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Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac songbird, dies at 79

Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Christine McVie, the singer, songwriter and keyboardist whose dreamily optimistic tunes for Fleetwood Mac — including such pop-radio staples as "Don't Stop," "Little Lies," "Songbird," "Everywhere" and "You Make Loving Fun" — helped make the band one of the most successful acts in music history, died Wednesday. She was 79.

Her death was announced by her family in a statement that said she'd "passed away peacefully" at a hospital following "a short illness." The statement didn't specify the hospital's location. McVie, who lived in London, told Rolling Stone in June that she was in "quite bad health," describing a chronic back problem that made it difficult for her to stand.

"There are no words to describe our sadness at the passing of Christine McVie," Fleetwood Mac said on social media. "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. Individually and together, we cherished Christine deeply and are thankful for the amazing memories we have. She will be very missed."

In a famously fractious outfit filled with competing songwriters — Fleetwood Mac's classic lineup also included singers Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks along with drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, to whom she was married — Christine McVie was perhaps the most gifted hit-maker, with a natural flair for melody and a lithe, soulful voice that seemed to send her songs sailing out into the world. Onstage, her steady presence behind the keyboard provided a crucial counterweight to the more dramatic figures cut by Buckingham and Nicks, whose rocky romantic relationship powered the band's darkly glamorous legend.

She also served as a kind of connective link between Fleetwood Mac's early days as a British blues-rock combo and its commercial peak as a Los Angeles-based soft-rock act in the 1970s and '80s. Among the other well-known songs she wrote for the band were "Say You Love Me," "Think About Me" and "Hold Me." Fleetwood Mac won album of the year at the Grammy Awards in 1978 with "Rumours," which has sold more than 20 million copies in the United States alone; the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Nicks posted a handwritten note on Instagram on Wednesday in which she called McVie “my best friend in the whole world since the first day of 1975" and said she hadn’t learned that McVie was sick until Saturday night. She finished her note by quoting the lyrics of “Hallelujah” by the L.A. sister trio Haim.

 

McVie was born Christine Perfect on July 12, 1943, in the village of Bouth in northwest England. Having learned to play piano as an adolescent — her father was a college music professor — she joined the British band Chicken Shack in 1967 and scored a modest hit with a cover of Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind." She married John McVie in 1968 and joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970, not long after releasing a debut solo album called "Christine Perfect"; Buckingham and Nicks arrived in time for the band's self-titled 1975 LP. "Rumours" documented the fraying of numerous relationships within the band, including that of the McVies, who divorced in 1976.

Christine McVie continued playing with Fleetwood Mac throughout the late '70s and '80s — "Hold Me," from 1982's "Mirage," was inspired by her relationship with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys — and she released a second solo album in 1984.

A reluctant traveler who spoke frequently of her fear of flying, McVie opted out of a Fleetwood Mac tour in the early '90s, though she did perform "Don't Stop" with the band's other key members at President Bill Clinton's inaugural ball. She later took part in "The Dance," a hugely successful live album released in 1997, after which she quit the band and moved to the English countryside.

She returned to Fleetwood Mac in 2014 for a lengthy reunion tour and made a 2017 duo album with Buckingham. In 2018, Buckingham was fired from the band and replaced on the road by Neil Finn of Crowded House and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers.

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