Inside The Incredible Life Of Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie

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The following article includes references to drug use.

Fleetwood Mac has produced some seriously iconic songs over the years. Lyrics like "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow" and "Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies" have gone down in rock 'n' roll history. And these lyrics all have one thing in common: They were written by Christine McVie, singer-songwriter and keyboard player who joined the band in 1970. 

McVie was born and raised in Birmingham, England. After learning classical piano as a child, she developed an interest in blues and rock 'n' roll as a teenager. After she married John McVie, Fleetwood Mac's bassist, she eventually joined the band herself. Despite a series of infamous affairs and scandals within the band, Fleetwood Mac remains one of the most famous and celebrated rock groups of the 20th century — and McVie played a big part in their success. Although she took a lengthy break and temporarily retired to a rambling cottage in the British countryside, she returned to the band in 2014, according to The New York Times.

McVie died at the age of 79 on November 30, 2022. "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," her family wrote in a statement. Let's do just that and take a look back at the music legend's fascinating life and career.

Christine McVie was born to a music professor father and psychic healer mother

Christine McVie was born on July 12, 1943, in Birmingham to Cyril Perfect, a music professor, and Beatrice Perfect, a secretary and, apparently, a psychic healer. "I am one of the people she healed," McVie told the Sunday Express in 2004. "I had this huge wart under my nose, she put her fingers on it and the next morning it was gone. She healed some very sick people. She was an extraordinary woman." 

McVie's family wasn't well-off, but McVie was able to study at the Birmingham Art College. McVie told the publication that it was around this time that she began to change her eating habits. "At 13 I weighed 13 stone," she explained, "but when I went to art college I suddenly realised how cute guys were and I wanted one so I stopped eating chocolate and started on salad." Art college was also where she began to develop her love of music.

She got her start in classical music

As a child, Christine McVie studied classical music rather than rock 'n' roll, thanks to her family's influence. "My dad aspired to be first violinist in the orchestra," she once told Mojo 4 Music. "His dad played the pipe organ in Westminster Abbey, pre-World War One." And so McVie was given piano lessons. As she told Henry & James, she was good enough to reach Grade 7 piano.

However, despite getting her start in classical music, she soon found herself intrigued by other types of music. When she was a teenager, she came across her brother's book of jazz sheet music. "I played classical piano so I could read music," she recalled to Uncut. "I found a book of Fats Domino in the music stool in a living room. I started playing it, sight reading. I learned how to play the bass lines with the piano. It kicked off from there."

She worked odd jobs and sang in another band before Fleetwood Mac

Despite her interest in blues music, Christine McVie didn't initially seek out a musical career. In fact, her parents hoped she might become an art teacher, but as she told Mojo 4 Music, "My heart wasn't in it." Instead, she began working as a department store window dresser (via Harper's Bazaar). However, her career path soon took a new direction when a musician friend happened to walk past her window at the store. The pair went for coffee during her break and, as McVie recalled to Far Out, he asked, "You want to join a band? We're forming a group called Chicken Shack, we need a keyboard player."

Pretty much immediately, McVie started studying blues music, listening to any records she could find. "I stole a few licks here and there and got myself a little library of stuff to play. That's when I joined Chicken Shack, and god knows, I had no idea where I was going," she said. McVie ended up leaving art college to perform with Chicken Shack, and the band ended up quite pretty well (via Henry & James).

Christine McVie joined Fleetwood Mac after Peter Green left

Everything changed for Christine McVie when her band, Chicken Shack, started opening for Fleetwood Mac. "I got to know John [McVie], fell in love with him and it was just sensational and exciting," she recalled to The Guardian. "Fleetwood Mac were fantastic and really funny." John and Christine married in 1968, and Christine gave up her own music career to spend time with him. "I was quite happy being a housewife, actually," she told Uncut.

When Peter Green decided to leave the band, Fleetwood Mac offered McVie a spot in the group — much to her surprise. But, of course, she said yes. As she explained to The Guardian, when she joined, the band decided to change their sound. After all, they had never included the keyboard in their music before. "The style had to change because I was a keyboard player, and it developed a more commercial bent," she told the publication in June 2022. "It was thrilling, and I have to say to this day it still kind of is, knowing that I did that."

She released a few solo albums

While Christine McVie is best known for her work with Fleetwood Mac, she has also released her fair share of solo music over the years. Her first solo album, "Christine Perfect," was released in 1970. This was followed by "Christine McVie" in 1984 and "In the Meantime" in 2004.

As McVie told Uncut in 2022, her earlier solo music wasn't exactly her proudest achievement. "I think it's pretty rum," she said of her debut solo album. "When I listen to it now — which is very seldom — I don't get what I was doing at all. I think I was inexperienced at songwriting and too inexperienced to be holding a whole solo album on my own."

With her latter two solo albums, McVie simply found herself writing for the fun of it, which, as far as she was concerned, led to much better music. "Quite strictly for my own amusement I started writing with my nephew Dan, she told Ultimate Classic Rock. "There seemed to be an accumulation of kind of interesting songs ... I just thought, 'Well, why not?'" She released a compilation of her solo work with the 2022 album, "Songbird."

She wasn't as wild as other Fleetwood Mac members

Back in the 1970s, there was a certain stereotype when it came to rock stars — think: lots of partying, drinking, and drugs. In some cases, the stereotype was accurate. However, in Christine McVie's case, the rumors about her party lifestyle weren't entirely true. 

While McVie did party with the rest of the band, she was tamer than her bandmates. "We all drank a lot and did a lot of cocaine, we partied a lot, I don't think I did anything terribly outrageous," she explained to Harper's Bazaar, adding, "I was kind of the good girl in the group. That's who I was. Stevie [Nicks] used to call me Mother Earth because I was always pretty grounded."

