The tale of Fleetwood Mac (the Reader’s Digest version, anyway) can be told in two parts. There’s the blues rock version of the band, which featured a revolving-door of guitarists and gradually transitioned into softer rock over several records, and then there’s the pop powerhouse the band became famous as once guitarist-singer Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks joined for the outfit’s self-titled 1975 record. It’s the landmark album that would give the band its first huge success in America and result in several fan favorites like “Rhiannon” and “Landslide”. The album began a string of records lasting into the late ’80s, including Rumours in ’77, where the group, despite plenty of inner turmoil, could seemingly do no wrong musically.
Though not originally a single, “Landslide” emerged from that record as not only its most popular song with fans but also with fellow artists. That’s understandable. The folk-rock song, written and sung by Nicks with Buckingham on guitars, may be as relatable as any song in the classic rock canon. Nicks wrote the song while looking out at the Rocky Mountains during a crossroads in her life, where she had to decide between returning to school or continuing on with Buckingham after the pair had been dropped by their record label. The lyrics, however, will resonate with anyone feeling overwhelmed by a major life decision and the pressures that time and change apply.
In honor of 45 years of Fleetwood Mac and “Landslide”, we revisit five cover versions that have helped us navigate the seasons of our own lives.
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Singer-songwriter and pianist Tori Amos has never shied away from scattering meaningful covers throughout her setlists, and she has turned to “Landslide” in concert more than any other but “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Rattlesnakes” by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. As with all her covers, Amos divines and taps into her own well of emotion when she sings Nicks’ song, her signature classic piano sound adding another shade to the seasons of the Fleetwood Mac original.
The Chicks (Formerly the Dixie Chicks)
“Landslide” is so in The Chicks’ wheelhouse that you almost forget that Nicks, in part, invented that wheelhouse while those “chicks” were still little girls. Lead singer Natalie Maines has mentioned that part of the song’s appeal was that she was the same age as Nicks when the Fleetwood Mac singer had written and performed the song. That emotional connection and the group’s two- and three-part harmonies would send their 2002 single right up the charts, even surpassing the success of the original. The cover was a landslide victory for the country stars.
“In the Mourning” was the first song Paramore’s Hayley Williams wrote following the departure of Josh and Zac Farro from the band (the latter has since rejoined). In many ways, it’s a spiritual cousin to “Landslide”, a moment when Williams fears all she’s built being torn down. It’s fitting, then, that Williams and guitarist Taylor York mashed up parts of Nicks’ song with their own during live shows. Nicks had lived that moment already and wrote and sung about it, and Williams clearly felt her kindred spirit.
The Smashing Pumpkins
It’s hard to believe that Smashing Pumpkins fans expected to find a Fleetwood Mac cover as a “Disarm” B-Side. Having made a dent in the exploding alternative scene of the early ’90s with guitars stacked upon guitars, Billy Corgan snuck this Nicks-approved acoustic cover into fans’ ears, and it turned out to be the band’s highest-charting song pre-Mellon Collie. The fact that Corgan made it work so naturally really speaks to the song’s universality, able to transcend both gender and generation.
Most artists probably hope that their cover version of a song will win favor with, or at least get a nod of approval from, the original artist. In the case of former One Direction member Harry Styles, Nicks has done even better than a wink or nod or Twitter thumbs up. On multiple occasions over the past few years, Nicks has joined Styles onstage, including for duets of “Landslide” that have made us reimagine the enduring image we have of her sharing a stage with a quiet, strumming Buckingham. Styles went on to repay the favor by inducting Nicks into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019, making her the first woman enshrined twice.