She’s been called a rock goddess, a sorceress and a mystic. Her key signature move on stage is a sort of whirling (she does a mock whirl, or a simple spin of a couple of turns, but somehow she is known for that move). In May, two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, solo artist and Fleetwood Mac singer, Stevie Nicks will turn 73.
As a rock fan in the ’80s and early ’90s, I must have gone to over 100 concerts. I even saw some bands multiple times, including The Police, Rush and Genesis. Two of my most memorable concert events were seeing U2 at a small club and Van Halen at an arena both in early to mid ’80s, in Manhattan. In those days, there was no rock concert experience remotely approaching that of seeing the late Eddie Van Halen on stage. He was untouchable. Also impressive was the frontman David Lee Roth. The chemistry of those two on stage is what made that event so memorable. The band broke up soon after that concert.
Although the super group Fleetwood Mac was ubiquitous in those days, they never did anything for me. I didn’t own any of their records, nor was I interested in seeing them live. They had a vibe of being soft rock. However, one event changed my perception of their lead singer, Ms. Nicks, and it wasn’t something she had done for the Mac, but on her debut solo album Bella Donna.
The very first time I heard one of the singles from that album, a song that has become iconic, it really got to me. That single is Edge of Seventeen. One late night I was in bed ready to fall asleep. I had the local NYC FM rock station on low. As I was beginning to doze off the song’s extremely unusual and unique, for those days, repetitive chugging guitar by Waddy Wachtel grabbed my attention.
Fans of Sting and The Police may be aware that the repetitive guitar sound in Edge of Seventeen is actually inspired by their song Bring On The Night.
Is Edge of Seventeen Minimalism?
In the early ’80s, in the midst of my rock and New Wave explorations, I discovered ambient and electronic music and Minimalism, thanks to a new late night show on NYC’s NPR station called New Sounds with host John Schaefer. The show is still around BTW. Later on in the ’90s I was a guest on that show a couple of times. In those days Brian Eno was the key ambient figure and bands like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze defined the electronic music genre.
Thanks to Schaefer’s New Sounds, I also became interested in the Minimalism genre by listening to Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Minimalism is partially based on meditative qualities of repetition, such as listening to our in-and-out breathing pattern or repeating phrases (AKA mantras like “I Am”) during meditation.
In those days going to concerts and shows at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) was a real treat. I saw Philip Glass’ epic (4+ hours) opera Einstein on the Beach at BAM in ’84. Other great BAM experiences that come to mind are seeing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for the first time there and the 3-part Indian epic play based on Mahabharta by Peter Brook.
In an interesting twist of events, I got to know 2 of the founders of the Minimalism movement, La Monte Young and Terry Riley. Both are incredible individuals. I also met and trained a bit with their mentor, the late great Indian classical (raga) singer Pandit Pran Nath. All 4 key Minimalism players mentioned are in their mid 80’s now (according to Wikipedia).
I wish I had a better Philip Glass story. In those days we lived close by in the East Village area of Manhattan. I did meet him a few times and he wrote a wonderful comment for the back cover of one of my books, but his rise to fame was so rapid and he was so incredibly in demand that he was very difficult to reach.
I was disappointed, to say the least, when Glass didn’t include any of my Rumi poems in his opera Monsters of Grace (’98) which is based on Rumi, even though he mentioned to me that he would. Years later, I heard from an unverified source that the publishers of another translator refused to grant rights unless the production guaranteed that only their version of Rumi be used throughout the performance.
I was hurt (not knowing the logistical reasons at that time) even though around the same time I was starring in another show called Until the Next Whirl for the avant garde theater La Mama in the East Village. The show was entirely based on my work with Rumi. The poems were sung and recited through out the performance. I played Rumi and it featured my whirling training method and choreography for the entire troop. The story of this show is about the relationship between Rumi and his mentor Shams.
Back to a late night in 1982, a New York City FM rock station and Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks. I think that song grabbed me the very first time I heard it because it was in fact a form of Minimalism and a total 180 from any other rock song at that time (except for that tune by The Police).
Why am I writing about Stevie Nicks?
I fell under her spell (as Oprah put it) briefly in-the-web-that-is-her-own while watching videos on YouTube from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame events. She is the only woman to be inducted twice. Although there are many videos of her performing Edge of Seventeen on YT through out the decades, her delivery of that song in 2019 at the RRHOF event maybe her best. It is a testament to her spirit to do such a great performance at 71. Apparently she wasn’t even in best of health during that performance.
Is Stevie Nicks a Sorceress?
She certainly has some of those abilities, but is she a bona fide old-school court magician like Merlin? She could become addictive, as I experienced for a period of couple of months post re-discovery of her. She is a force! I like how loyal she has been to the artists who surround her, such as her singers and musicians. She also has this Isis and Osiris thing going with Lindsey Buckingham (for half a century) that enhances her myth.
I am puzzled, however, why in 50 years she never tried to learn to actually spin (let alone whirl) on stage. Imagine Stevie Nicks spinning for a minute or two during her live shows. That would have been a game-changer for a rock concert. Even if she didn’t want to learn to whirl, she could have trained for spinning with dance teachers. Although spinning in ballet or modern dance is based on spotting with no relation to whirling, but at least she could have really owned that move in her shows. As a side note, I like how Jack Black mimics her faux spin in School of Rock.
I’ve been teaching and training people such as Robery Downey Jr. and Deepak Chopra (among others) along with more than 20,000 participants in my whirling events over the years with my unique method since 1995. It would have been fun to train her. My method works because it’s very simple but does require focus. It would have been equally easy for her to just pick up my book on whirling (Transformative Whirling) and follow the simple 4-step method. It’s never too late.
Ms. Nicks’ career longevity could be attributed in part to her intentional cryptic style of lyric writing. Another creator who benefited from deliberate withholding of information in storytelling is Stanley Kubrick. He famously had included narration and very detailed descriptive plates for 2001: A Space Odyssey, before deciding to remove the entire explanation and let the audience try to figure it all out. 50 years later people are still talking about the meaning of that film. David Lynch made an iconic career using the same philosophy that less descriptive info in the arts is more sexy.
In conclusion, for the answer to the question is Stevie Nicks a real magician, the reply is no. She is an enchantress. She is also mesmerizing and can become addictive.
NOTE: To watch or listen to all performances, songs or artists mentioned in this article, please visit YouTube.
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