Christine McVie, the renowned singer-songwriter for the band Fleetwood Mac, has died at age 79. She passed away in a London hospital after a short bout of illness, according to a statement from her family.
“[W]e would like everyone to keep Christine in their hearts and remember the life of an incredible human being, and revered musician who was loved universally,” her family writes. “RIP Christine McVie.”
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musician wrote and sang some of Fleetwood Mac’s most popular songs of the 1970s and ’80s, including “Everywhere,” “Don’t Stop,” “Little Lies,” “You Make Loving Fun” and “Songbird.” She was part of the band for some 30 years.
“There are no words to describe our sadness at the passing of Christine McVie,” writes the band in a statement posted to Twitter. “She was truly one-of-a-kind, special and talented beyond measure. 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.”
The British-American rock band, which was founded in 1967, is known for its members’ turbulent romantic relationships as well as their immensely popular music. At the pinnacle of their success, they released the 1977 album Rumours, which catapulted the group to stardom; the album sold millions of copies and won a Grammy for Album of the Year. To date, the band has sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
McVie, born Christine Perfect in 1943, began playing music at an early age; her father was a violinist and music teacher. She went to art school before beginning her career as a musician, becoming part of the small 1960s blues scene in England. She joined a blues rock band called Chicken Shack; with them, she covered Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” which made some top British charts at the time.
In 1968, she married John McVie, who was already in Fleetwood Mac. She left Chicken Shack when it became clear she would rarely see her touring husband otherwise.
Then, in 1970, guitarist Peter Green left Fleetwood Mac—and the band, about to go on tour, asked McVie to join. “I didn’t think twice when they asked me,” she said, per BBC News’ Ian Youngs. “I just said, ‘Yes please.’”
McVie played keyboard, contributed vocals, and soon began writing songs, which strayed into pop territory. When the band moved to Los Angeles in 1974, musicians Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined, and Fleetwood Mac solidified its iconic lineup.
That’s when the band became “pretty sensational,” McVie has said, according to the Guardian’s Benjamin Lee. “We had our fights here and there, but there was nothing like the music or the intensity onstage. We weren’t doing anything in Britain, so just decamped to America and fell into this huge musical odyssey.”
The newly reorganized band put out the eponymous 1975 album Fleetwood Mac, which rocketed to number one on the charts. But Rumours, out two years later, was the album that cemented the band as one of the most influential groups of 1970s and ’80s rock. It is still one of the best-selling albums of all time.
The songs on Rumours reflected a series of romantic breakups playing out as the band was making the album: After eight years of marriage, the McVies divorced in 1976. Buckingham and Nicks called their long, turbulent relationship quits that year, too. Mick Fleetwood, one of the band’s founding members, was also finalizing his divorce in 1976; he and actress Jenny Boyd remarried 1977, and then divorced again in 1978.
Years later, Bill Clinton would use one of the songs on Rumours, “Don’t Stop,” as his presidential campaign song in 1992. When McVie’s death was announced, the former president wrote on Twitter: “‘Don’t Stop’ was my ’92 campaign theme song—it perfectly captured the mood of a nation eager for better days. I’m grateful to Christine [and] Fleetwood Mac for entrusting us with such a meaningful song. I will miss her.”
McVie released a solo album in 1984. In 1999, as her fear of flying and agoraphobia worsened, she left the band to move to the English countryside. In 2014, she was able to resume touring, and she returned to the band. “I know now where I belong,” she said, per BBC News. “It took me 15 years of not being with them to realize it.”
At the news of her friend and bandmate’s passing, Nicks posted a handwritten statement on Twitter: “A few hours ago I was told that my best friend in the whole world since the first day of 1975 had passed away,” she writes. “I didn’t even know she was ill … until late Saturday night. I wanted to be in London; I wanted to get to London—but we were told to wait.” Nicks wrote out some of the lyrics to the song Hallelujah by the band Haim in tribute to her friend.
“This is a day where my dear sweet friend Christine McVie has taken to flight ... and left us earthbound folks to listen with bated breath to the sounds of that ‘song bird’ ... reminding one and all that love is all around us to reach for and touch in this precious life that is gifted to us,” wrote band co-founder Fleetwood on Twitter, referencing McVie’s “Songbird,” which she has said is her proudest musical achievement. “Part of my heart has flown away today.”