“Rhiannon” is a song by Fleetwood Mac and was written by Stevie Nicnns, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. It was released in the United Kingdom on June 10, 1975 as the lead single from the band’s sixth studio album “Tusk”. The song peaked at number two in the United Kingdom, becoming their first top-five hit since “Landslide” (1970).The song is about a woman who has lost her lover to another woman. She sings about how she wants to get over this tragedy but has been unable to do so because of her own feelings for him. The lyrics are also about being in love with someone but not being able to let them go because you still love them too much.
History of the creation of the song “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac
It is quite logical that Stevie Nicks’ solo song was created under the influence of ancient magic. Bible divination, a mystical practice dating back to the 1700s, claims that if you pick up a book and open any page at random, the first word or sentence you see will become a prophecy. But the book Nix opened in 1974 — the one that ultimately helped her become a superstar — didn’t exactly promise a miracle.
“It was just an ordinary little paperback book that I saw in someone’s house, where it was lying on the couch,” Nix says more than 40 years later. “It was called Triad [written by Mary Leader], and it was about a girl who was possessed by a spirit named Rhiannon. I read the book, but what grabbed me the most was the title, and I thought, “I need to write something about this.” So I sat down at the piano and started writing a song about a woman who was connected with birds and with magic.”
“I still have the tape cassette I first recorded it on,” she continues. “Lindsey [Buckingham, Nicks’ musical and then romantic partner] came in and I said, ‘We should go to the park and record the birdsong at dawn.’ And he looked at me like I was crazy. And I said, “Don’t you think Rhiannon is a pretty name?” He said, “Yes, really pretty.”
Because the song was originally magical, over time, it showed its deep meaning. I accidentally found out after I wrote the song that in fact Rhiannon was the goddess of horses and the creator of birds, ”explains Nix. “Three of her birds began to sing when a war broke out somewhere, and Reannon immediately saddled her horse. All this is in the Welsh translation of The Mabinogion, a local mythological book. When Rhiannon comes, you first lose consciousness, then you come to your senses, and the danger disappears, and you see three birds fly away, and you hear a short song. It was basically a Rhiannon song. I had no idea about something like that.”
The Knicks’ problems in the fall of 1974 were more mundane. Working as a waitress, she lived with Buckingham and wrote for her partner the couple’s most inconspicuous debut album, Buckingham-Nicks, and also tried to be optimistic about the future. Meanwhile, their producer Keith Olsen met with Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood, who was looking for a replacement for guitarist Bob Welsh. Olsen played several Buckingham-Nicks tracks to Fleetwood. Fleetwood was impressed. Although he originally wanted to take on Buckingham and Olsen as producer, Lindsey insisted it be a package deal involving Stevie.
“Who knows?” she says today. “Perhaps if it hadn’t happened, I would have gone back to school and not made a musical career.”
Joining the rest of Fleetwood Mac at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles, the pair were nervous and especially worried about what role they would play in the band. Of that magical moment when they first played together with Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood later said that he had a “feeling absolutely right” on the vocals. “It seemed like Merlin himself couldn’t have come up with a more perfect spell.”
And this spell turned into Rhiannon. With Buckingham’s guitar work, Fleetwood’s and bassist John McVee’s unusually aggressive groove, and light background vocals, Nicks’ raw piano demo came to life in the most magical way.
“That’s what this band does and has always done,” she says, “taking the skeleton of a song and fleshing it out. They managed to find the right flesh for my little skeleton.”
A self-titled album (also known as the White Album), which contains the most successful and enduring version of Fleetwood Mac, was released in July 1975. Chosen as the second single, Rhiannon was No.11 in the US but failed to break in the UK (where it was released two years later and went to No. 46).
But the meaning of the song went far beyond the charts. She quickly became a living showcase for the Knicks and a cornerstone for the band’s image and mythology. Circling the stage with chiffon scarves and blond hair poking out from under a hat, Nicks pushed the song to six minutes, going on a rampage in the final section (“Dreams get you / Love is a state of mind”), to which Fleetwood said, “it looked like exorcism”.
