Stevie Nicks – Happy Birthday Gold Dust Woman

Gold Dust Woman - Fleetwood Mac

In 1977 Fleetwood Mac released “Gold Dust Woman” as a B side to “You Make Loving Fun.” Written and sung by Stevie Nicks, it was placed on their classic Rumours album that same year. The song opens moodily, its recurring winding chord echoing out like a cry of eternal sadness. The exact meaning of the song has always been ambiguous. Nicks once told Courtney Love in an interview that she wasn’t quite sure what “Gold Dust Woman” was about. Whether it refers to cocaine addiction (gold dust) or a bad relationship and the consequent loss of identity, Nicks intimately conveys dark mood and despair in a way not many other singers in the history of rock have been able to. Those close to her felt the song referred to her break up with Lindsey Buckingham. Cris Morris, a recording assistant on the Rumours sessions explained, “Recording ‘Gold Dust Woman’ was one of the great moments because Stevie was very passionate about getting that vocal right. It seemed like it was directed straight at Lindsey and she was letting it all out. She worked right through the night on it, and finally did it after loads of takes. The wailing, the animal sounds and the breaking glass were all added later. Five or six months into it, once John had got his parts down, Lindsey spent weeks in the studio adding guitar parts, and that’s what really gave the album its texture.”

The song opens with the somber observation, “Wake up in the morning. See your sunrise loves to go down…” and purges, storm like, with the confessional, “Did she make you cry? Make you break down? Shatter your illusions of love. And is it over now? Do you know how to pick up the pieces and go home?” All the while, Lindsay Buckingham’s crying dobro shadows Stevie Nicks’ riveting delivery. The song ends with Nicks repeatedly chanting the haunting lines, “Pale shadow of a woman. Black widow…Pale shadow…She’s a dragon…Gold dust woman…” to emphasize the fact that she is forever trapped in her grief, estranged from a part of herself. “Gold Dust Woman” came to define Stevie Nicks, not only because of its sheer emotional power, but it also gave the public a view into Nicks’ private life. Most importantly, Stevie Nicks was able to convey the emotional barrenness of a failed relationship and the despair of drug addiction with such moving delivery and dark clarity that the song is as chilling to this day, 39 years later, as it was the day she first sang it.