There is one quiet moment of reflection in the BBC documentary, Fleetwood Mac’s Songbird, that perhaps sums up its subject more than anything else in the 90-minute retrospective of rock music history. It comes when Christine McVie, the longest-serving female member of Fleetwood Mac, and the group’s most successful singer-songwriter, speaks affectionately about her longtime friend, Stevie Nicks: “I could no more do twirls in chiffon than Stevie could do blues on the piano.” As she acknowledges her friend’s affinity for the spotlight, she showcases her brilliant talent for saying so much with so few words. It was this gift, we discover, that was intrinsic to the band’s success, and one that has ultimately allowed Fleetwood Mac to connect with people all around the world for over five decades.
How and why the driving force behind one of the world’s best-selling bands was overlooked for so long is a question that is slowly unravelled in this fascinating profile of the legendary singer-songwriter, which traces McVie’s early beginnings in Birmingham, the British blues explosion in 1960s London, and her first foray into music. We learn that McVie was working as a window dresser in the department store Dickins & Jones, until she moved back to Birmingham to join her old friends Andy Silvester and Stan Webb in a blues band called Chicken Shack. Although she was initially tasked with playing keys and singing background vocals, when the band scored a hit with a cover of Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind with McVie on lead vocals, it quickly became evident that she was destined for greater things.
We then meet John McVie, the bassist of Fleetwood Mac, who recalls spotting McVie playing the piano at a jazz festival and subsequently asks her out. Six weeks later the pair were married, and the merging of the two chart-topping bands began. Things went awry, however, after Peter Green, the guitarist and original creator of Fleetwood Mac decided to leave in 1969. At this point, Mick Fleetwood claims that the band were lost “babes in the wood”; another wannabe British rock band with no direction. All that changed when the band asked McVie, who was touring with her husband, to come on board. McVie, of course, knew all the songs, and with her creative input, the band began to reclaim its identity.
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