Stevie Nicks: Singer, songwriter, icon, witch? The rumors have followed her since the beginning of her career. While she has stated several times that she is not a witch, she has also played into the rumors a bit. Her signature witchy style has inspired many a young witch learning her power:
Stevie Nicks has also appeared on American Horror Story: Coven, which focuses on witchcraft (FYI, we will be covering each main actress from that season in Badass Witches, because why not).
Whether Stevie Nicks is a witch or not is honestly irrelevant. We are simply here to celebrate her life, her music, and her general badassery.
Born Stephanie Lynn Nicks in Phoenix, Arizona, Stevie’s dad taught her to sing with him from age four. She began writing songs around age 16 and performed in bands in high school. High school was also where she met Lindsey Buckingham.
Fritz and College
Nicks and Buckingham have a real “meetcute” story:
She attended a student party and saw hairy Lindsey Buckingham, sitting cross-legged on the floor, strumming a guitar. As if by magic, Buckingham was singing The Mamas And The Papas’ current hit California Dreamin’. Without a trace of embarrassment, Nicks sat by him and joined in. They were destined to become American rock’s golden couple, albeit briefly. Of course, Nicks was not to know that it would end messily 11 years later with Buckingham screaming: ” Get that woman out of my life – the schizophrenic bitch!”Q Magazine, May 2001, accessed on Nicksfix.com
Okay, so maybe the last part isn’t cute, but we’ll get to that later. Nicks joined Buckingham’s band Fritz in high school. They opened for Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin from 1968-1970. Although they were musically involved, they were not romantically involved until they both left Fritz.
Stevie and Lindsey both went to San Jose State University. Nicks majored in speech communication with an intent on being an English teacher. I’m not saying she would’ve been a bad teacher…but, thank god that didn’t happen, amirite?
The First Record Deal
As a professional session singer, I can speak with authority on the music industry, so here’s the tea:
It was profoundly, stupidly easy to get record deals back in the 60s and 70s.
I’m not saying Buckingham Nicks didn’t deserve it, of course they did. But major artists back then used up a good thing to the extent that it ruined it for generations to come. Labels handed out SO many deals and so much money to artists back then that today they are still recovering from it. Many artists wasted the money or were bad investments, which has changed the way labels operate.
Today, labels are struggling and artists rely on fractions of pennies from streaming. Artists have to jump through many hoops in order to even be considered by a label. Back then, all you really needed was access to a recording studio. This part is not Boomers’ fault; technology has made it easy for anyone to make music, which is both a good and bad thing. Access to technology was a gatekeeper that has since been removed, along with many other aspects of the recording industry (promotion, branding, etc).
I could go on about this topic forever, but let’s stick to Stevie Nicks.
Here is the Buckingham Nicks album in its entirety, if you’re curious:
While the album wasn’t a commercial success, it showcased their potential and eventually led to the duo joining Fleetwood Mac.
I’m going to skim over the Fleetwood Mac backstory, because it’s widely available everywhere and I want to focus on Stevie Nicks and her witchy reputation.
However, like all good hippies, I love Fleetwood Mac with all my heart and I love talking about them, so let’s cover their story quickly.
Before Buckingham and Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, the band went through multiple musician changes. Initially, they only wanted Lindsey Buckingham to join, but he refused unless they let Stevie Nicks join as well.
Honestly, there is SO much info on the history of this band that I don’t even know what to cover, and that’s not the focus of this post. Here is their Wikipedia page and I do recommend reading it, because it is truly fascinating.
The band has had endless drama and conflict, even up through their most recent tour. I went to their show in Detroit, and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen (you can read about it here if you want).
If the height of Fleetwood Mac’s drama existed today, can you even imagine the fights we would see on social media? I honestly wish Twitter had existed back then. Buzzfeed would have a field day with all the drama.
