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33 Stevie Nicks Songs: Her Life and Art Through Music – Pitchfork

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“Wild Heart”

The Wild Heart (1983)

There is the official version of “Wild Heart,” and there is the definitive version. The official version opens Nicks’ 1983 solo album with a six-minute power drive from one triumphant apex to the next: huge drum fills, elaborate melismatic runs. The definitive version was recorded more or less accidentally, two years earlier, as Nicks prepared for a photo shoot. In a grainy video clip that has assumed mythic status among her fans, she sways and sings along to a bare-bones instrumental track while a makeup artist works on her face. She and a backup singer vamp sweetly on an early version of the “Wild Heart” chorus, without any of the bombast that would come later, just two voices ringing like bells in the night.

They are ostensibly rehearsing, but what you’re witnessing has the quality of a prayer, a humble outward expression radiating from a deep inner wellspring. (It’s no wonder Justin Vernon sampled liberally from this video on Bon Iver’s 22, A Million.) The makeup artist soon ceases her work but remains transfixed in place; the camera operator seems to sense they’re getting something important and shakily tightens the shot. It’s a document of an era-defining performer in an unguarded moment of musical communion. –Andy Cush

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“Nightbird”

The Wild Heart (1983)

In 1982, Nicks endured one of the most crushing losses of her life: the death of her childhood best friend and singing coach, Robin Snyder Anderson, from leukemia. Awash with grief, she hurled herself back into songwriting. She wrote “Nightbird,” the dedicatory centerpiece of The Wild Heart, in just a few hours in her living room, alongside singer-songwriter Sandy Stewart.

Essentially a sequel to “Edge of Seventeen,” “Nightbird” builds on Nicks’ enduring theme of feeling defenseless against the passage of time. She and Stewart seamlessly trade off vocals over organ and guitar, evoking the song’s titular omen of death—itself a callback to “Seventeen”—as a beacon of hope rather than doom. Fittingly, Nicks used the song as a tool for cancer awareness: “Maybe it will make somebody be a doctor,” she said in 1983. “Maybe some kid will go, ‘I’m gonna do cancer research and I’m gonna beat leukemia.’” –Eric Torres

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“Stand Back”

The Wild Heart (1983)

Soon after Robin Snyder Anderson’s death, Nicks entered into a three-month marriage with Anderson’s husband (supposedly out of a desire to care for the couple’s infant son). She wrote “Stand Back,” The Wild Heart’s lead single, on their honeymoon, after hearing Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” for the first time. She invited the Purple One to play on the track, and in true Prince fashion, he quickly laid down a brilliantly moody, new-wave synth part and disappeared into the night. (“He was so uncanny, so wild, he spoiled me for every band I’ve ever had because nobody can exactly recreate—not even with two piano players—what Prince did all by his little self,” Nicks later recalled.) As she sings the cautionary chorus—“Stand back, stand back”—the synths and bobbing beats back her up like wagging fingers. Though Nicks sounds assured, her lyrics capture the confusing volatility of relationships, the initial lust and the inevitable pain. In the end, she seems to reach some resolve and asks her lover to take her home. –Quinn Moreland

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“Talk to Me”

Rock a Little (1985)

After the release of The Wild Heart, Fleetwood Mac went on hiatus and Nicks recorded her third solo album, Rock a Little. While she initially worked with Jimmy Iovine, they soon parted ways. Still, it was the producer who brought “Talk to Me” to Nicks and together they made it a glittering pop-rock hit. At first, Nicks reportedly didn’t like how its writer, Chas Sandford, had stacked the lyrics—she found them wordy, tricky—but in her ferocious delivery, they reveal depths of empathy and tact. She senses dishonesty but holds no grudge, just a yearning for truth: “A wound gets worse when it’s treated with neglect.” Nicks narrates the kind of emotional ruin she’d sung about for years and exploded it anew: “Let the walls burn down,” she sings urgently. “Set your secrets free.” –Jenn Pelly

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