The Process Of Stevie Nicks In Writing “Rhiannon”
One of Fleetwood Mac’s most enduring hits, Stevie Nicks used to introduce “Rhiannon” by saying: “This song’s about an old Welsh witch.”
During her heyday, Nicks performed the song with such passion and intensity that Mick Fleetwood referred to it as “like an exorcism.” She wrote in on the piano and had some help from then-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham. It was before they joined Fleetwood Mac and were recording under the name Buckingham-Nicks.
Nicks came across the Rhiannon character from a 1972 novel by Mary Bartlet Leader titled “Triad”.
She recalls, “It was just a stupid little paperback that I found somewhere at somebody’s house. And it was all about this girl who becomes possessed by a spirit named Rhiannon. I read the book, but I was so taken with that name that I thought: ‘I’ve got to write something about this.’ So I sat down at the piano and started this song about a woman that was all involved with these birds and magic.”
It was after she wrote the song that she found out that Rhiannon was a Welsh “goddess of steeds, maker of birds.” And imagine her surprise when the lyrics actually came close to Rhiannon’s myth. She told Mojo magazine, “It wasn’t until 1978 that I found out about (Welsh medieval prose tales) Mabinogion and that Branwen and Rhiannon are in there too, and that Rhiannon wasn’t a witch at all; she was a mythological queen. But my story was definitely written about a celestial being, I didn’t know who Rhiannon was, exactly, but I knew she was not of this world.”
“Rhiannon” influenced Nicks’ fashion especially with the flowing shawls and black outfits she wore on stage. Also, this isn’t the only song she wrote that’s related to Rhiannon. She even considered devoting an entire project to it like a movie.