Stevie Nicks in Fleetwood Mac
Let’s re-focus on our Badass Witch for a bit. Nicks entered Fleetwood Mac in a relationship with Lindsey Buckingham. Their relationship was dramatic and abusive, eventually ending during the recording of the Rumors album.
In this video, Stevie Nicks discusses the breakup with Lindsey Buckingham and how the band was always more important than any individual or relationship:
A year after Nicks and Buckingham split, Stevie began a relationship with Fleetwood Mac’s drummer, Mick Fleetwood. He was married at the time, and although they broke off the affair, it did contribute to Fleetwood’s divorce.
Shortly after the affair with Stevie, Mick Fleetwood started dating her best friend. Yikes. He ended up marrying her though, so I guess it worked out? I don’t know, this whole band was such a mess.
Despite the many relationships and drama that ensued (I only focused on Stevie’s role here, but everyone was banging everyone), they managed to release some of the most iconic music of that time period.
People like to talk about how Stevie Nicks made her ex play songs she wrote about him, and how shady that is. I can’t judge because I have absolutely done that too, and I know other singer/songwriters who have. It’s more common than you might think.
Rumors of Witchcraft
Sorry it took a while to get here, but we need the backstory to set up how huge Stevie Nicks was, and how these rumors started. I can’t assume everyone reading this is a huge Fleetwood Mac stan, so I needed to set up the scene. Anyway, let’s get into the witchcraft:
For Nicks, it was more of a style or aesthetic than anything else. She had always loved Halloween and dressing up as a witch. She also wanted a bohemian image as an artist, and dressed in what some may call “witchy” attire. I call it fabulous, but that’s just me.
She also would seemingly go into trances on stage, with a moon as a backdrop. Her song “Rihannon” has a whole story behind it, and Stevie herself would introduce it live by saying, “This song is about a witch.”
We also need to take into account that almost every famous band or celebrity has been accused of devil worship or illuminati affiliation. It’s a very weird, very real fear shared by non-celebrities, particularly of the religious type.
When we connect all of these dots, Stevie Nicks was a prime target for accusations of witchcraft.
Living in Fear
Although she may not have taken them seriously at first, Nicks eventually feared for her life:
“In the beginning of my career, the whole idea that some wacky, creepy people were writing, ‘You’re a witch, you’re a witch!’ was so arresting. And there I am like, ‘No, I’m not! I just wear black because it makes me look thinner you idiots.’”-Stevie Nicks, LA Times, 2013
She started to get death and kidnapping threats, all due to the idea that she may be a witch.
Let’s let that sink in for a second.
People were so bothered that this woman might believe something they didn’t, that they were willing to kidnap and kill her. What century is this? How is this still a very real and terrifying occurrence?
What cracks me up is how Nicks resolved it: She started wearing peach instead of black. That’s it.
She went out of her way to deny the rumors from then on, giving this iconic interview in 1987:
I love that her proof of not being a witch is that she doesn’t have any owls in her home.
I think at this point, anything she did would only serve as “proof” of whatever everyone already believed.
Battling Inner and Outer Demons
We’re going to detour for a moment, because it’s important to note that witchcraft rumors weren’t the only issue for Stevie Nicks.
Drugs, particularly cocaine and alcohol, became a huge problem for her. She goes into detail about this in her interview with Oprah, but it’s age-restricted so I can’t post it here. Click here to watch it, but I’ll briefly recap:
What started as a fun party drug became a habit, then an addiction, then a danger to the point where doctors warned Nicks that she might die.
She then checked into rehab in 1986. Upon leaving rehab, she saw a psychiatrist who gave her prescriptions for benzos (Valium, Xanax and Klonopin, according to Nicks). Not surprisingly, she got addicted to those.
She says that the psychiatrist only wanted to hear her stories about fame, therefore would keep giving her drugs to keep her coming back.
