As tributes and heartfelt condolences flood the internet in the wake of Christine McVie’s death on November 30, fans and rockstars alike are recalling and celebrating many of her greatest songs.
While many of her offerings, such as Everywhere, Little Lies, Hold Me, You Make Loving Fun and more are fabled chart-smashing hits, McVie’s ballad Songbird, from Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours, shines above them all as her signature anthem.
Back in 2016, during an interview with the Guardian, the late musician recalled the song-writing process behind Songbird, as well as the moment she first played it for the rest of the band.
“That was a strange little baby, that one,” McVie said to journalist Peter Robinson. “I woke up in the middle of the night and the song just came into my head. I got out of bed, played it on the little piano I have in my room, and sang it with no tape recorder. I sang it from beginning to end: everything. I can’t tell you quite how I felt; it was as if I’d been visited—it was a very spiritual thing.”
On introducing it to her bandmates in Fleetwood Mac, she continued, “I was frightened to play it again in case I’d forgotten it. I called a producer first thing the next day and said, ‘I’ve got to put this song down right now.’
“I played it nervously, but I remembered it. Everyone just sat there and stared at me. I think they were all smoking opium or something in the control room. I’ve never had that happen to me since. Just the one visitation. It’s weird.”
In a 2017 interview alongside Lindsey Buckingham in People, McVie is questioned by the interviewer on whether she believed her music had an “supernatural” element to it. In response, she used the song-writing process of Songbird as an example of this otherworldly power coming into play. She said: “For some peculiar reason I wrote Songbird in half an hour. I’ve never been able to figure out how I did that. I woke up in the middle of the night and the song was there in my brain, chords lyrics melody, everything.
“I played it in my bedroom and didn’t have anything to tape it on. So I had to stay awake all night so I wouldn’t forget it and I came in the next morning to the studio and had [producer] Ken Callait put it on a 2-track. That was how the song ended up being. I don’t know where that came from. I wished it would happen more often, but it hasn’t.”
As Newsweek reports, in Rumours‘ producer Ken Caillat book, Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album, McVie got to record the song on a nine-foot Steinway piano inside the University of California’s Zellerbach Hall on March 3, 1976.
“As a surprise for Christine, I had requested that a bouquet of roses be placed on her piano with three colored spotlights to illuminate them from above. I really wanted to set the mood!” Caillat wrote.
“When Christine arrived, we dimmed the house lights so that all she could see were the flowers and the piano with the spotlight shining down from the heavens. She nearly broke into tears. Then she started to play.”
As well as appearing on the Rumours album, Songbird was released as a b’side on the album’s second single, Dreams.