Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, a distinctive voice whose hits spanned decades, is dead at 79

The Fleetwood Mac singer, songwriter and vocalist died in the hospital following a short illness

By Kenneth Womack

Contributing Writer

Published November 30, 2022 5:13PM (EST)

Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac performing at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minnesota on June 30, 1990. (Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac performing at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minnesota on June 30, 1990. (Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Christine McVie, the distinctive, bluesy-voiced singer-songwriter, died today following a "short illness," according to a family announcement posted on Instagram. She was 79. Along with Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, former husband John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, she was a core member of Fleetwood Mac during their multiplatinum heyday, writing and co-writing such songs as "Over My Head," "Say You Love Me," "Don't Stop," "You Make Loving Fun," "Hold Me," "Everywhere" and "Little Lies," among others.

Born in the Lake District of northwest England as Christine Perfect in July 1943, McVie didn't begin studying music until age 11. After discovering rock 'n' roll during her teen years, her piano studies shifted toward such early influences as Fats Domino and the Everly Brothers. She studied sculpture at Birmingham's Moseley School of Art. During her college years, she played in a blues group called Sounds of Blue. After graduation, she moved to London, where she worked as a window dresser.

In 1967, McVie joined the blues band Chicken Shack, with whom she recorded two albums. In 1969, she sang lead vocals on "I'd Rather Go Blind," which scored a top 20 hit on the UK charts. She earned Melody Maker awards for best female vocalist in 1969 and 1970, when she left Chicken Shack after her marriage to Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie. After recording a solo album, "Christine Perfect," she joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970.

McVie's arrival heralded a new era for the band, which was reeling after the departure of blues master Peter Green. During the early 1970s, she served as one of the band's mainstays as Fleetwood Mac famously endured a raft of personnel changes, including a stint featuring American singer-songwriter Bob Welch. While they enjoyed moderate success with such LPs as "Bare Trees" and "Mystery to Me," the group suffered a PR crisis when another group toured the United States under their name, resulting in a long-running lawsuit with their former manager Clifford Davis.

Fleetwood Mac's fortunes shifted after the group moved to the U.S. in 1974, hoping to jumpstart their career by joining the nascent California rock scene. With the addition of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham to their lineup that same year, they recorded the eponymous "Fleetwood Mac" album. Driven by such hit singles as "Rhiannon," "Over My Head" and "Say You Love Me," the LP catapulted the band to the top of the charts while earning them heavy radio rotation.

With their famous fivesome in play, Fleetwood Mac emerged as one of rock's reigning supergroups. By this juncture, Christine and John McVie had divorced. With the demise of Nicks' and Buckingham's relationship, Fleetwood Mac was famously beset by romantic trauma, which they lampooned via a Rolling Stone cover photo depicting the five musicians in bed together. Released in 1977, their next LP "Rumours" dominated the international charts, becoming one of the bestselling records of all time on the strength of Nicks' "Dreams," Buckingham's "Go Your Own Way," "Don't Stop" and "You Make Loving Fun," which McVie composed about her affair with Curry Grant, the band's lighting director.

While they would never match the runaway bestseller status of "Rumours," Fleetwood Mac produced a string of multiplatinum albums, including "Tusk," "Mirage" and "Tango in the Night." In each instance, the band embarked upon sold-out tours that cemented them as one of rock's premier live acts. Their concerts would often conclude with "Songbird," McVie's plaintive, mournful contribution to "Rumours." In 1984, she released a second solo album, entitled "Christine McVie," that included the top 10 hit "Got a Hold on Me." For "Tango in the Night," McVie charted a hit single with "Little Lies," which she co-wrote with then-husband Eddy Quintela, whom she married in 1986.

After Buckingham's and Nicks' departures in the early 1990s, the band recorded two additional albums, including "Behind the Mask" and "Time." For the former, McVie penned "Save Me," the band's last U.S. top 40 hit. An improbable reunion with Buckingham in the mid-1990s resulted in the band's bestselling live album "The Dance," which topped the U.S. charts in 1998. That same year, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

For McVie, life in the spotlight might have ended there. After touring behind "The Dance," she left Fleetwood Mac, retiring to a home in the English countryside. In 2014, Fleetwood announced that she would be rejoining the band, which had performed several sold-out tours in the intervening years. In 2017, she collaborated on the "Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie" LP. The band's fortunes shifted yet again in 2018 when Buckingham was abruptly fired from the group, resulting in yet more personnel changes.

McVie's career was surveyed in the 2019 BBC documentary "Fleetwood Mac's Songbird Christine McVie." Over the years, she earned two Grammy Awards, as well as the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors. Along with Nicks and Buckingham, she holds a towering place as a preeminent singer-songwriter during the post-Beatles era.

McVie's surviving bandmates eulogized her on social media, writing that "there are no words to describe our sadness at the passing of Christine McVie. 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."

By Kenneth Womack

Kenneth Womack is the author of a two-volume biography of the life and work of Beatles producer George Martin and the host of "Everything Fab Four," a podcast about the Beatles distributed by Salon. He is also the author of "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles," published in 2019 in celebration of the album’s 50th anniversary, "John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life" and the authorized biography "Living the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans" (November 2023).  Womack is Professor of English and Popular Music at Monmouth University.

MORE FROM Kenneth Womack

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Christine Mcvie Fleetwood Mac Music Obituary