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Christine McVie, whose soulful, bluesy vocals were a key component of Fleetwood Mac’s multiplatinum sound, died Nov. 30 at age 79. The singer, songwriter and keyboardist told Rolling Stone in June that a Fleetwood Mac reunion was in limbo because she wasn’t up for touring. “I’m in quite bad health,” she said. “I’ve got a chronic back problem. …The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
While less dramatic and flamboyant than Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac’s other female singer-songwriter, McVie composed and sang some of the band’s most popular and enduring tunes, including “Don’t Stop,” “Say You Love Me,” “You Make Loving Fun” and “Little Lies.”
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“She was truly one of a kind—special and talented beyond measure,” Fleetwood Mac members said in a statement released on social media. “She was the best musician anyone could have in their band and the best friend anyone could have in their life. We were so lucky to have a life with her. Individually and together, we cherished Christine deeply and are thankful for the amazing memories we have. She will be so very missed.”
She was born Christine Perfect in 1943, in the tiny British village of Bouth, to Cyril Perfect, a classical violinist and music professor, and Beatrice Reece, a psychic. She studied classical music but shifted sharply after discovering Fats Domino. “I got hooked on the blues,” she told Mojo magazine.
McVie studied sculpture at Birmingham Art College and became a department store window dresser in London after graduating in 1966. But she was also playing music professionally. In 1967, she joined the blues band Chicken Shack as a piano player and background singer. She penned its debut release “It’s Okay With Me, Baby” and stuck with the group for two albums, winning Melody Maker awards for best female vocalist in 1969 and 1970.
In 1968, she married Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie and joined the band in 1970. She became a dominant force, singing lead on more songs than Nicks or singer-songwriter-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. 1977’s blockbuster Rumours, created during her 1976 divorce and amid the breakup of Nicks and Buckingham, features her songs “You Make Loving Fun,” “Don’t Stop,” “Songbird” and “Oh Daddy.”
As turmoil swirled, McVie served as the band’s calm center and continued in that role for decades to come. Fleetwood Mac soldiered on, but tensions grew and led to departures and rotating lineups. In 1998, McVie went on hiatus for 15 years, officially rejoining in 2014 with renewed energy and commitment. With Nicks on a solo tour, McVie and Buckingham collaborated on an album, Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie, released in 2017. Six months later, the band fired Buckingham over touring disagreements.
As ever, McVie quietly carried on. In 2018, she toured with a new Fleetwood Mac configuration that featured Neil Finn of Crowded House and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as Buckingham replacements.
“Never break the chain,” as one of the hits she cowrote goes. With her final bow, is it finally broken?