Five things you may not know about Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie

The singer-songwriter, who penned some of the stand-out tracks on the classic album Rumours, has died aged 79

Christine McVie
McVie played with Fleetwood Mac from 1970 until 1998
(Image credit: Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Christine McVie, the singer-songwriter and Fleetwood Mac star, has died after a short illness at the age of 79.

The British-born artist became the “biggest hitmaker” for the internationally acclaimed rock band, said The New York Times, penning many of their best-known hits, including You Make Loving Fun, Don’t Stop, Little Lies, Everywhere and Songbird.

McVie joined the band in 1970 and would become part of the “classic” Fleetwood Mac line-up – alongside Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Stevie Nicks. In 1977 they released what would become the seminal break-up album Rumours, which sold “more than 40 million copies worldwide and became one of the biggest-selling albums of all time”, said The Times.

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A statement from her family said the singer passed away “peacefully” in hospital yesterday morning “in the company of her family” after a short illness.

McVie wrote her hit song Songbird in half an hour

Speaking to Kirsty Young for the BBC’s Desert Island Discs in 2017, McVie described how she wrote the classic track Songbird, the “whole song”, including “chords, words, everything within half an hour”. “I couldn’t go to sleep in case I forgot it, so I had to play it all night long,” she said.

In a 2016 interview with music writer Peter Robinson in The Guardian, she said that the song had popped into her head during a sleepless night. “I got out of bed, played it on the little piano I have in my room, and sang it with no tape recorder. I sang it from beginning to end: everything.

“I can’t tell you quite how I felt; it was as if I’d been visited – it was a very spiritual thing,” she added.

Fats Domino was her musical inspiration

McVie, born in the Lake District village of Bouth and raised in Birmingham, started playing piano seriously when she was 11 years old, after her father, a former concert violinist, “encouraged her to start taking classical piano lessons”, said The New York Times.

But her musical focus “changed radically four years later when she came across some sheet music for Fats Domino songs”, said the paper. After that moment, it was “goodbye Chopin”, she told Rolling Stone magazine in 1984.

She had an unusual maiden name

The singer-songwriter was born Christine Perfect until she married Fleetwood Mac bass player John McVie (who provided the “Mac” part of the band’s name).

She told The Guardian that she found her family name “difficult”. “Teachers would say: ‘I hope you live up to your name, Christine.’ So, yes, it was tough. I used to joke that I was perfect until I married John.”

She would keep her married name, McVie, after she and John divorced in 1976.

Her mother was a psychic and faith healer

McVie’s mother, Beatrice Perfect, was a psychic medium and faith healer, and would frequently hold séances with groups of friends in Birmingham.

Speaking on Desert Island Discs, McVie said that her mother once painted her spirit guide “Silver Shadow” while in a trance. “That side of her life, I didn’t really want to hear about, I just wanted her to be an ordinary mum,” she told the show.

She conquered a fear of flying

After decades of touring with Fleetwood Mac – and before that, the band Chicken Shack – McVie developed a fear of flying in 1998. It would put an end to her life on the road for over a decade. She retired to the English countryside to spend “much of her time cooking and gardening”, said the LA Times.

Around 2012 she started seeing a therapist who helped her conquer her fear. The “breakthrough arrived when [Mick] Fleetwood accompanied her on a flight to Maui, where she sat in with the drummer and her ex-husband at a performance by their blues band”, said the paper.

“I did a couple of songs there, it felt good onstage, and then I thought, ‘I’m really missing out on something – something that’s mine, that I’ve just given up, and I’m not paying respect to my own gift,’” said McVie. “I saw that if I want to start to play again, there’s only one band I want to play with, and that’s Fleetwood Mac.”

The experience “led to her first appearance in 15 years” with the group, who performed a one-night-only reunion in London’s O2 Arena in 2013 – she would officially rejoin the band the following year.

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 Sorcha Bradley is a writer at The Week and a regular on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast. She worked at The Week magazine for a year and a half before taking up her current role with the digital team, where she mostly covers UK current affairs and politics. Before joining The Week, Sorcha worked at slow-news start-up Tortoise Media. She has also written for Sky News, The Sunday Times, the London Evening Standard and Grazia magazine, among other publications. She has a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London, where she specialised in political journalism.