Stevie Nicks is the first woman (and thankfully, not the last) woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: as a member of Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist. As her solo debut, Bella Donna, turns 40 we looked back on her entire career to rank her 50 best songs (40 would have made sense, but it was too hard to cut it off there). We included solo and Fleetwood Mac songs, as well as her pre-Mac band Buckingham/Nicks and a few of her other collaborations.
Of course, we’re ready to update this list when she releases new music! But for now, here’s our favorite 50.
On ‘24 Karat Gold,’ Stevie looked back, re-recording some of the more obscure songs from her career. “The Dealer” was a song that she wrote for Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk,’ but didn’t get recorded. Most of the time, when artists re-record their older songs, it seems… unnecessary. But in this case, “The Dealer” had no official release, and Stevie was able to sing lyrics like “It was my fault, my move, my game/If I'd known a little more, I'd run away” with a bit more gravitas more than three decades on. But you can hear an earlier version on the deluxe edition of Stevie’s ‘Bella Donna.’
Naatalie Maines’ band the Dixie Chicks had a huge hit with their cover of Stevie’s Fleetwood Mac classic “Landslide,” and here, she returns the favor on this heartbreaking duet about a woman from Texas who is in love with someone in London who she’s having an affair with. As they sing, “There's a house there, somebody's waiting/Somebody else's arms will wrap around him/And in that moment, what will he think then/When I can't touch him.”
Before joining Fleetwood Mac, Stevie and Lindsey Buckingham had their own duo, Buckingham/Nicks, who released one album. (To learn how they joined the Mac, check out Dave Grohl’s ‘Sound City’ documentary.) This album has been out of print for decades, but you can find it on YouTube (among other places). “Crying In The Night,” written and sung by Nicks, opened the album. While it’s not as good as the songs she contributed to ‘Fleetwood Mac’ or ‘Rumours,’ it would have fit in well on ‘Mirage.’
A song that Stevie co-wrote with E Street Band pianist Roy Bittan for her debut album, it’s a song about someone who gets into a relationship that they know will end in tears. “And the heart says ‘danger,’” she sings, adding. “And the heart says ‘whatever.’”
In the press materials for the album (thank you, internet!) Stevie said of this song: “‘Wild Heart’ is wild and it's exactly what I wanted it to be: the Wild Heart is all the darkest places of your mind; it's a real intense song. I played it for Tom Petty and he said, 'This is an epic', and that's just what it is, the real story of what we all go through, everybody... of how wild our hearts really are, and we can't help it; because this is just the way it is." Petty is a figure who looms large in Stevie’s life, and he’ll pop up many more times in this list.
Stevie and Lindsey Buckingham were a couple when they recorded ‘Buckingham/Nicks,’ and this song seems like something Stevie might have written about him: “You burn brightly in spite of yourself/I bring the water down to you/But you're too hot to touch/You're too hot to touch.” Besides (probably) inspiring the song, Buckingham laid down a great guitar solo here.
The last song from what will likely be the last Fleetwood Mac album, 2003’s ‘Say You Will.’ (They released the four-track digital release ‘Extended Play’ in 2013, but another album from the Mac seems increasingly unlikely.) Was Stevie singing about Lindsey? Fleetwood Mac? Her die-hard fans? She’s done a lot of touring and recording in the years since, but this song, the last of 18 tracks on ‘Say You Will,’ has been sadly overlooked.
‘Behind The Mask’ is an album that doesn’t get spoken about much… and with good reason. But this Nicks ballad, written by Stevie with then-Fleetwood Mac guitarist/singer Rick Vito, is one of her best. But being the closing track on a forgettable album didn’t help it to enter the mainstream, which is a shame.
With one solo album to her name, Stevie was invited to contribute to the the soundtrack of the now-legendary coming-of-age film. The chorus of this ballad is so catchy, it would be a sure-fire hit for a mainstream country act if one covered it today.
‘The Dance’ was mostly about celebrating Fleetwood Mac’s hits, but they also threw in some new and obscure songs. Stevie’s “Silver Springs” (a ‘Rumours’-era B-side) was the album’s big hit -- some might have mistaken it for being new -- but this was her new song. It showed that after a few sketchy solo albums, she still had something to say.
