Fleetwood Mac: “Rhiannon”

March 6, 2017 • 8:15 am

Presented for your approval on the fourth day of Fleetwood Mac Week, this is, for many, the best of all Fleetwood Mac songs. “Rhiannon” was of course written by Stevie Nicks, and first appeared on the 1975 album named after the group. Curiously, though, it never got higher than #11 on the U.S. charts and only #46 on the UK charts: a travesty for a song of this quality. You may have heard it a gazillion time before, but listen with fresh ears.

Wikipedia gives the backstory:

Nicks discovered Rhiannon in the early ’70s through a novel called Triad, by Mary Bartlet Leader. The novel is about a woman named Branwen, who is possessed by another woman named Rhiannon. There is mention of the Welsh legend of Rhiannon in the novel, but the characters in the novel bear little resemblance to their original Welsh namesakes (both Rhiannon and Branwen are major female characters in the medieval Welsh prose tales of the Mabinogion).

Nicks bought the novel in an airport just before a long flight and thought the name was so pretty that she wanted to write something about a girl named Rhiannon. She wrote “Rhiannon” in 1974, three months before joining Fleetwood Mac, while living with Richard Dashut and Lindsey Buckingham in Malibu, and has claimed that it took 10 minutes to write. [JAC: OMG—what a talent!]

After writing the song, Nicks learned that Rhiannon originated from a Welsh goddess, and was amazed that the haunting song lyrics applied to the Welsh Rhiannon as well. Nicks researched the Mabinogion story and began work on a Rhiannon project, unsure of whether it would become a movie, a musical, a cartoon, or a ballet. There are several “Rhiannon Songs” from this unfinished project including “Stay Away” and “Maker of Birds.” Nicks wrote the Fleetwood Mac song “Angel” based on the Rhiannon story.

How many girls were named “Rhiannon” after this song came out? I haven’t met any, but I bet some readers have.

This live version comes from The Dance concert and album (1997):

The album:


18 thoughts on “Fleetwood Mac: “Rhiannon”

  1. “How many girls were named Rhiannon after this song came out?”

    I worked with two sisters, one named “Rhiann” [sic] and the other “Sara.” I asked Sara “Are your parents Fleetwood Mac fans?” She smiled and said “Yes.” I imagine she got that question a lot.

    1. I’m one of those fans. My younger daughter is named Rhiannon thanks to this song. She is not fond of being called Rhianna who is far more popular a name these days.

      1. Rhiannon, or its abbreviated form, Rhian, are quite common girl’s names in Wales, but it’s probably not much to do with Fleetwood Mac. Traditional first names are still very popular there, especially among the Welsh-speaking section of the population.

  2. And Rhiannon is the first song on the Greatest Hits album, I think 1988. I favor number 8 on that record – As Long as You Follow.

  3. Fantastic music. Fleetwood Mac was never part of my integral music, but I do love to listen their compositional power, their editing, and the landscape….like Stockhausen combined with fire and provocation of sex but without sex.

    1. I like that!

      You missed your calling. You could make it as an art critic. Your fans wouldn’t understand what you said, but would wish that they could as they pretend they do.

  4. I don’t know much about Fleetwood Mac, but I do remember asking about them when I played an old computer game (even at the time) as a teenager. Anyone remember the Apple II game _Floppy_? It has two levels devoted to FM.

    1. From your link I found the one I haven’t heard since 1976 but has stayed with me this whole time. Goddamn! this video gave me both goosebumps and tears as it transported me back to my freshmen year in college……and, it just simply rocked like a retro boss. https://youtu.be/IT1q7L4QA0A

  5. The son of a dear friend of mine married a Rhiannon. She was named for the song.
    I will never forget her utterly radiant face during the (secular) marriage service.

  6. “How many girls were named “Rhiannon” after this song came out? I haven’t met any, but I bet some readers have.”

    I used to work with a woman who named her daughter Rhiannon. But after the Welsh goddess, not the song.

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