Classic rock history is paved with powerful romances and even more devastating breakups. One couple that has demonstrated both is Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. These once-lovers, known for their tenure in Fleetwood Mac and solo careers, channeled their passion and animosity for each other into their work. For those who want to know where songs like “Go Your Own Way,” “Dreams,” and more come from, here’s a look at their relationship.
The Early Days
Stevie and Lindsey first crossed paths in high school while growing up in Palo Alto, California, in the 1960s. The two ran in the same social circles due to a mutual love of music. At the time, Buckingham was playing in a psychedelic rock band, Fritz, and asked Nicks to join it as lead singer after two of the group’s members left to go to college, according to the Los Angeles Times.
At this point, Nicks and Buckingham were not romantically involved. They dated other people while playing together in Fritz, but that would soon change. In the early 1970s, the band was going nowhere, prompting Buckingham and Nicks to leave for Los Angeles. Suddenly, they were together in all sense of the word. “I’m not sure we would have even become a couple if it wasn’t for us leaving that band. It kind of pushed us together,” Stevie would later say, according to Stephen Davis’ biography, “Gold Dust Woman. However, Buckingham would catch mononucleosis, which delayed their move to L.A. by a year.
“I loved him before he was a millionaire. We were two kids out of Menlo-Atherton High School,” she would say in a television interview, according to Far Out Magazine. “I loved him for all the right reasons. We did have a great relationship at first. I loved taking care of him and the house.”
The two finally relocated to L.A. in 1972. Under the name Buckingham Nicks, the duo released a self-titled album in 1973. Though the folk-rock album has earned some critical praise in the decades since its release, it flopped on arrival, resulting in the label dropping them. Buckingham went to work as a session guitarist for Don Everly while Nicks waited tables.
“I loved being a waitress … I did lunches,” she told Mass Live. “I made good money. I came home with good money. It was enough to pay our rent, and it was enough to pay our food, and it was enough to pay for our Toyota that had no reverse… It was fun, and I made really great money, and I had no problem being the breadwinner because really, what was Lindsey Buckingham going to do? Be a waiter? I don’t think so. He tried telemarketing for one day, and the first person who hung up on him that was it, he quit. We came through it with a great laugh.”
Joining Fleetwood Mac
“We were breaking up when Fleetwood Mac asked us to join,” Nicks told Billboard in 2014. The band – consisting of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie (the “Mac” in the band’s name), and his wife Christine McVie – ran into Buckingham at a studio. Fleetwood was so impressed with Lindsey’s guitar skills that he asked him to join the band. Buckingham said that he and Stevie were a package deal, and so Mick asked them both to join.
The offer forced Buckingham and Nicks to address their fractured relationship. “When we joined Fleetwood Mac, I said, ‘OK, this is what we’ve been working for since 1968. And so Lindsey, you and I have to sew this relationship back up. We have too much to lose here. We need to put our problems behind us.’”
“I got an apartment on Hollywood Boulevard, he moved back in with me, and we kind of put our relationship back together,” she told Billboard. “We weren’t fighting about money, we had a really nice place, and we were going to work with these hysterically funny English people every day, making great music.”
Nicks thought of the band as a possible temporary thing. “I said, “I think we can do something for this band. We’ll do it for a year, save some money, and if we don’t like it, we’ll quit.’”
Breakup & Success
Fleetwood Mac, the band’s tenth studio album and second eponymous LP, arrived in 1975. It was the first record to feature Buckingham and Nicks, and it featured two Stevie-penned songs that have become synonymous with both her and the band: “Rhiannon” and “Landslides.”
The latter song was inspired by the scenery of Aspen, Colorado, and Nicks’ crumbling relationship with Buckingham. “I had gotten to a point where it was like, ‘I’m not happy. I am tired. But I don’t know if we can do any better than this. If nobody likes this, then what are we going to do?’” she said in a 2013 interview. “So during that two months, I made a decision to continue. “Landslide” was the decision. [Sings] “When you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills”—it’s the only time in my life that I’ve lived in the snow.”
Fleetwood Mac was a slow commercial success. It topped the Billboard 200 in September 1976, one year after its release. At that time, the band was about to experience the pinnacle of its professional success at the lowest end of their personal relationships. “We were sailing along on the highest wave. It was OK for a while, until it wasn’t. At the end of 1976, that’s when it just blew up,” Nicks told Billboard.
Stevie and Lindsey called it quits while writing the next album, Rumours. John and Christine McVie, who had been married since 1968, also broke up, while Mick Fleetwood’s divorce was finalized. “We were just finishing up the end of our 12 songs in Sausalito for ‘Rumours,’ and I said, ‘We’re done. I think that this is over, and we both know now that no matter what it takes, we’re going to keep Fleetwood Mac together,’” Nicks said during a 2013 interview with Oprah’s Master Class (h/t Heavy.com)
Rumours arrived on Feb. 4, 1977. It was a commercial smash, reaching the top of the Billboard 200 and spawning classic rock radio staples like “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” “The Chain,” “You Make Loving Fun,” “Don’t Stop,” and “Gold Dust Woman.”