After the adventurous and ambitious ‘Tusk,’ Fleetwood Mac’s pendulum swung hard in the other direction; ‘Mirage’ was essentially an album aimed squarely at adult contemporary. It’s not a great album, but “Gypsy” is the definite highlight.
A song that Nicks wrote for the ‘Buckingham/Nicks’ album that didn’t make the cut, it had a strange road to ‘Rumours.’ When the band realized that ‘Silver Springs’ wouldn’t fit on the album, they decided to replace it with this song. They actually recorded it without Nicks’ knowledge, with Buckingham on lead vocals. They later told Nicks and she added her vocals.
An early rock and roll song written by Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono and originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon (but popularized by the Searchers). It was one of a handful of songs on Petty’s live album that featured Nicks. Nicks at one point asked Petty to join the Heartbreakers, and when you hear the two sing together, you can only wonder how great that would have been.
Stevie has an album called ‘Rock A Little,’ but sometimes she rocks *a lot* as she does here on this roof raising Led Zeppelin cover.
Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley tackled Tom Petty’s classic ballad on his debut solo effort. It’s good: but when Stevie comes in on with harmony vocals at about 1:40 it definitely turns things up a notch.
This Christmas classic was composed in 1818, so by 1987, you might have thought that no one could bring anything new to the album. But Stevie’s version is probably one of the most beautiful that you’ve ever heard (and maybe *the* most beautiful).
As we were saying, sometimes Stevie rocks *a lot.* Dave Grohl’s ‘Sound City’ doc tells a number of great stories -- Fleetwood Mac’s and Rick Springfield’s are some of the most interesting. And the soundtrack features jams by Grohl, the artists who he interviewed, and the guys from the Foo Fighters, and most of them were interesting and cool jams. But none packed the emotional punch of this one: Stevie wrote it about her godson, who overdosed on drugs at age 18 at a party. It’s one of her most moving performances.
The highlight of Nicks’ ‘The Other Side Of The Mirror’; it’s one of her many great duets. Bruce Hornsby’s smooth voice makes an interesting counter to Nicks’ grittier singing. This song was clearly being aimed at the adult contemporary charts: Hornsby was a mainstay there, and so was Kenny G, who adds a quick, slick sax solo.
Co-written with producer Dave Stewart (formerly of the Eurythmics), it’s one of her more rocking songs from this millennium.
Co-written by Stevie and Keith Olson (who produced ‘Fleetwood Mac’), it’s a moving ballad about the death of Joe Walsh’s daughter Emma Kristen. It’s hard to imagine a lovelier tribute.
After the massive success of Nicks and Petty and the Heartbreakers’ collaboration “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” on Stevie’s solo debut, they clearly tried to reproduce that magic on her second effort. This song didn’t quite match that classic, but it is a criminally underrated song in both artists’ catalogs.
When Nicks started working on her first album since 1994’s forgettable ‘Street Angel,’ she asked Tom Petty to write a song for her. As she sings, “Well, the conversation rings in my head/Well, you know me better than I know myself/Will you write this for me?/He says, ‘No, you write your songs yourself’/That made me stronger, it made me hold on to me.” One can imagine that the song has taken on a lot more weight to Stevie in the years since Petty passed.
A rare Stevie Nicks/Lindsey Buckingham duet. There’s a bit of foreshadowing to the end of their relationship here. As Stevie sings, “Life gave me you; yeah, the change was made/And there's no beginning over/You are not happy, but what is love?/Hate gave you me for a lover…” Ouch!
Some of Nicks’ songs could have fit on Fleetwood Mac’s albums, but not “I Can’t Wait,” which was one of her most upbeat top 40 hits. It even was a top 30 dance hit.
By ‘Tusk,’ Lindsey Buckingham was clearly the dominant creative voice in Fleetwood Mac, and he seemed to want to get as far away from ‘Rumours’ as possible. Nicks’ classic ‘Sara,’ though, harkened back to that album, both sonically and thematically. The song was about Mick Fleetwood, with whom she had a romantic relationship, having an affair with Nicks’ best friend, Sara. But as Nicks said in an interview, “It's really not completely about her. It's about me, about her, about Mick, about Fleetwood Mac. It's about all of us at that point. There's little bits about each one of us in that song and when it had all the other verses it really covered a vast bunch of people. Sara was the kind of song you could fall in love with, because I fell in love with it.”
The title track, and opening song, from Nicks’ solo debut had to be great. It was, and it also introduced a signature of her solo records: backing singers Lori Perry and Sharon Celani. The lyrics allude to her outfit on the album cover. As she told Rolling Stone, “The white outfit I'm wearing is the exact opposite of my black outfit on ‘Rumours.’ Over that it says, 'Come in from the darkness...' [which is] the dark side of anyone, the side that isn't optimistic, that isn't strong. I've got to become stronger because I am very sensitive, and everything really touches me.”
Written for Stevie by uber-fan Sheryl Crow, who also co-produced the song, and played guitar and sang backing vocals. As Nicks said at the time, “What she wrote the song about [was] all my different relationships and the men that I was with and the men that I’m still good friends with and really care about. They’re all still out there and around me, and she finds that pretty amazing. I think that’s what inspired her to write the song – you know, ‘sometimes lonely is not only a face that I have known.’ And she sees my life: I am not married, I don’t have children, and I made that choice. I knew if I had children I would have to take care of them and I couldn’t hand them over to a bunch of nannies.”
Nicks said at the beginning of her career that she wanted to be “the female Tom Petty.” She actually became “the only Stevie Nicks” -- clearly Petty’s songwriting and friendship were both very influential to her. She’s been covering “I Need To Know” for much of her solo career.
Could Stevie Nicks have a hit outside of Fleetwood Mac? Could Kenny Loggins have a hit outside of Loggins & Messina? This song answered both of those questions with a resounding "yes."
The song was inspired by Nicks’ longtime guitarist, Waddy Watchel. As she said in the liner notes to the ‘Timespace’ box set, “There was a time when I was falling out of one love and into another, when nothing else seemed to matter except this person. I adored him. He was everything I wanted to be; a real rock and roller and a lover of the Stones, small and frail sometimes, but in many ways the strongest person I had ever known. His word was law. I became him. He became me, and no one dared intrude upon this union.”
A song that Nicks wrote about a decade earlier in 1972. It definitely feels more “solo” than “Fleetwood Mac.” Nicks said that she sent it to Dolly Parton hoping that she’d record it, but she doesn’t believe that it ever got to her. It’s not too late - Dolly’s glitter hasn’t faded, and she’d probably do a great version.
Stevie wrote the song in 1976 about the end of her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham while Fleetwood Mac was recording ‘Rumours.’ Fleetwood Mac demoed the song, but decided not to use it, and Stevie held onto it until 2001. In 2004, the Mac demo was finally released as part of the deluxe ‘Rumours’ reissue.
Country legend Waylon Jennings requested that Nicks write a song for him, and he had the title: “Leather and Lace.” Jennings used the title for his duets album with his wife, Jessi Colter, but didn’t record the song. Nicks ended up doing it as a duet with former/future Eagles singer Henley.
A song that Stevie wrote for Louise Goffin (the daughter of Carole King and Gerry Goffin) for her 1981 album, she revisited it with Sheryl Crow for a film soundtrack. This song should have been a way bigger hit. Stevie and Sheryl sing so well together, it’s a shame that they haven’t done more together.
Petty was asked to write a song for Stevie’s solo debut, and he came up with “Insider”... and then decided that he wanted to keep it. He did come through for Stevie though: the song he ended up giving her was “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”
It’s no surprise that after the success of Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs” from ‘The Dance,’ that Nicks would go back to other unused songs that she wrote in the ‘70s. “Candlebright” was one of them: in fact, she wrote that when she was still one half of Buckingham/Nicks. It’s another collaboration with Sheryl Crow, who co-produced the song; she also played guitar and contributed backing vocals.
She literally wrote the song about a blue lamp, a gift from her mother that she received around the time she first joined Fleetwood Mac. It was also the first song she recorded on her own during the ‘Bella Donna’ sessions. It didn’t make the album, but it was released on the soundtrack to the animated sci-fi film ‘Heavy Metal.’
Written for Stevie by her producer John Shanks with Damon Johnson (formerly the frontman of rock band Brother Cane; he went on to join Alice Cooper, and later Black Star Riders). How good is the song? So good that you’d be excused for thinking that Stevie wrote it herself.
It was the fourth single from ‘Tusk,’ but somehow, it never became a hit. But the simmering live version was much longer and much better and makes the price of the deluxe version of ‘Mirage’ worth it.
