Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac singer and songwriter, dies at 79


Christine McVie, a British vocalist and songwriter for the rock band Fleetwood Mac who helped shape some of the group’s hugely popular hits including “Don’t Stop” about her crumbling marriage to bandmate John McVie, died Nov. 30. She was 79.

The band confirmed Ms. McVie’s death in a message posted on social media but gave no further details on the location or cause. A family statement said Ms. McVie died in a hospital after a short illness. In June, Ms. McVie told Rolling Stone that she was in “quite bad health” and had chronic issues with her back.

Ms. McVie’s smooth, contralto vocals — a distinct contrast to the more earthy and rougher sound of co-vocalist Stevie Nicks — were the centerpiece of many Fleetwood Mac hits during its years as one of the world’s super groups. The list remains a staple of classic rock radio, including “You Make Loving Fun,” “Everywhere,” “Little Lies” and, what she described as her favorite, “Songbird,” a ballad often used as the band’s encore at concerts.

“ ‘For you, there’ll be no more crying …’ ” she once said, reciting a snippet from the lyrics. “It’s sort of like a little prayer for everybody.”

Her mark on the band was so wide-reaching that eight of her songs appeared on Fleetwood Mac’s “Greatest Hits” album in 1988.

“I don’t struggle over my songs,” Ms. McVie told Rolling Stone, noting her style was rooted in soul and blues compositions, with her keyboards working along with the bass line. “I write them quickly.”

She was also seen as a steady presence in a band often beset by personality clashes, debilitating drug use and revolving-door lineups during its climb to super stardom in the 1970s and ’80s. Yet Ms. McVie was not without her own challenges, describing years of drugs and drinking that became something of a crutch — or muse — during some of her most productive years with the band.

“I suppose sometimes we got a bit out-there, but we were quite restrained, really,” she told the Guardian in June. “I always took fairly good care of myself. My drug of choice was cocaine and champagne. I didn’t use any other drugs at all. It’s easy for me to say, but I think it made me perform better.”

Ms. McVie left Fleetwood Mac after 28 years in 1998 — beaten down by the touring schedule, riddled by anxiety over her fear of flying and craving the peace of the English countryside. “I had to get drunk to get on the plane,” she told the Toronto Star.

She was back with Fleetwood Mac in 2014, six years after she and her bandmates were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “We had a band meeting over the phone and they all went: “Come baaaack!,’ ” she said in the Guardian interview. “I felt regenerated and I felt like writing again.”

She had spent the intervening years on solo projects — sometimes with her musician nephew Dan Perfect — in a converted barn in Kent on a 17th-century manor estate. Nothing, however, could ever come close to the stratospheric success of Fleetwood Mac at its creative, and tumultuous, prime.

Its 1977 album “Rumours” had songs reflecting the breakups of the McVies and the band’s other couple, Lindsey Buckingham and Nicks. During the recording, Ms. McVie was involved with a lighting engineer, Curry Grant, who inspired the song “You Make Loving Fun.”

More than 40 million copies were sold worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time.

In 2015, during a reunion tour with Fleetwood Mac, she found a very different vibe among the group: more settled and more content.

“We are all smiling 99 percent of the time,” she told the New Yorker. “Which, by this band’s standard, is phenomenal.”

Christine Anne Perfect was born in Greenodd, in England’s Cumbria region, on July 12, 1943, and was raised near Birmingham, where her father, a concert violinist, taught music and her mother worked as a psychic and healer. Ms. McVie began studying music at 11 and described some of her early influences as Fats Domino and the Everly Brothers.

She joined a band while in art school in Birmingham and later recorded songs with the group Chicken Shack, which made the British charts with a cover of Etta James’s 1968 song “I’d Rather Go Blind” with Ms. McVie on vocals.

On gigs, Chicken Shack would sometimes cross paths with Fleetwood Mac, which was formed in 1967 using the surnames of its founders, bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood.

Ms. McVie and John McVie married in 1968. There was no traditional honeymoon, she said, but the newlyweds had a boozy post-wedding evening in a Birmingham hotel with rocker Joe Cocker.

“He was staying at the same hotel and he got plastered with us, on our wedding night,” she told the Guardian. “Until we kicked him out.”

In 1970, she was asked to join Fleetwood Mac after guitarist Peter Green quit. By the time “Rumours” was released seven years later, the couple had filed for divorce, largely because of John McVie’s heavy drinking.

During the recording, though, Nicks also was having a secret affair with Fleetwood and Ms. McVie was paired up with the lighting engineer. John McVie suggested the album title because he felt the members were writing “journals and diaries” about one another through music.

The album, with other starkly personal songs such as Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way” and Nicks’s “Dreams,” received a Grammy Award in 1978 as album of the year. Ms. McVie song “Don’t Stop” with its refrain — “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow/ Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here” — was adopted by Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, and the band regrouped to perform it at Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.

In 1974, Fleetwood Mac had shifted its base to Southern California — with Nicks and Buckingham joining for the album “Fleetwood Mac” (1975) that marked its first major commercial hits with Ms. McVie’s singles “Over My Head” and “Say You Love Me,” and “Rhiannon” written by Nicks.

“We all met in this Mexican restaurant, drank a few margaritas and decided to give it a go,” Ms. McVie said. “We all got into this little rehearsal room and it just shot off like firecrackers.”

Ms. McVie also branched off into other projects including singing with The Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson on “Love Surrounds Me” for the 1979 “L.A. (Light Album).”

Ms. McVie married Portuguese musician and songwriter Eddy Quintela in 1986 and collaborated on songs including “Save Me” (1990). They divorced in 2003; Quintela died in 2020. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

Earlier this year, Ms. McVie was asked how she managed to overcome her lifelong fear of air travel.

“One day I just decided not to be afraid of it anymore, and that was it,” she said. “I felt liberated. Then I thought: ‘I’m actually enjoying this.’ Life’s too short to be afraid of things like flying. You’d never go anywhere. I love flying now.”

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