See Christine McVie Perform ‘Songbird’ Live Through The Decades
Watch the longtime Fleetwood Mac member perform her signature song over a 40-year span.
Christine McVie sadly died yesterday at the age of 79. Most well-known for her time in Fleetwood Mac, Christine Perfect married Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie in 1968. After appearing on the band’s 1968 album, Mr. Wonderful, Christine McVie played her first concert as an official member of the band in August 1970.
Fleetwood Mac began as a blues group but struggled to define their sound in the early 1970s, although Christine provided bright spots with songs like “Spare Me a Little of Your Love.” But with McVie and the addition of Linsday Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in 1975, the band now had an impressive trifecta of songwriters and the hits began to flow. Christine wrote or had a hand in some of the band’s biggest hits including “Over My Head” and “Say You Love Me” on 1975’s Fleetwood Mac as well as “Don’t Stop” and “You Making Loving Fun” on the career-altering but fraught follow up, Rumours. The 1977 LP also contained another signature composition, “Songbird.”
The story behind “Songbird” is an amazing one. Christine McVie noted in a 2017 interview that she woke with the song fully formed in her head.
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.
Ken Caillat shared his side of the story in a track-by-track breakdown of the album:
“Christine started playing something she had written on the piano one day, and it floored me. It was so beautiful and special, so personal – I knew I had to get just the right recording of it.
Before Rumours, I had…recorded an album with Joni Mitchell at the Berkeley Community Theatre. I thought doing a similar kind of concert recital recording was perfect for Songbird. Christine and the whole band loved the idea.
“The Berkley Community Theatre wasn’t available, so we used the Zellerbach Auditorium, the same kind of vibe. Christine sat on the stage and played a nine-foot Steinway, and she sounded magnificent. I used 15 tracks for the piano – two close mics and the rest were distant mics. For something like Songbird, I wanted the room to really speak.”
Christine and the room really do speak. Listen below:
While the album version came out beautifully — and also included Lindsay Buckingham strumming acoustic guitar along with McVie — it was in a live setting where “Songbird” and Christine really shine. The solo number often came toward the end of Fleetwood Mac concerts and remained a staple in the band’s repertoire for decades.
To remember Christine McVie, this edition of Throwback Thursday showcases the singer-songwriter performing “Songbird” over a 40-year span. Watch below: