Many things inspire Stevie Nicks, even a 147-year old Russian love story. Nicks loves romance stories, some more tragic than others, and Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina ticks all the boxes.
Although, the Fleetwood Mac frontwoman’s introduction to the story didn’t come from its more than 800 pages. Nicks didn’t read Anna Karenina by candlelight in her most gothic black dress. She watched the film adaptation, specifically Keira Knightley’s 2012 version.
‘Anna Karenina’ follows the affair of the titular character and Count Vronsky
Tolstoy’s story follows the adulterous affair between Anna, the wife of Aleksey Karenin, and the handsome young Count Vronsky.
At the story’s beginning, Anna is happy living with her husband and son. However, after she meets Vronsky, her life is flipped upside down. She questions whether she’s truly happy in her marriage and begins an affair with the Count.
Karenin only cares about his public image. Anna tries to keep her affair secret until she becomes pregnant with Vronsky’s child. When Anna’s web gets disrupted, her impulses get the best of her. In the end, she jumps in front of a train.
Anna Karenina has been adapted for film many times. Joe Wright’s 2012 adaptation is by far the most theatrical. Everything happens on an old Russian theater’s stage.
Keira Knightley, known for her portrayals in Wright’s Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, shines in the titular role. No wonder it got Nicks’ attention.
‘Anna Karenina’ made Stevie Nicks want to write a song
In a 2013 Interview, NPR asked Nicks if she was ever daunted “by taking, borrowing from a great writer like Edgar Allan Poe for example? Like can I live up to this source?” Nicks said she’d recently watched 2012’s Anna Karenina. It inspired her to write a song.
“The Edgar Allan Poe thing came from when I was 17,” Nicks said. “I just really [was] a child, you know. And I just, I had just learned to play. And I wrote it, and I just kept it in my head. I never even recorded it. I never even made a demo of it.
“But I will tell you I just saw a movie that I’m going to write a song about. I was inspired in a very strange way by it. Called Anna Karenina. It was with Keira Knightley. And I’m watching this movie and I’m really riveted by the fact that she was happy in her marriage. And it was fun, it was a good marriage.
“She had a little boy, everything was going fine. They had a beautiful house. He’s a big politician, everything’s good. And then she meets this mom who says to her, you know, ‘Well have you ever really been in love?’ She’s like, ‘What a question.’ And then she’s like, ‘What is love really, you know?’
“And then she goes away and she thinks about it. Then she meets [this woman’s] son and it happens. And the killer part to me is when [Anna is] with her husband and they’re laying on their bed and he’s getting ready to turn off the light and he goes, you know, you can never see him again.
“And the camera comes in on her. She says, ‘Too late.’ And I’m thinking, well this has happened to me before. And I’m like, it’s too late.”
Nicks connected with the film’s ‘obsessvive love’
The line, “It’s too late,” and the film’s “obsessive love” resonated with the “Edge of Seventeen” singer. Although, NPR said, “Hopefully not what happens to her in the end.”
Nicks replied, “No. I never jumped off in front of the train. But it’s too late. And what obsessive love can do to people. And I’ve seen it in my own life. I saw it in that movie. And it really affected me. I keep thinking about what she was willing to give up to be with Alexei.”
Nicks continued, “She was willing to give up her little boy. She was willing to live in a complete shamed life… willing to give up all her friends… willing to never be accepted in society again… willing to have to go out and live in the country and never see anybody or have any friends.
“Also, ruin Alexei’s life. For that moment of love that was so intense and beautiful. She goes, ‘You are my happiness, my joy.’ And so now I’m just walking around with this in my head. I’m so ready to go to the grand piano with white candles.”
Nicks spoke to Billboard about her planned song, although she didn’t reveal its title. “I’ve been there and I don’t want to be there again,” she said about Anna Karenina‘s message.
More than likely, the tune ended up in Nicks’ big trunk of lyrics and poems. Hopefully, fans get to hear it one day.