Christine McVie Was Thinking About Slowing Down Her Career Months Before She Died: ‘The ‘Songbird’ Album Might Be My Swan Song’

Fleetwood Mac‘s Christine McVie has died at the age of 79 after a short illness. In the spring, she revealed she had a minor back ailment. That, and the pandemic, slowed the singer-songwriter down. However, she was OK with her once again quiet life. Months before her death, McVie was thinking about slowing down her career. She guessed her recent compilation album, Songbird, would be her “swansong.”

Christine McVie with Fleetwood Mac at the 2018 MusiCares Person of the Year Gala honoring Fleetwood Mac.
Christine McVie and Fleetwood Mac | Steve Granitz/Getty Images

Christine McVie left her career in Fleetwood Mac in 1998

In 1998, McVie decided to leave Fleetwood Mac after 30 years of being an integral part of the band. She wrote some of the group’s biggest hits, including “Little Lies,” “Everywhere,” “Don’t Stop,” “Say You Love Me,” and “Songbird.” However, constantly being on tour was wearing her thin. She wanted a quieter life. Plus, she had a terrible fear of flying.

“I just wanted to embrace being in the English countryside and not have to troop around on the road,” she told the Guardian in June 2022. “I moved to Kent, and I loved being able to walk around the streets, nobody knowing who I was.”

She told the New Yorker that she restored “an ancient house” in Kent and “had this idea that I’d love the small village life, with the Range Rover and the dogs and baking cookies for the Y.W.C.A.”

One day during her hiatus, she “just decided not to be afraid” of flying any more, and “that was it! I felt liberated. Then I thought: ‘I’m actually enjoying this.’ Life’s too short to be afraid of things like flying. You’d never go anywhere. I love flying now.”

After 16 years of comfortable, quiet living, McVie started to miss being with Fleetwood Mac. “Then of course I started to miss it,” she told the Guardian. “I called Mick and asked: ‘How would you feel about me coming back to the band?’ He got in touch with everybody and we had a band meeting over the phone and they all went: ‘Come baaaack!!’ I felt regenerated and I felt like writing again.”

McVie returned to her group in 2014. However, it didn’t take long for her to miss her quieter life again.

McVie was thinking of slowing down her career again

The pandemic allowed McVie to experience her quiet life again, but she didn’t completely rest. While Fleetwood Mac took their break, she worked on Songbird, a compilation album that features material from two of her solo albums (1984’s Christine McVie and 2004’s In the Meantime), two previously unreleased tracks, and a new orchestral version of “Songbird.”

However, releasing the album didn’t mean McVie wanted to get back out on the road again. McVie seemed skeptical Fleetwood Mac would reform during her press circuit promoting Songbird.

“Well, not as we know it,” McVie told Rolling Stone. “I don’t know. It’s impossible to say. We might get back together, but I just couldn’t say for sure.” Despite her doubts, Mick Fleetwood was entertaining the idea.

However, McVie had to consider her health. She’d also become happy with her quiet life again. The idea of going back out on the road was daunting.

“I don’t feel physically up for it,” she said. “I’m in quite bad health. I’ve got a chronic back problem which debilitates me. I stand up to play the piano, so I don’t know if I could actually physically do it. What’s that saying? The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

During her May interview with Uncut, McVie claimed Songbird was her swansong. She spoke of her back problems again. She said she hadn’t written a song in a while because of it.

“I don’t know. I need to sort my back out, so I don’t feel like sitting at the piano right now. Who knows? I don’t… feel it at the moment,” she said. On whether she missed writing, McVie said, “To be honest with you? No. Every once in a great while, an idea might pop into my head – but by the time I have woken up the next morning, I’ve forgotten it.

“I haven’t thought about making another record. ‘The Songbird’ album might be my swan song. I’m going to be 80 next year, so I gotta slow down a bit, you know?”

Uncut also asked about a potential Fleetwood Mac tour, but McVie said she wouldn’t be willing to go back out at that point. “Not right now! I can barely stand up, because of my back. But I really don’t know. It would have to be quite a special event. If one was offered six major stadiums – New York, LA, London, whatever – I could manage that. But a lengthy tour? No.”

McVie said it felt like semi-retirement, but she was OK with that. “Things change,” she said. “I honestly don’t know what might come up… I always say, ‘You never know.’ So let’s leave it at that.”

Unfortunately, McVie didn’t get to experience one last, shorter, more manageable tour with Fleetwood Mac.

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The singer-songwriter died on Nov. 30

McVie died peacefully in the hospital following a short illness on Nov. 30, her family announced.

Her family’s statement said: “On behalf of Christine McVie’s family, it is with a heavy heart we are informing you of Christine’s death. She passed away peacefully at hospital this morning, Wednesday, November 30th 2022, following a short illness. She was in the company of her family.

“We kindly ask that you respect the family’s privacy at this extremely painful time and we would like everyone to keep Christine in their hearts and remember the life of an incredible human being, and revered musician who was loved universally. RIP Christine McVie.”

Fleetwood Mac also released the following statement: “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.”

Nicks released a heartbreaking statement separately. On her Instagram, she wrote, “A few hours ago I was told that my best friend in the whole world since the first day of 1975, had died. I didn’t even know she was ill… until late Saturday night. I wanted to be in London; I wanted to get to London – but we were told to wait. So, since Saturday, one song has been swirling around in my head, over and over and over. I thought I might possibly get to sing it to her, and so, I’m singing it to her now.

Nicks shared the lyrics to “Hallelujah” by HAIM and concluded, “See you on the other side, My Love. Don’t forget me. Always, Stevie.”

Fleetwood Mac’s songbird will be missed.