Both the Nicks-penned “Dreams” and the Buckingham-penned “Go Your Own Way” were written about the other during the final days of their relationship. The rest of the record is soaking in heartbreak and resentment.
“Some of those songs came from two years before, when we broke up,” Nicks told Billboard. “People didn’t examine that record as much, because to the public, it looked great — two couples in a band. And by the way, Christine and John weren’t doing so great either during that album.”
Nicks said that the band came first, despite her and Buckingham’s problems. “We never, ever, with everything that happened to us, ever, let love affairs break Fleetwood Mac up,” she said. “But Lindsey always blamed Fleetwood Mac for the loss of me. Had we not joined Fleetwood Mac, we would’ve continued on with our music, but we probably would’ve gotten married, and we probably would’ve had a child. It would have been a different life.”
The Band Soldiered On…
Following arguably the biggest album of the band’s career, Fleetwood Mac consisted of two former couples and one divorced Mick Fleetwood (who would have a short-lived affair with Stevie Nicks in 1977). Despite all this interpersonal turmoil, the band continued with this lineup for another decade.
The group released Tusk in 1979, which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 but was off the charts after two months. More experimental in nature, the record spawned a pair of top 10 hits (“Tusk,” “Sara”) and a few songs that also charted on the Hot 100. Mirage arrived in 1982, featuring “Hold Me,” “Gypsy,” and “Love In Store.” Tango In The Night, released in 1987, marked the last studio album of the Buckingham/Nicks/Fleetwood/McVie/McVie lineup, as Lindsey would leave the group in 1988.
In the five years between Mirage and Tango In The Night, four members of the band released solo projects, with Stevie quickly establishing herself as an individual act. Stevie would follow Lindsey’s lead by leaving Fleetwood Mac after the release of Behind the Mask in 1990.
Buckingham and Nicks would rejoin the band for a one-off performance at Bill Clinton’s first inauguration since he used “Don’t Stop” as a campaign song. The performance planted seeds of a reunion. Nicks and Buckingham would rejoin the band in 1997.
…While Everyone Dated Other People…
Following their breakup, Lindsey Buckingham began an eight-year relationship with Carol Ann Harris. The two broke up in 1984, and Lindsey had a son with designer Kristen Messner in 1998. They tied the knot in 2000 and welcomed two more children – both daughters – into the world. In June 2021, the Messner filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.
Nicks went on to date musicians Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and J.D. Souther, all associated with The Eagles. She married Kim Anderson, the widower of her best friend, in 1983. They divorced after just three months of marriage. She hasn’t been married since and has no children of her own.
…Until It Cound’t Anymore
In 2018, Fleetwood Mac suffered another fracture when Lindsey Buckingham exited the group. How it came to be has been disputed.
In one account, Buckingham asked Fleetwood Mac to delay their 2018 tour schedule so he could promote his solo work, per the Los Angeles Times. While the group was flexible, Nicks was not. Tensions were high because Buckingham allegedly snickered and rolled his eyes during Nicks’ acceptance speech for MusiCares Person of the Year.
“[Fleetwood Mac’s manager] was screaming at me on the phone saying, ‘You’ve really done it this time.’ And I had no idea what he was talking about,” Lindsey recalled in an interview with CBS This Morning. “He said, ‘Stevie never wants to be on stage with you ever again.’ And I’m going, why? … It appeared to me that she was looking for something to hang on me in order to instigate some kind of a coup. … None of it makes sense to me.”
“It was all Stevie’s doing,” he said, per the Los Angeles Times. “Stevie basically gave the band an ultimatum that either I had to go or she would go. It would be like [Mick] Jagger saying, “Well, either Keith [Richards] has to go, or I’m going to go.’”
However, Nicks has argued against these allegations. “It’s unfortunate that Lindsey has chosen to tell a revisionist history of what transpired in 2018 with Fleetwood Mac,” Nicks wrote to Rolling Stone in 2021. “His version of events is factually inaccurate, and while I’ve never spoken publicly on the matter, preferring to not air dirty laundry, certainly it feels the time has come to shine a light on the truth. Following an exceedingly difficult time with Lindsey at MusiCares in New York, in 2018, I decided for myself that I was no longer willing to work with him.”
“To be exceedingly clear, I did not have him fired, I did not ask for him to be fired, I did not demand he be fired. Frankly, I fired myself,” she added. “I proactively removed myself from the band and a situation I considered to be toxic to my well-being. I was done. If the band went on without me, so be it. I have championed independence my whole life, and I believe every human being should have the absolute freedom to set their boundaries of what they can and cannot work with. And after many lengthy group discussions, Fleetwood Mac, a band whose legacy is rooted in evolution and change, found a new path forward with two hugely talented new members.”
In September 2021, Buckingham said that Nicks hadn’t spoken to him since his 2019 open-heart surgery.
Never Break The Chain
As long as they are on this earth, Nicks and Buckingham will forever be connected. Stevie even said so in a 2009 interview with MTV. “That electric crazy attraction between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks never dies, never will die, never will go away,” she said. “It’s over. It doesn’t mean the great feeling isn’t there, it must mean that … you know, we’re beauty and the beast. It means that the love is always there, but we’ll never be together, so that’s even more romantic.”