Some vocalists just have the voice. The voice that makes your heart drop and your troubles fade away. For me there are many — from the sultry, soulful pipes of Jim Morrison and Paul Rodgers to the roaring, unpredictable wails of Ozzy Osbourne and Janis Joplin, every voice has its own uniqueness that’s in turn, equally inspiring. One voice that is especially difficult to categorize belongs to one special woman whose sound and words have impacted my life greatly, Stevie Nicks.
I’ve always been fascinated with Stevie Nicks, not only because of her mysterious rock and roll allure, but also because of her powerful, like-no-other vocal range. She’s had some incredible musical moments with Fleetwood Mac, but what I’d like to focus on is her work on her debut solo album, Bella Donna. Released in 1981, this project was her independent breakthrough. In a subtle way, the album’s first song, also titled “Bella Donna,” exposes the strong yet sensitive attitude she has hidden within her voice. Her lyrics are poetry, and though I find myself wanting to decipher their meaning, there really is no need to. The overall message portrayed on this album is clear — to speak without fear — and that’s all you need to take from it.
I am a huge Fleetwood Mac fan and seeing them live last spring was a dream come true. Seeing Stevie Nicks on stage was magical, and the energy and connection between her and Lindsay Buckingham is obvious and undeniable. I believe many of the songs off Bella Donna were written about him, and though she puts herself in a vulnerable place with her lyrics, her powerful vocals show that she’s not a victim. “Kind of Woman” goes even deeper in the sense that her words are less symbolic and more clear and direct to whoever she’s speaking to: ‘Kind of woman that’ll haunt you, she matters to you.’ In this song and so many others, she is able to spill her heart out in a fearless way. By exposing her vulnerability, she’s able to connect to her audience.
One of the main reasons I love Bella Donna is because it features an incredible array of contributing vocalists and musicians. Stevie Nicks is definitely in good company on this album. She doesn’t make it all about her, and her backup vocalists, Lori Perry and Sharon Celani, who have been by her side for years, give her music depth. Tom Petty’s vocals and Mike Campbell’s guitar in “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” start off cool and mellow then rock hard during the chorus. Don Henley’s unique yet recognizable voice is chilling alongside Nicks’ in “Leather and Lace.” The duo makes the song their own even though she originally wrote it for Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter. Henley’s backing vocals and the guitar styles of Don Felder on “The Highway Man” work well together and compliment Nicks’ range perfectly.
Stevie Nicks’ voice is one of a kind. She’s able to transform it to fit the mood of each of her songs — especially in “How Still My Love” and “Edge of Seventeen.” To me, the songs off Bella Donna that she’s written out of heartbreak, loss and confusion are the most powerful because they were comprised out of courage. Above all things, her music has taught me to speak up and to never shy away from my feelings. Her words are her thoughts, and the fact that she can transcribe them in way that’s poetic and relatable makes her a truly gifted writer and performer.