“Rhiannon is too complicated a song to sing every night,” Nicks said in 1976. “On stage, she really demands full commitment. Everyone, including me, just fizzles out by the end. And I’m pushing so hard on this song, I’m almost falling over. There is something about her that touches people. I don’t know what it is, but I’m really glad it’s happening.”
In the years since, Rhiannon has been sung by just about everyone from Waylon Jennings to Taylor Swift and countless American Idol contenders. And she remains the highlight of the reunited Mac’s performances in 2015. And throughout her journey, Nyx never ceases to be amazed at the strange magic of this divination on the Bible.
“A few years later, someone sent me a set of four books written by a woman named Evangeline Walton,” she says. “She spent her whole life translating The Mabinogion and the story of Rhiannon. She lived in Tuscon. I went there in 1977 after Rhiannon had become a hit. Her house was entirely dedicated to Rhiannon. She devoted her whole life to this story. She never married. She, in fact, almost became Rhiannon. And it was amazing. She heard about our song. She told me about her life and how she was fascinated by this name, just like me. This is especially interesting because her last book came out in 1974, right around the time I was writing Rhiannon. It looked like her part of the job had ended and mine had begun.”
Who is Rhiannon from the band’s hit of the same name?
It all started with the fact that before one long flight, Stevie bought Mary Leader’s mystical novel called “Triad” at the airport. The novel was about a woman named Branwen who thinks she is possessed by the spirit of another woman named Rhiannon. The name seemed very beautiful to Stevie, and she decided that it was just asking for a song.
Stevie Nicks: “I didn’t know who Rhiannon was, the only thing I knew was that she was out of this world.” Translated by Alexandra: She is like a cat in the dark, And at the same time she herself is darkness. She rules her life like a beautiful lark And when the skies are starless. In all your life you’ve never seen a woman carried by the wind. Could you stay if she promised you heaven? Will you ever get it?
Each time, performing on stage, the singer preceded the performance of “Rhiannon” with the words: “This is a song about a Welsh witch” (and in an interview she also specified that this witch is “kind”). To create the desired image, Nicks began to appear at concerts in black outfits and wide loose scarves and shawls, which became her “chip” for a long time. The singer sang the song with such passion that Fleetwood compared her performance to “an exorcism”. Sometimes Stevie put so much strain on her vocal cords that she even had to interrupt the show. Only in 1978 did Nix learn that the names of the characters in the novel were taken from the medieval Welsh legend of the Mabinogion. Rhiannon was not a witch at all. The name itself meant “great goddess” and really belonged to the goddess of fertility and the moon, who, on her own head, fell in love with a mortal man. For such adultery, the supreme god forced her to kill the child conceived from this connection …
According to Nicks, she composed the draft of “Rhiannon” on the piano in literally 10 minutes. After that, Buckingham took up the song and came up with a catchy guitar riff for it. Since the riff was syncopated, Fleetwood, accustomed to traditional rock, had a hard time finding the right rhythm. As a result, producer Keith Olsen had to edit the drummer’s playing with … a blade and glue. He glued together a loop from different pieces of tape, “mixing” several drum parts in this way.
The single “Rhiannon” was such a success (No. 11 in the US) that the name of the Welsh goddess began to be called newborn daughters (as did the famous director Robert Rodriguez or the parents of the American singer Rhiannon Giddens). In 1977, it took 418th place in the ranking of popular female names. People who do not know this story of this song are unlikely to fully appreciate the “black” joke of the creators of the American Horror Story series. In its third season, a witch named Misty Day constantly listens to Stevie Nicks, whom she also considers to be a “white witch”. In addition to Rhiannon, there were other successful songs on Fleetwood Mac such as “Over My Head” and “Say You Love Me”. However, I personally liked two other compositions more – “Crystal” and “I’m So Afraid”, which I present to your attention below.
Meaning of the song “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac
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The lyrics of the song “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac:
I don’t like to tell you that I’m a good writer, but I am.
I just want to say:
I’m not a good writer, I’m just me.
So now you know who I am.
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