Today’s youth don’t remember Stevie Nicks in her heyday. In a scene on the TV series, American Horror Story: Coven, “Rhiannon” is playing on the radio. A young girl asks “Who’s singing that?” When told she was Stevie Nicks, she remarked, “Oh, Stevie Nicks from American Idol”. Coming off Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, Stevie released her debut solo album. Dressed in a long white chiffon dress with matching white boots and her brother’s bird on her arm, the album cover conjured up images of a fairy tale. Let’s look back to the summer of 1981 and Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna.
While this was Stevie’s solo album, she called upon some of her most talented friends to join her. Don Henley, Tom Petty (and the Heartbreakers), Roy Bittan (from the E Street Band), the legendary bass guitarist Duck Dunn, and her new backup singers, Sharon Celani and Lori Perry. You can feel all of their influences here. In 1979, Stevie starting writing new songs for the next Fleetwood Mac record, but as her catalog of material grew, she decided to release some of the trove of songs on a solo record. Two years later, Bella Donna was released in July of 1981.
Bella Donna’s three legendary singles include the attitude-injected “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” where you can feel the pain and swagger. It was originally recorded as a Tom Petty solo number. Then you have the lovely duet, “Leather And Lace” was pure heaven hearing Stevie trade verses with The Eagles’ Don Henley. Ironically, these were the last two songs completed for the record. The most iconic song, “Edge Of Seventeen” (aka The White Winged Dove) is perhaps Stevie’s masterpiece. The song was written about the deaths of her uncle, Jonathan (cancer), and John Lennon. The mysticism and the symbolic nature of a dove flying away like a spirit leaving the body played perfectly into Stevie’s personal beliefs.
As great as the three big singles were on Bella Donna, two other tracks deserve special attention. The first song, the title track, instantly grabs your attention with the uplifting organ intro, followed by Stevie’s “You can ride high atop your pony, I know you won’t fall because the whole thing’s phony”….Amazing record! The last song on Side 1 was “After The Glitter Fades”. Sounding like a lost track from The Eagles’ Hotel California, Stevie recants the fable of a young starlet and her quest for fame. You can feel the emotion and connect deeply to Stevie’s autobiographical tale. The album spent 3 years on the charts and went quadruple platinum. It’s Stevie’s greatest solo album to date.
1. Bella Donna
2. Kind Of Woman
3. Stop Dragging My Heart Around
4. Think About It
5. After The Glitter Fades
6. Edge Of Seventeen
7. How Still My Love
8. Leather And Lace
9. Outside The Rain
10. The Highwayman