Fleetwood Mac lost one of its leading lights on November 30 with the passing of vocalist Christine McVie at age 79 after a short illness. She joined the band under the name Christine Perfect in 1968 and was the vocal and lyrical force behind hits like “Don’t Stop,” “Everywhere,” “You Make Loving Fun,” and “Little Lies,” each an all-time earworm in rock music history.
Fleetwood Mac was fractious with break-ups (including McVie’s divorce from the band’s bassist, John McVie, in 1976), shake-ups, and diva personalities to spare, but none of that can touch half a century’s worth of brilliant music. It defined their legacy back to the late-1960s with albums like their self-titled release, “Rumours,” and “Tusk,” which made the band iconic.
In recent decades, McVie appeared on stage in different iterations of the band’s lineup. Her penultimate appearance alongside her bandmates in full form — before their 2015 reunion — was in 1997, when Fleetwood Mac memorialized its performance with the live album and concert film, “The Dance.”
Filmed on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, “The Dance” spans Fleetwood Mac’s greatest hits, including early McVie classics like “Say You Love Me” and “You Make Loving Fun.” The band — including Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Stevie Nicks — does what they do best, which is to put aside their differences (Stevie Nicks’ ego rivaled only by Lindsey Buckingham’s) and deliver an iconic show.
The Fleetwood Mac drama is the fascinating Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame gift that keeps on giving. It’s hard to keep track of who remains, even for the most ardent fans. Lindsey Buckingham was ousted in 2018 and filed a breach of contract lawsuit. Guitarist Daniel Kirwan died that same year. Founding member Peter Green died in 2020. The addition of new members in 2018 — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell and Crowded House’s Neil Finn — heralded some kind of rebirth. But how can they exist without Christine McVie?
She was a key factor in the band’s success, and while Nicks was undeniably the female-fronting face of the group, McVie was no one’s second fiddle. A few years older than most of her bandmates, McVie brought candor and grounding to the group with lyrically warm offerings that contrasted the caustic push-pull behind the words and music of Nicks, Buckingham, and Mick Fleetwood. There’s still a legion of Nicks fans who worship her manic pixie witch persona, but when Fleetwood Mac started to climb the charts, McVie was the voice you heard coming out of your speakers, from “Over Your Head” to “Say You Love Me.”
The “Rumours” album remains a time capsule of relationships disintegrating, with Nicks and Buckingham breaking up and the McVies’ marriage falling apart. “The Dance” includes many of those hits with “You Make Loving Fun” and “Don’t Stop.” McVie also contributed to singing and writing the all-time classic “The Chain,” which the band members performed in a rare moment of harmonic collaboration.
McVie’s legacy is inseparable from Fleetwood Mac’s, and I’ll take the liberty of speaking for all Fleetwood Mac fans when I say that for a band that treated enormous, irreplaceable losses as a personal signature, losing her is truly enormous and irreplaceable. If you want to experience her brilliance up close, you can stream the live concert film of “The Dance” on Amazon here.
“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,” her family said in a statement upon her passing on Wednesday. Not a hard thing to do when there was so much genius on display.