In an interview with The Guardian, McVie explained, "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."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She broke up with John McVie while they were on tour

When you hear the name Fleetwood Mac, the first thing that comes to mind is, of course, the music. The second thing is probably all the backstage drama — because there was a lot of it. As time went on, things got very, very complicated between Christine McVie and the rest of the band members. Things reached their messiest point in 1975 and 1976, when the band recorded their album "Rumors." 

Christine McVie was married to John McVie at the time but began having an affair with the band's lighting designer, Curry Grant. And then came the breakup, "I broke up with John in the middle of a tour," she admitted to Rolling Stone (via CheatSheet). "I was aware of it being rather irresponsible. I had to do it for my sanity." And that's not all — at the same time, Stevie Nicks was reportedly cheating on Lindsey Buckingham, one band member, with Mick Fleetwood, the fifth band member, who was also married at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times. As Nicks later told Us Weekly, "To be in Fleetwood Mac is to live in a soap opera. And it has been pretty scandalous and pretty incestuous, and pretty wonderful in a lot of ways" (via RockALittle).

Christine McVie was seen as the Mother Teresa of Fleetwood Mac

Even though Fleetwood Mac's members loved to party hard and often got caught up in love affairs, Christine McVie somehow managed to keep the peace. In fact, the rest of the band often came to her for some respite when things got a little too wild. "That is apparently true, but I didn't realize that at the time," McVie reflected in an interview with Rolling Stone. "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."

Even though McVie may have been the band's peacekeeper, it wasn't something she did purposefully or even knowingly. In fact, according to her, she actually relished in the chaos of the band. As she put it: "Even though I am quite a peaceful person, I did enjoy that storm." 

She regretted never having children

While many superstar musicians have had children as well as careers, for Christine McVie, the idea of raising children never seemed possible alongside Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks once told The Guardian that she and McVie had jointly decided to forgo motherhood in the band's early days for the sake of the band (via InTouch Weekly).

However, as McVie explained to The Guardian in 2013, never having children was one of her greatest regrets. "There were never any children [for me]," she said. "There was always a career in the way. It was a case of one or the other, and Stevie [Nicks] would say the same." While the men in the band had children, McVie explained, it didn't seem viable for the two women. "So that was never able to happen," she said. Though McVie never had kids, she did release a children's book featuring her lyrics to "Don't Stop" in 2020.

She left Fleetwood Mac and returned to England in the late '90s

In 1998, after 28 years of performing with Fleetwood Mac, Christine McVie decided she'd had enough. As McVie explained to Rolling Stone in 2022, she had finally had her fill of life on the road. "I just wasn't interested in playing music at that point," she said. So, she announced she was leaving the band, packed up her things, and moved to the British countryside. "I did my last show, got everything shipped out from the house in L.A., went to catch my last flight back to London and didn't look back," she told Elle back in 2014. 

For McVie, moving to Kent was like returning home to Birmingham. "The moment I landed at Heathrow airport I knew I was home, " she told the Sunday Express. "It was as though this massive weight had lifted off me. I never really wanted to leave England in the first place."

Christine McVie led a very different lifestyle in the early 2000s

Back in the U.K., Christine McVie settled down into a very different rhythm. Her life was filled with quiet countryside strolls, a few dogs, and relaxation. "I just wanted to embrace being in the English countryside and not have to troop around on the road," said McVie to The Guardian. "I moved to Kent, and I loved being able to walk around the streets, nobody knowing who I was."

Pretty soon, McVie felt like a whole new person — in fact, she even started to forget her life of glamour in Los Angeles. "You get into your wellie boots and your Range Rover and, walking around with six inches of mud on your shoes, you get to forget about that more polished lifestyle," she said to Elle

Of course, after a while, McVie began to get the creative itch once again, and pretty soon, she was hard at work on her third solo album, "In the Meantime." And before long, rumors began to swirl about McVie rejoining her old band. 

A phobia of flying almost prevented her from rejoining Fleetwood Mac

Finally, after 15 years away from Fleetwood Mac, Christine McVie announced her plans to return. Funnily enough, the reason it took her so long wasn't due to any concerns about her bandmates  — it was her fear of flying that developed in the early 2000s. As she told Elle, she found herself panicking and sweating on flights to the point where she avoided traveling. Eventually, she decided something needed to be done: "If I don't do anything about this flying business, I'm never going to go anywhere or do anything."

McVie started seeing a therapist, who suggested she buy a ticket to anywhere in the world just to see what would happen. She bought a ticket to Maui, where Mick Fleetwood called home. Luckily, he happened to be in London at the time and the pair took the flight together. "We took off, and the feeling was, 'God, I'm free!'" McVie recalled. After that first flight, McVie managed to get over her phobia of flights and before long, she and the band were back on stage again. 

Christine McVie died at the age of 79

On November 30, 2022, Christine McVie died in the hospital at the age of 79. "On behalf of Christine McVie's family, it is with a heavy heart we are informing you of Christine's death," her family confirmed in a statement. As the family revealed, McVie had a short illness and had been with family and friends at the time of her death. "RIP Christine McVie," the statement concluded.

It wasn't long before the tributes started to pour in. Fleetwood Mac released a statement from their official Twitter account that read, "We were so lucky to have a life with her." Stevie Nicks also released a personal, handwritten statement on her Instagram that read, "A few hours ago I was told that my best friend in the whole world since the first day of 1975 had passed away. I didn't even know she was ill ... until late Saturday night." She ended her note with lyrics from the HAIM song "Hallelujah." Haim also shared a tribute to McVie, along with Tegan and Sara, Bryan Adams, Noel Fielding, Bill Clinton, and many others.

It's clear that McVie was one of the most influential musicians to come out of the 20th century. Her legacy will be remembered for years and years to come.