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

Christine McVie, the longtime co-lead vocalist, keyboardist, and songwriter for Fleetwood Mac, died Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the age of 79. A cause of death was not available, but McVie’s family said she died at a hospital “following a short illness.”

The band confirmed McVie’s death in a note shared on social media. “There are no words to describe our sadness at the passing of Christine McVie. 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. We were so lucky to have a life with her. Individually and together, we cherished Christine deeply and are thankful for the amazing memories we have. She will be so very missed.”

In their statement, McVie’s family said, “She was in the company of her family. We kindly ask that you respect the family’s privacy at this extremely painful time, and 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.”

McVie joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970. She went on to write (and co-write) some of the band’s most memorable songs, including the Rumours classics “Don’t Stop” and “You Make Loving Fun,” as well as “Hold Me,” “Little Lies,” and “Over My Head.” Though she stuck with the band through tumultuous years, especially during the early Nineties, she left the group after their big 1998 reunion tour. After a lengthy hiatus off the stage and out of the public eye, she returned to Fleetwood Mac in 2014 and was playing with them as recently as 2019.

Throughout her tenure in Fleetwood Mac, McVie was the calm eye in the middle of the storm that was the rest of the band. “That is apparently true, but I didn’t realize that at the time,” she quipped in an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year. “Yes, I was supposedly like the Mother Teresa who would hang out with everybody or just try and [keep] everything nice and cool and relaxed. But they were great people; they were great friends.

McVie was born Christine Anne Perfect on July 12, 1943, her father a concert violinist and music professor, her mother a psychic medium and faith healer. Perfect started playing piano as a child, studying classical music until she was a teenager, at which point her interests turned blues and rock and roll. 

She played in a variety of bands during the Sixties, forming the most notable one, Chicken Shack, with Andy Silvester and Stan Webb, in 1968. Chicken Shack released a pair of albums with Perfect — 40 Blue Fingers, Freshly Packed and Ready to Serve and O.K. Ken — and her rendition of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” cracked the Top 20 in the U.K. in 1969. Prefect left the group after O.K. Ken and released a self-titled solo record in 1970. 

The same year Chicken Shack formed, 1968, Perfect married John McVie, Fleetwood Mac’s longtime bassist (Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack were also signed to the same label at the time, Blue Horizon). McVie contributed to a handful of Fleetwood Mac’s early albums, including 1968’s Mr. Wonderful and 1970’s Kiln House (she also painted the cover art for the latter). She officially joined the band after Kiln House, helping to fill the vacuum left by the departure of founding guitarist Peter Green. 

The early Seventies were a strange time for Fleetwood Mac, with members coming and going across a string of tours and albums that did well enough, but failed to spawn any major hits. Of course, that all changed when Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the band, and Fleetwood Mac released their 1975 self-titled album. McVie contributed numerous songs to the album, including hits like “Over My Head” and “Say You Love Me.” 

The world-conquering Rumours followed in 1977, an album packed with hits as big as the internal band drama that inspired them. The year prior, John and Christine got divorced as John struggled with alcoholism. And while the band was on tour, McVie struck up a relationship with Fleetwood Mac’s lighting director, about whom she wrote the Rumours track, “You Make Loving Fun.” To spare John’s feelings, McVie reportedly told him the song was about her dog.

Rumours also contained what would arguably become McVie’s signature song: “Songbird.” It wasn’t her biggest hit for the group, but the ballad was a frequent closer at Fleetwood Mac concerts, especially after McVie rejoined in 2014. Speaking with The Guardian about the song in 2016, McVie explained its sudden, almost otherworldly origins.

“I woke up in the middle of the night and the song just came into my head,” she said. “I got out of bed, played it on the little piano I have in my room, and sang it with no tape recorder. I sang it from beginning to end: everything. I can’t tell you quite how I felt; it was as if I’d been visited — it was a very spiritual thing.”

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