Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie died on Wednesday (Nov. 30) at the age of 79 after a short illness. “There are no words to describe our sadness at the passing of Christine McVie,” read a statement the band posted to its social media channels. “She was the best musician anyone could have in their band and the best friend anyone could have in their life.”
McVie married founding bassist John McVie in 1968 and joined the band as a permanent member in 1971, emerging as one of its guiding lights during the years it transitioned from a blues-based outfit led by Peter Green to a chart-topping pop/rock titan.
Christine and John McVie divorced in 1976, but remained bandmates as Fleetwood Mac released one of the most popular albums of all time, 1977’s Rumours. In the band’s prime, Christine McVie was one of three hitmaking singer/songwriters in Fleetwood Mac, alongside American additions Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
Before joining Fleetwood Mac, McVie was also a member of the band Chicken Shack and later released three solo albums, including a self-titled 1984 set featuring the top 10 hit “Got a Hold on Me.” McVie retired from Fleetwood Mac in 1998 after the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She rejoined in 2014 and played with the band through its most recent tour in 2019.
Christine McVie wrote and sang over 50 songs for Fleetwood Mac over the years, including several of its biggest hits. She was often the band’s secret weapon, yet was somewhat overlooked when Nicks became a major solo star and Buckingham asserted himself as a mercurial studio mastermind. Throughout, her rich piano chords, silky voice, and sly lyrics about forbidden or unrequited love were indispensable to the band’s success. Here’s a look back at McVie’s best work with Fleetwood Mac.
10. “Morning Rain” (1971)
Christine McVie officially became a member of Fleetwood Mac on its fifth album, but she’d been in the mix since 1968, contributing piano, backing vocals, and even cover art to three of their earlier releases. On 1971’s Future Games, McVie wrote and sang two songs, including “Morning Rain,” establishing her low, smokey alto and the sweetly melodic sound that would eventually make the band radio darlings.
9. “Over My Head” (1975)
Fleetwood Mac’s welcoming of new members Buckingham and Nicks ahead of its self-titled 10th album heralded the band’s most popular and commercially successful lineup. Rather than going with one of the new duo’s songs, Reprise Records selected McVie’s “Over My Head” as the album’s lead single. “Every day you hurt my pride / I’m over my head but it sure feels nice,” McVie sang on the emotionally complex but deceptively sweet track. To the band’s surprise, it became Fleetwood Mac’s first top 40 hit in America. “’Over My Head’ was a very unpredictable hit, as far as I’m concerned,” McVie told Contemporary Keyboard in 1980.
8. “Don’t Stop” (1977)
Reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Don’t Stop” was Fleetwood Mac’s biggest American song penned by McVie, though she shared lead vocals on it with Buckingham. 15 years later, the sunny anthem became the theme song for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign and a symbol of both the ‘70s nostalgia and liberal optimism accompanying the election of the first Boomer commander in chief. When Clinton took office in 1993, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours lineup reunited for the first time in more than five years to perform “Don’t Stop” at his Inaugural Ball. “Don’t Stop” was also the last song McVie played with Fleetwood Mac, as an encore at a San Francisco benefit for the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in November 2019.
7. “Temporary One” (1997)
“Temporary One,” a driving uptempo song with rich vocal harmonies, debuted on The Dance, an enormously successful live album that brought the Rumours lineup back together as an ongoing entity. It was also the last new McVie composition released by the band. However, she and Buckingham came out with a 2017 album as a duo, Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie, comprised of songs written for an unrealized Fleetwood Mac project.
6. “Over & Over” (1979)
Fleetwood Mac followed up Rumours with the double-album Tusk, one of the most expensive albums ever made at the time. Although Tusk is famous for its Buckingham-steered studio experimentation, and his insistence on pushing the group towards punk- and new wave-inspired sounds, the album is actually bookended by more conventionally beautiful McVie songs. The sad and slow “Over & Over” opens side A like the calm before the storm, and side D ends with the acoustic “Never Forget.”
5. “Bad Loser” (1974)
The five albums Fleetwood Mac recorded from 1971 to 1974 with singer/guitarist Bob Welch came during relatively lean years that saw the band disappear from the U.K. charts. But its last album with him, 1974’s Heroes Are Hard to Find, foreshadowed the band’s growing popularity in America by landing it its highest charting album on the Billboard 200 to date. McVie sang the title track and lead single, but her best song on the album is the brooding kiss-off “Bad Loser.”
4. “World Turning” (1975)
Fleetwood Mac’s original frontman Peter Green left the band in 1970, and later iterations moved the sound from blues traditions toward jangly pop. However, McVie and new guitarist Buckingham took a glance at the past on the band’s second self-titled album, co-writing a tense and foreboding new song that reworked Green’s “The World Keep on Turning” from the band’s self-titled 1968 debut. “World Turning” remained a staple of every Fleetwood Mac tour for the next 45 years.
3. “Brown Eyes” (1979)
Peter Green visited the band in the studio twice after leaving Fleetwood Mac, playing guitar on one track from 1973’s Penguin and another on 1979’s Tusk. The latter is a simmering, seductive McVie song with “sha la la” refrains that outnumber actual lyrics. The moody track ends with a delicately layered web of guitars by Green and Buckingham.
2. “Everywhere” (1987)
The two most enduring singles from Fleetwood Mac’s late ‘80s blockbuster Tango in the Night were both McVie compositions, “Little Lies” and the light, summery “Everywhere.” In the ‘90s, alt-rockers like Billy Corgan and Courtney Love began reclaiming Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac as a fashionable influence, and in the 2010s, Tango in the Night enjoyed a similar resurgence. “Everywhere” was covered by bands including Vampire Weekend, Paramore, and Smallpools, and even re-entered the U.K. Singles Chart in 2013 after appearing in a viral ad for the mobile network Three. McVie was “absolutely thrilled to bits” by the song’s resurgence, according to a statement from the agency that created the commercial.
1. “You Make Loving Fun” (1977)
Rumours is equally famous for its songs and the tawdry stories behind them. While much of the intrigue centered around the love triangle between Buckingham, Nicks, and drummer Mick Fleetwood, the McVies’ marriage had also fallen apart. Christine McVie’s signature song was the sexy “You Make Loving Fun,” driven by a percolating clavinet riff and inspired by her affair with Curry Grant, a lighting director in Fleetwood Mac’s touring crew. The song became the fourth top 10 hit from Rumours, making it the first album to achieve that feat on the Hot 100 since the heyday of the Beatles.