Christine McVie, who passed away at the age of 79, was a vital member of one of the greatest bands of all time, which consisted of a complex cast of personalities.
In 1970, Fleetwood Mac was waning as a blues-rock force, their leader Peter Green having quit following an LSD-induced deterioration, when the remaining musicians decamped to a country estate in an attempt to establish a new direction.
Christine McVie gave up her own career as a singer and keyboardist when she realized she would rarely see her husband, Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie, if they were in separate bands.
A few days before embarking on a U.S. tour, however, Fleetwood Mac “suddenly felt they needed another instrument to round out the sound,” as she recalled subsequently.
“And there I was, sitting about doing almost nothing and knowing all the songs by heart since I had been observing their rehearsals for three months.”
Mick Fleetwood, the drummer, stated that the band asked her to join the tour as they were “going out the door.”
“When they asked me, I didn’t hesitate,” she remarked. “I just said, ‘Yes please.'”
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That was the beginning of Christine McVie’s official participation in Fleetwood Mac, as well as the commencement of the band’s new direction.
The inclusion of McVie’s soulful vocals, her keyboard and piano playing, and her talent for penning timeless pop songs placed them on the path to era-defining, stadium-filling fame – despite their infamously tumultuous personal relationships and drug abuse.
Christine Perfect was born in Cumbria in 1943 to a violinist and music instructor father and a psychic healer mother.
As the 1960s began to flourish, she enrolled in art school and began playing with bands, eventually joining the blues group Chicken Shack. Her style never quite matched with the group’s louder sound, but the more subdued songs she fronted achieved the most financial success.
In 1969 and 1970, Melody Maker readers named her the greatest female vocalist. Her cover of Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind reached the top twenty. She also recorded a solo album, but was unable to survive as a solo artist.
In the meantime, after supporting Fleetwood Mac on tour with Chicken Shack, Perfect fell in love with John McVie and they wed in 1968. She announced her retirement to become a homemaker.
Until Fleetwood Mac invited her on tour, she was not a member of the band. Fleetwood supported her composition, with her pop-friendly approach progressively becoming more prominent as the group underwent additional line-up changes and released a succession of albums – albeit the majority were not hits.
Almost every song on the record was worthy of being the standout track on any other album. McVie’s songs, such as Don’t Stop, Songbird, and You Make Loving Fun, displayed her talent to compose magnificent choruses and lyrics that were deceptively straightforward but always heartfelt.
On Songbird, few people could have penned and sung words as seemingly saccharine as “I love you, I love you, I love you like never before” and sounded as if they meant them so passionately.
However, her melodies were never so simplistic as to be cliché. “That is the challenge of composing a love song,” she explained. “You can’t just go, ‘I love you, you love me, where are you, I miss you.’ There must always be a slight twist.”