 on Billboard's Hot 100. Nicks has said this song and 'Dreams' are her two favorites to perform on stage.
3. 'Edge of Seventeen'
This song was inspired by visiting her Uncle John in Phoenix and holding his hand as he died shortly after the murder of John Lennon. As Nicks told Rolling Stone in 1981, "The white-winged dove in the song is a spirit that is leaving a body, and I felt a great loss at how both Johns were taken." It's not a sad song, though. Years later, in an interview with Vox, she talked about the importance of getting the energy right, from Waddy Wachtel's iconic guitar part (as sampled years later by Destiny's Child) to the point where all that tension she's been building finally gives way to the release of the drums kicking in more than a minute into the record. "When we recorded the song, the energy that was written into that song was so intense that it took us about two nights to get the track to that, and it's like nobody's feet ever stopped moving," she recalled. "I wanted that song to have all that energy of them and of us going on.
There's a reason this became the biggest hit she's ever written, from the timeless melody to the way she hits those high notes on "It's only right that you should play the way you feel it," a line she follows with a withering "But listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness." The production is flawless, the vocal sublime, the overall effect as timeless as pop music gets. It concerns the end of her eight-year relationship with Buckingham, whose job was then to come up with the perfect guitar arrangement to accompany the venom in her lyrics "in the stillness of remembering what you had... and what you lost." In an interview for "In the Studio with Fleetwood Mac," Nicks said, "I can remember how hard it was for me to play 'Dreams' the first time for the whole band, because I know it would probably really upset Lindsey, and probably really upset Chris and John, and probably really upset Mick and really upset me. And if I could even get through it I'd be lucky." Fortunately, she got through it. And continues to get through it as a highlight of her live performances both solo and with Fleetwood Mac.
This reflective acoustic-guitar-driven ballad finds her pondering the aging process and the changes that come with it. She was 27 at the time and haunted by the thought that everything she'd spent her whole life working up to could come crashing down around her like an avalanche at any moment. "Well, I've been afraid of changing 'Cause I've built my life around you," she sings, her trembling vocal as vulnerable as Nicks has ever sounded. "But time makes you bolder / Even children get older / I'm getting older too." In the liner notes to "Crystal Visions," Nicks is quoted saying that she wrote that song in Aspen, "looking out at the Rocky Mountains pondering the avalanche of everything that had come crashing down on us ... at that moment, my life truly felt like a landslide in many ways."
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Stevie Nicks' 20 best songs, ranked, from solo hits to Fleetwood Mac