Friday, October 2, 2009

Stevie’s Rhiannon

Stevie Nicks has written so many wonderful songs, many of which will never see past the demo stage of the songwriting process. Fortunately, for the die-hardest of fans, these songs float about cyberspace and can be easily accessed. Over the years I have collected dozens of obscure, raw piano demos that are poetically beautiful and performed in total simplicity: just an artist, her piano, and her emotive voice. Of all of Stevie’s famous and obscure songs, it is perhaps her most famous song that means the most to me.

“Rhiannon” has been the single most influential song in my life. To me, it has always represented certain ideals: freedom, strength, self-assurance, and independence, wrapped in unapologetic femininity. The song itself, through almost 35 years of live performance, is an organic, living entity. The live “Rhiannon” of the early days is raw and rebellious, performed with a furious energy that, over the years, has been replaced with a more controlled power. “Rhiannon” has always been wise, but there is now calm where there once was fury. As an adolescent, a teenager, an adult, the song continues to evolve with me and take on different meaning throughout the stages of my life.

I’ve always been captivated by Stevie and relate to the fine line she walks between strength and vulnerability. She is a powerful force, but is such without compromising one iota of femininity. She is heartbroken but defiant, lovelorn but optimistic. She is on the loosing end of a love affair gone sour, while seemingly in total control. Her voice will turn from a soft quivering plea to an angry rebellious wail. For me, there is no other woman in rock music that so perfectly embodies the female dichotomy of power and fragility.

Below is a live clip of “Rhiannon” from the Rosebud performance in 1976. Mick Fleetwood once likened Stevie’s performance of “Rhiannon” to an exorcism. The entire clip is breathtaking, but skip to 5:00 to see the transformation to a woman possessed!

Dream on, silly dreamers . . .



  1. Beautifully written. I completely agree with your assessment that, '...there is no other woman in rock music that so perfectly embodies the female dichotomy of power and fragility'. So true. This is my favorite Rhiannon performance by far, inspite of John's goofy shorts!

  2. I'm very interested to start following your blog. A Stevie fan sent this link to me and I was amazed at the accuracy in which you described my own personal experience with "Rhiannon", without a doubt the most influential song that I have ever experienced. It has changed my life, honestly.

    THEN I discovered that you love so many modern bands that I adore (for example, Phoenix, Dirty Projectors, Andrew Bird, Doves, Ranconteurs, David Bowie, ARCADE FIRE [could Funeral be more perfect?], The Strokes). And, of course, all of the older artists you listed.

    Excuse my rambling-- bottom line is that I am intrigued by your blog and can't wait to read more.

  3. AZ,

    After reading your recent post, I was wondering if you'd like to guest blog on our site once a month about how songs effect people in different stages of their life?

    Feel free to contact me directly via my blog or through my site if you want to contribute to our project.

    I think our readers will find your rock n roll theme refreshing and unique.


  4. Hey! A friend and fellow audiophile told me to check out your blog. I'm intriged by your choice of performers, a rather eclectic group. I see we have something in common. Music pulses through me, supplying the energy, but it is primarily the delivery vehicle for the lyrics, the ultimate payload. "Like any dealer he was looking for the card so high and wild he would never have to deal another...He was just a joseph looking for a manger." I'll look in on you corner of the sphere from time to time. Best wishes! Out, YODA

  5. Nice! Couldn't agree more! However, I would add that for those of us, like Stevie herself, of the pagan/goddess/witchy persuasion this song also takes on a religious significance.