Stevie Nicks Insisted ‘Trouble in Shangri-La’ Was Not Written About O.J. Simpson

TL;DR:

  • Stevie Nicks released Trouble in Shangri-La after a meaningful conversation with Tom Petty.
  • Stevie Nicks said Trouble in Shangri-La was not about O.J. Simpson, though she can see the connection.
  • She explained that every time she releases an album, it feels like her favorite.
A black and white photo of Stevie Nicks wearing a sheer dress and standing in front of a microphone.
Stevie Nicks | Rob Verhorst/Redferns

In 2001, Stevie Nicks made a musical comeback with the release of Trouble in Shangri-La. The album was her first since the 1994 release of Street Angel. Many felt that the release marked a return to form for Nicks, who has gone on record saying that she’s not a fan of Street Angel. It deals with themes of fame and loss. Nicks said multiple times that it was not about the O.J. Simpson trial, though she could see why people would make the connection. 

Stevie Nicks wrote ‘Trouble in Shangri-La’ after a period of writer’s block

In the mid-1990s, Nicks left rehab after dealing with an addiction to Klonopin. She was dealing with writer’s block and hoped that her longtime friend Tom Petty could help her write a song. 

“I was at my house in Phoenix – I had come out of rehab – and I had dinner with him at the Ritz-Carlton,” she told Rolling Stone. “I had a visitation from an old boyfriend, right after my rehab, and it had shaken me.”

He refused to help her write a song. Instead, he offered her a piece of advice that she still values.

“He said, ‘No. You are one of the premier songwriters of all time. You don’t need me to write a song for you,'” she explained. “He said, ‘Just go to your piano and write a good song. You can do that.'” 

The resulting project was Trouble in Shangri-La.

She explained that the album was not about O.J. Simpson

With the album, Nicks examines fame and how some people fall from grace.

“It’s about, you know, making it to the top of your field; it’s about making it to Shangri-La, to paradise,” she told CHUM Radio in 2001, per The Nicks Fix. “And, finding out that paradise is a lot more difficult than you thought it would be.”

On more than one occasion, Nicks dispelled the notion that she wrote the album about the O.J. Simpson trial. Still, she often referenced it as an example of a fall from Shangri-la.

“When I wrote Trouble in Shangri-La it was the same time, it was the last two months of the O.J. Simpson trial. It’s not about O.J.; it’s about that situation and how sad it was,” she explained. “That somebody could be that famous and beloved and totally blow it, you know … where he could’ve had the greatest life.”

She shared that the album could also be interpreted as being about herself.

“If you’re in show business, there is a price,” she said, per the book Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams, and Rumours by Zoë Howe. “You get to have Shangri-La, but people just go crazy. It’s not [as] wonderful as everybody thinks sometimes. [The title track was written] in the last few months of the O.J. Simpson trial; it wasn’t really about them, it was just about how people make it to the top of their field and can’t seem to handle it. I’ve seen so many people screw up paradise, including myself.” 

Stevie Nicks said ‘Trouble in Shangri-La’ was her favorite album at the time she wrote it

Soon after its release, Nicks said Trouble in Shangri-La was her favorite album she’d made. She explained that she often feels this way about her work, though.

“I would have to say, right now, in the place that I am at right now, my favorite album would have to be Trouble in Shangri-La. If you’d have asked me on Bella Donna, it definitely would’ve been Bella DonnaWild Heart, it would’ve still been Wild Heart,” she explained. “You know, it’s like, because I’m so involved in the making this record now, that for me, of course, I would think it was the best. You know, which doesn’t mean anyone else would think it was the best, but I would think it’s the best because it’s kinda like been my whole life for the last several of years.”

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