As Fleetwood Mac suffered breakups, meltdowns and traumas, it figured the group's most recognizable voice would eventually strike out on her own. But before doing so, Nicks sang on John Stewart's "Gold" and had a major hit with "Whenever I Call You Friend," a duet with Kenny Loggins (the song appears on Loggins' '78 album, "Nightwatch"). These successes illustrated Nicks' penchant for collaborative efforts.
During the gap between Mac's studio albums, "Tusk" ('79) and the weak "Mirage" ('82), Nicks released "Bella Donna" ('81), her most accomplished and commercially successful record. Free of Fleetwood Mac, Nicks got plenty of help from Tom Petty ("Stop Draggin' My Heart Around") and Eagle Don Henley ("Leather & Lace"). Top flight studio and touring guitarist Waddy Wachtel, Heartbreaker keyboardist Benmont Tench and E Street keyboardist Roy Bittan lent their expertise to the project. Interestingly, Nicks' music was more textured yet had a harder edge than her Fleetwood Mac songs.
"Wild Heart" hit in '83. Though it contained several marginal hits ("Nightbird," "If Anyone Falls" and "Stand Back"), it didn't have nearly the impact of its predecessor. A handful of albums followed with depreciating results. There were hits but little else. By the end of the decade Nicks was pretty much done as a solo artist. "Timespace - The Best Of Stevie Nicks," released on the tenth anniversary of her solo debut, summed up her career to that point.
But Nicks' continued with Fleetwood Mac. The band released the compilation "25 Years - The Chain" and performed "Don't Stop" at President Bill Clinton's '93 Inaugural Gala (it had been Clinton's campaign song).
Always known for being a bit spacey, the reason became evident after a fall at the friend's house resulted in a seven week detox program. Later, with her detox completed Nicks spoke about her addiction to Klonopin (used to control seizures in epilepsy and for the treatment of a panic disorder).
Nicks recorded "Street Angel" in the midst of her detox and didn't feel she was involved deeply enough in the project which goes a long way to explaining why it was poorly received. But the harshest words were reserved for Nicks' weight gain. She vowed to lose the pounds before returning to the stage.
Nicks and Fleetwood Mac bandmate/ex-lover Lindsey Buckingham collaborated on the song "Twisted" for the '95 flick "Twister," and Nicks recorded a cover of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" that was heard on FOX TV's Party Of Five.
With her weight down, Nicks was front and center for Fleetwood Mac's "The Dance," a highly acclaimed live-on-a-soundstage-in-front-of-an-adoring-audience set that spawned a successful tour.
Still heavily committed to repackaging her past Nicks issued the solo career encapsulating (demos and b-sides included) box-set, "Enchanted" in '98.
'01 was a very good year even if it had some tense moments. "Trouble In Shangri-La" went through a handful of producers, including Sheryl Crow, before it saw the light of day. Though not a huge album, it was deemed a commercial success. Then Nicks was named one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People (obviously her weight loss effort paid off), was featured in a Behind The Music episode, and appeared on VH1's Storytellers (a concert program).
There was a decade gap between "Trouble In Shangri-La" and Nicks' next studio album, "In Your Dreams." Here's what happened.
Fleetwood Mac reconvened for "Say You Will," which was hampered by the contentious Buckingham/Nicks relationship (or lack thereof) and the absence of keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie who had "retired" from the band. Seen as a disappointment, the '03 album did serve as a platform for a world tour.
Yet another Nicks compilation arrived in '07, "Crystal Visions - The Very Best Of Stevie Nicks," which made its debut at #21 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. In addition, a Dance version of the '83 hit "Stand Back" peaked at #2 on the Billboard Club Chart and topped the Billboard Hot Dance Singles Sales Chart. Finally, she had achieved "diva" status.
Using "The Dance" as a template Nicks issued "The Soundstage Sessions" in '09. Notably, it was her first solo live set. An accompanying DVD, "Live In Chicago," filmed before an intimate audience at Grainger Studio, also rolled out.
Nicks finally got around to releasing new material in '11 with "In Your Dreams." The album was written and recorded at Nicks' L.A. home and was co-produced by Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (producer of Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill," Dave Matthews Band's "Everyday" and Aerosmith's "Nine Lives").
Nicks and Stewart co-wrote seven of the album's thirteen songs. "Dave created a situation where I could be totally creative and focused on writing songs and making music. I cannot remember ever having this much fun making a record," said Nicks, who wrote the first single, "Secret Love." "It was '76 and Fleetwood Mac was opening for Peter Frampton at the time. It was written about a forbidden relationship - not Peter and I," assured Nicks. The set also included contributions by Mike Campbell, guitarist for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
A couple years later, Nicks appeared on Oprah's Master Class. Speaking from experience, Nicks offered some useful advice to the cable show's viewers. "If you're gonna start doing coke, save your money because it's gonna cost you $50,000 to go to rehab."
Just prior to an extensive Fleetwood Mac tour, the group's first with McVie in sixteen years, Nicks put out "24 Karat Gold - Songs From The Vault." The '14 album was a collection of songs written between '69 and '87, with a couple tracks dating from '94 and '95.
1981 Bella Donna
1983 The Wild Heart
1985 Rock A Little
1989 The Other Side Of The Mirror
1994 Street Angel
2001 Trouble In Shangri-La
2011 In Your Dreams
2014 24 Karat Gold - Songs From The Vault
2009 The Soundstage Sessions
1991 Timespace - The Best Of Stevie Nicks
2007 Crystal Visions - The Very Best Of Stevie Nicks
"Bella Donna" is Nicks' moment. It's a strong album with her best duets and most dramatic/dynamic hit, "Edge Of Seventeen." From there Nicks is best viewed as a singles artist. "Enchanted" is a 3-CD set that has everything of value and more (live tracks and demos). For a fan lacking that level of commitment there's "Timespace - The Best Of Stevie Nicks."