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Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie dead at age 79

Christine McVie smiles in a photo from 1980.
Christine McVie in 1980. (Davidson/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Singer-songwriter and keyboardist Christine McVie — best known for her long tenure in the massively successful classic rock band Fleetwood Mac, and for penning some of their most iconic radio hits, including “Don’t Stop,” “You Make Loving Fun,” “Say You Love Me,” “Hold Me,” “Everywhere” and “Little Lies” — has died at age 79.

The news was announced Wednesday via Facebook, with a statement that read: “On behalf of Christine McVie’s family, it is with a heavy heart we are informing you of Christine’s death. She passed away peacefully at hospital this morning, Wednesday, November 30th 2022, following a short illness. She was in the company of her family. We kindly ask that you respect the family’s privacy at this extremely painful time, and we would like everyone to keep Christine in their hearts and remember the life of an incredible human being, and revered musician who was loved universally. RIP Christine McVie.”

Fleetwood Mac also released their own official statement: “There are no words to describe our sadness at the passing of Christine McVie. She was truly one-of-a-kind, special and talented beyond measure. She was the best musician anyone could have in their band and the best friend anyone could have in their life. We were so lucky to have a life with her. Individually and together, we cherished Christine deeply and are thankful for the amazing memories we have. She will be so very missed.”

McVie’s bandmate Stevie Nicks posted her own characteristically eloquent, heartbreaking, handwritten tribute on social media. “A few hours ago I was told that my best friend in the whole world since the first day of 1975, had passed away. I didn't even know she was ill...until late Saturday night,” Nicks wrote. “I wanted to be in London; I wanted to get to London — but we were told to wait. So, since Saturday, one song has been swirling around in my head, over and over and over. I thought I might possibly get to sing it to her, and so, I’m singing it to her now. I always knew I would need these words one day.” The post was accompanied by the lyrics to Haim’s song “Hallelujah” and a sweet photo of McVie and Nicks.

McVie was born Christine Anne Perfect on July 12, 1943, in Lancashire, England, and was raised in a musical family that included her father, a violin teacher, and grandfather, an organist at Westminster Abbey. She began studying music seriously at age 11 and eventually became immersed in Britain’s burgeoning blues scene while attending art college, joining the Birmingham band Sounds of Blue and performing with Spencer Davis. After Sounds of Blue broke up, she and her former bandmates, Andy Silvester and Stan Webb, started a new group, Chicken Shack, in 1967. McVie’s work with that band earned her U.K. music magazine Melody Maker’s Best Female Vocalist award in 1969.

Chicken Shack and the Peter Green-fronted lineup of Fleetwood Mac, of which McVie was a big fan, often crossed paths on tour and as signees to the Blue Horizon record label, and McVie was eventually hired to play piano as a session musician on the Mac albums Mr. Wonderful and Then Play On. She married Mac bassist John McVie in 1968 and left Chicken Shack a year later. In 1970 she released her first solo album, Christine Perfect; that same year, she contributed backup vocals/keyboards to and painted the cover art for Kiln House, the first Fleetwood Mac album released after Green’s departure. Shortly thereafter, she joined Fleetwood Mac full-time; her first album as an official band member was 1971’s Future Games.

In 1974 the McVies moved with Fleetwood Mac to America, with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham soon joining to form what many consider to be the group’s classic lineup. This lineup’s 1975 self-titled album went seven times platinum, with the Christine-penned singles “Say You Love Me” and “Over My Head” cracking the Billboard top 20. The follow-up, Rumours, was an even bigger success, selling more than 40 million copies worldwide. Among Christine’s contributions to that album were “The Chain,” which she co-wrote with Buckingham, Nicks, John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood, and the solo contributions “Songbird” (a longtime concert favorite, often played during Mac’s encores), “You Make Loving Fun” and “Don’t Stop.” The latter was her biggest hit, peaking at No. 3, and was used as the theme song for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign; Fleetwood Mac performed it at Clinton’s inaugural ball in 1993.

Interpersonal strife within Fleetwood Mac’s two romantically involved couples was major lyrical fodder for Rumours — Christine’s top 10 hit “You Make Loving Fun” was in fact inspired by her affair with Fleetwood Mac’s lighting director — and by the end of the Rumours tour, the McVies had divorced. However, Christine remained in the group through 1998 for the albums Tusk, Mirage, Tango in the Night, Behind the Mask and Time, although Tango was the last Mac studio LP to feature the classic lineup with both Buckingham and Nicks, who also split up during the Rumours era. Christine married keyboardist Eddy Quintela in 1986 and co-wrote several songs with him during their 17-year marriage, including Tango in the Night’s “Little Lies,” which went to No. 4.

Christine temporarily retired from full-time touring after 1990’s Behind the Mask (years later she revealed in a Rolling Stone interview that she’d developed a phobia about flying), but she agreed to participate in a reunion tour that included Buckingham and Nicks for the live LP The Dance, which went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 1997. A year later she performed for the group’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction and at the Grammys and Brit Awards. But in 1998 she quit touring again, and she kept a relatively low profile until 2014, when she rejoined Buckingham, Nicks, Fleetwood and John McVie for Mac’s “On With the Show” tour. After Buckingham acrimoniously left the group again in 2018, she participated in the “An Evening With Fleetwood Mac” tour, which featured a revamped lineup with Mike Campbell and Neil Finn.

Along with her 14 studio and live albums with Fleetwood Mac, Christine McVie released two albums with Chicken Shack and three solo albums. Despite the success of the “On With the Show” and “An Evening With Fleetwood Mac” tours, she was reportedly reluctant to record a new Fleetwood Mac reunion album. However, in 2017 she released her last studio album, a joint effort with Buckingham, Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie, and the duo supported that record with their own tour.

Along with her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac, among McVie’s many honors were two Grammy Awards, the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, a Gold Badge of Merit Award from the Ivors Academy, an Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Trailblazer Award from the U.K. Americana Music Association.

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