In this interview, Nicks says the rehab and recovery from benzos was worse than cocaine:
“I felt like someone opened up a door and pushed me into hell.”– Stevie Nicks, iHeartRadio, Nov 21 2017
Love and Abuse
In addition to drug abuse, Stevie Nicks was dealing with romantic abuse as well. Lindsey Buckingham mentally and physically abused Nicks in full view of the rest of the band (I guess I have to say “allegedly”, but it’s everywhere if you want to read about it).
Buckingham was reportedly jealous that Nicks’ songs were more popular than his own, and that she was becoming a bigger star.
He would slap and choke her (allegedly?) in front of the band, and even tried to kick her onstage. The abuse finally ended in 1987, when Buckingham choked Nicks in front of the band and Nicks thought he was going to kill her. The band finally put a stop to it, and it never happened again. Allegedly. I guess. I’ve tried to see if he’s responded to the allegations at all, but I haven’t seen anything from him about them.
Circling Back into Witchcraft
Let’s get back to our main point here. It’s just important to note that Nicks was dealing with far more serious issues than witchcraft allegations at the time. However, time has definitely impacted both the rumors and Stevie Nicks.
In the 1990s, the cultural view of witchcraft shifted from “mysterious and scary” to “mysterious and scary…and also cool.”
Films like Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic showed society a close-up view of witchcraft in a different light. Of course, there were still a lot of misconceptions, and those films played right into those rather than disproving them, but society started to soften toward witches a little bit.
Interestingly, Nicks contributed two songs to the soundtrack of Practical Magic: “If You Ever Did Believe” and “Crystal:”
The story behind “Crystal” is interesting: Nicks originally wrote it for Buckingham Nicks, sung by Lindsey Buckingham with Nicks on backing vocals. They re-recorded it for Fleetwood Mac on their self-titled debut album, and Stevie finally sang it herself for Practical Magic.
American Horror Story
Ryan Murphy’s horror show involves a different story and characters (often played by the same actors) every season. On a personal note, I love the show. Season three is my all-time favorite: Coven.
While it still contained many incorrect assumptions and false narratives about witchcraft, AHS Coven was yet another opportunity to introduce society to witches on an intimate level.
Stevie Nicks worked with Ryan Murphy previously when he made a Glee episode about her. When he asked her to appear as herself in the Coven series, Nicks surprisingly agreed. People wondered why she would do this when so much of her career was spent denying witchcraft allegations. To which, she responded:
“I’m all grown up now and I’m fearless…I’m to the point now in my life where I’m going, ‘Life is short.’ Life’s too short. So, when great things come your way, don’t walk away from them because of something stupid. Just embrace it and have fun with it and do your best.”– Stevie Nicks, ET Online, October 10 2018
The story surrounds a coven of witches, led by the iconic Jessica Lange as their “Supreme:”
The coven really wants a local witch named Misty Day to join them. Day is a witch whose talent is healing animals. She lives by herself in the middle of nowhere, with only an old radio to listen to Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac while she nurses animals back to health. This is a direct theft of my likeness and I would sue, but the show is too damn good.
Anyway, to entice Misty Day to join the coven, they have Stevie Nicks come to perform and convince her to join. So Nicks is playing herself, but also a witch.
I don’t know if this is just a clever nod to past rumors, or if Nicks is finally admitting to them herself. I don’t know if she even knows, to be honest. What matters is that she is now able to fully embrace the rumors without (as much) fear of retaliation or harm.
Witchcraft Rumors Today
Oddly, although the rumors of Nicks being a witch have continued, society just kind of stopped caring. This may be due in part to society softening its view on witchcraft as a whole, or due to her refusing to care about it any longer.
Stevie Nicks’ story is important because her power and talent allow her to shrug off witchcraft accusations with little consequence. In a different time, or in a different career, she may have suffered far worse.
In my post about Bridget Bishop, we learned that her witchcraft rumors led to her death. Many women have died due to witchcraft accusations, and Stevie Nicks is lucky she exists in a time when that can’t happen as easily. We all are lucky she exists in this time, aren’t we?