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Stevie Nicks doesn’t need a break-up, a new love affair, a death, or any other life-changing event or moment to inspire her to write a song. For instance, the simplest things, like a smile from a stranger, can give her all the inspiration she needs to go home, write a poem, and then turn it into a hit. However, in the case of one of her biggest tunes with Fleetwood Mac, “Gypsy,” Nicks did turn to a life-changing event to inspire her.

Stevie Nicks performing at the Rosemont Horizon, Illinois, 1983.
Stevie Nicks | Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Stevie Nicks based ‘Gypsy’ on her desire to get back to her ‘roots’

In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Nicks explained her songwriting process. She said a man could smile at her on the street, and it’ll prompt her to go home and write a poem with the line, “The smile was the only thing I saw…” Then, she’s off on a roll and takes her poem to the piano to complete the song.

It would seem as if a similar thing happened to Nicks before she wrote “Gypsy.” Nicks explained the song came about after she moved from a huge house to a smaller one. Moving is a simple event. However, the song talks about a more profound experience Nicks had from moving homes. Nicks downsized because she wanted to get back to her “roots.” So while the moving was a simple act, the reason for the move was more life-changing than anything else.

“‘Gypsy’ was written another time when I moved out of a big house into a really small house, and I put my bed on the floor and just decorated it totally gypsy-esque, and really funky, because I really wanted to get away from the big time-like this [motions to the house she was in], very sophisticated home. I just wanted to go back to my roots,” Nicks explained.

‘Gypsy’s lyrics describe Nicks’ desire for simpler times

In “Gypsy,” Nicks literally describes what she did to decorate her new home. “So I’m back to the velvet underground. Back to the floor that I love. To a room with some lace and paper flowers. Back to the gypsy that I was,” she sings. Those lyrics sound so effortless, but they described a more complex time in Nicks’ life when she wanted to go back to the way she was before fame and Fleetwood Mac.

However, lyrics like, “To the gypsy. That remains. Her face says freedom. With a little fear. I have no fear. Have only love. And if I was a child. And the child was enough. Enough for me to love. Enough to love,” talk about what made Nicks want to return to her roots. She thought about herself before the fame, and she thought about the freedom she had. Nicks just wants to return to those calmer days.

“So that’s what ‘Gypsy’ means: it’s just a search for before this all happened,” Nicks said (per Far Out magazine). “And later, I tacked on a line for my friend Robin, my best friend, who died of leukaemia: ‘I still see your bright eyes.’ But then, Robin wasn’t sick yet. She got cancer, and died within a year.”


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Nicks still has moments where she wants to return to the gypsy

Nicks says she still gets moments where she wants to simplify her life and therefore resorts to going back to her gypsy roots. She ditches her bedframe and everything.

“In the old days, before Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey [Buckingham] and I had no money, so we had a king-size mattress, but we just had it on the floor,” Nicks said. “I had old vintage coverlets on it, and even though we had no money it was still really pretty… Just that and a lamp on the floor, and that was it—there was a certain calmness about it.

“To this day, when I’m feeling cluttered, I will take my mattress off of my beautiful bed, wherever that may be, and put it outside my bedroom, with a table and a little lamp.”

Ultimately, going back to the gypsy that she was helped Nicks during especially trying times in her life. It just goes to show that Nicks needs certain things around her to make her feel better sometimes. They might be simple things like lace, paper flowers, and even rainbow lightbulbs, but they have a deeper meaning to her, just like “Gypsy” does.