The day Nicks married Kim Anderson (January 29, 1983), the couple was driving when Prince's "Little Red Corvette" came on the radio. Nicks started humming the melody, and "Stand Back" was born. She recorded the demo that night, and later told Prince the story, and he came by the studio to contribute keyboards. They agreed to split the publishing 50/50.
One of Stevie’s saddest ballads. This one is about the end of her relationship with Mick Fleetwood. As she said “That relationship destroyed Mick’s marriage to Jenny, who was the sweetest person in the world. So did we really think that we were going to come out of it unscathed? So then what happened to me, my best friend falling in love with him and moving into his house and neither of them telling me?. Payback is a bitch. Bad karma all around. Here’s that song in a nutshell: Don’t break up other people’s marriages. It will never work and will haunt you for the rest of your miserable days.”
Nicks and Petty’s best collaboration, hands down, and one of the best songs in both of their catalogs.
Stevie wrote it for ‘Rumours’; it was inspired by the end of her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham. It didn’t make the album, but was used as a B-side to “Go Your Own Way.” Decades later, it was resurrected for Fleetwood Mac’s reunion concert, ‘The Dance,” and was a highlight of the show (the video of that performance is incredible and you can still see the tension between the ex-couple). That version became the band’s first top 40 hit in about a decade and probably their last big hit. Fun fact: Stevie gave her mom the publishing from that song as a gift, which didn’t amount to much money, until ‘The Dance’... exactly 20 years after it was released as a B-side.
Another bit of magic that was nearly lost to the sands of time. Written during the Buckingham/Nicks era, it almost made Fleetwood Mac albums a few times. It was first released when Marilyn Martin recorded it (you might remember her from her duet with Phil Collins, “Separate Lives”). That version, featuring backing vocals from Stevie, landed on the 1984 soundtrack to ‘Streets Of Fire.’ Stevie’s version was co-produced by Sheryl Crow, who sings and plays guitar on the song.
A number one hit on the pop charts. The song is the definition of timeless. It became a hit again in 2020 thanks to a skateboarder’s TikTok video. Nicks claims to have written it in about ten minutes… and that her bandmates weren’t thrilled about it at first. They’ve surely changed their minds about it by now.
Another song written during the Buckingham/Nicks era, and it essentially a Buckingham/Nicks song: none of the other band members appear on the song. Like “Dreams,” it’s another song that continuously turns new fans onto Nicks and the Mac. In the mid-’90s when Fleetwood Mac wasn’t viewed as a particularly hip influence, Billy Corgan recorded a solo version at the peak of the Smashing Pumpkins’ fame (it’s on their 1994 rarities compilation ‘Pisces Iscariot’). It was a #3 hit on alternative rock radio. In 2002, the Dixie Chicks recorded it for their ‘Home’ album, where hit #13 on the pop charts and #2 on the country charts.
Inspired by Tom Petty’s then-wife, Jane, telling Stevie that they had known each other since “the age of seventeen.” But her southern accent led Stevie to mistake it for “edge of seventeen.” Once she started writing it, she was influenced by the murder of John Lennon and the death of her uncle. But Waddy Watchel’s distinctive guitar part was influenced by Andy Summers’ guitar on the Police’s “Bring On The Night.” It’s another song that never goes away for too long: both Destiny’s Child (“Bootylicious”) and Miley Cyrus (“Edge Of Midniggh”) have borrowed heavily from the song.
Like “Storms,” the song was way more intense live. But something about the studio version was just perfect. This is one of the “Stevie-est” songs: as she often explained when introducing it in concert, it’s about a “Welsh Witch.” She discovered the “Rhiannon” character through a novel called ‘Triad’ by Mary Bartlet Leade. But her narrative in four minutes, ten seconds, could be adapted into its own novel.
In an interview with Courtney Love, Nicks noted that the song was about cocaine. “Everybody was doing a little bit--you know, we never bought it or anything, it was just around...And I really imagined that it could overtake everything, never thinking a million years that it would overtake me. I must have met a couple of people that I thought did too much coke and… I made it into a whole story.” Love recorded a cover of the song with her band, Hole, in 1996 and she was in the audience at the show recorded for Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Dance,” giving the band a credible stamp of approval to her much younger audience. All of that aside, even if this wasn’t Stevie’s, or Fleetwood Mac’s, biggest hit, it’s still her finest moment.