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Behind the Meaning of “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks

June 16, 2023
edge of seventeen meaning

Stevie Nicks, the legendary singer-songwriter and member of the iconic rock band Fleetwood Mac, has crafted numerous timeless songs throughout her illustrious career.

One song that resonates deeply with fans and holds a special place in the hearts of many is “Edge of Seventeen.”

Released as a single in 1981 and featured on her debut solo album, Bella Donna, this song has captivated listeners with its haunting melodies, poetic lyrics, and enigmatic meaning.

Beyond its catchy hooks and infectious rhythm, “Edge of Seventeen” holds a more profound significance that delves into personal experiences, emotional turmoil, and deep introspection.

This article will uncover the layers behind the meaning of “Edge of Seventeen,” providing insights into its origins, Nicks’ creative process, and its lasting impact on the artist and her devoted audience.

Join us to unravel the enigma behind this enduring classic and discover the stories and emotions beneath the surface of Stevie Nicks’ unforgettable anthem, “Edge of Seventeen.”

Song Background

Nicks got the idea for the title during a chat with Tom Petty’s then-wife Jane in the late 1970s.

They talked about how the couple first met, and she asked Jane to tell her their story.

Jane Petty told Stevie Nicks that she met her husband when she was “seventeen.”

Jane Petty is from Gainesville, Florida, and has a strong accent, so Stevie Nicks thought she said “edge,” not “age.” The line stuck in her head.

In the same conversation, she told Jane she would write a song about it, giving Jane credit for the idea.

When she put out Edge of Seventeen a few years later, she kept her promise and put Jane Petty’s name on the album credits.

John Lennon’s Involvement 

Nicks originally wanted to write a song about the Pettys.

These plans changed when John Lennon was killed the same week her uncle Jonathan died.

Suddenly, Nicks had a different perspective trying to take its place.

So she put them together.

At age 17, she started writing about Tom and Jane, making a story for them.

At the same time, she started writing about Lennon and her uncle.

John Lennon was shot while Nicks was in Australia. 

Jimmy Iovine, Nicks’ director, and boyfriend had been a friend of Lennon’s for a long time.

During the 1970s, they worked on projects together.

Nicks said they were great friends and that Iovine always told him stories about Lennon.

She tried hard to make him feel better after Lennon’s death.

Nicks said the whole house went quiet when the news of Lennon’s death came out.

She found nothing she did or said made the shock and pain disappear.

She soon flew back to Phoenix, Arizona, to see her uncle before he died.

He had been sick with cancer for a long time and died as the disease worsened.

Her uncle died while Nicks held his hand the day she arrived.

She and her younger cousin John Nicks were there when he died.

Nicks was greatly affected by the fact that he was holding his hand as he died.

She said she was “terribly sad” and thought she could feel his spirit leaving him.

She started writing “Edge of Seventeen” while she was in Phoenix.

She talked about how she ran down the halls looking for someone to comfort her and wondered why no one else was there when her uncle died.

Nicks went home and went straight to the piano to keep working on her song to deal with her grief.

Doves & Cacti

Nicks said in 2020 that she had never heard a dove’s call before she wrote the song and had only recently heard one for the first time.

She got the idea for the song about a dove’s call from a menu at a restaurant in Phoenix.

In 1980, while eating, she read, “The white-wing dove sings a song that sounds like she’s singing, ooh, ooh, ooh.

She makes her home here in the great Saguaro cactus that provides shelter and protection for her.”

Nicks thought that these words described the spirit of her uncle.

Nicks says the line about days going by “like a strand in the wind” is about how fast those few days felt to her.

She said her uncle’s illness upset her so much that the days passed too quickly.

When she sings that she “went today” and might go again tomorrow, she means she saw him the day before he died.

Nicks went to her uncle and aunt’s house, where soft music was playing, to see them.

She said she thought it was an excellent place for a person’s spirit to leave their body, like the white-winged dove in her song.

The lyrics show how sad she was to lose “both Johns.”

The nightbird calls to the dove, ordering it to “come away” with it into the dark unknown.

Nicks said the song ended up being “about a violent death.”

She was scared because she had never lost a family member before.

The white-winged dove came to stand for peace for John Lennon, and the dove of the saguaro cactus did the same for her uncle.

She considered the dove a sad and dramatic sign of those two months.

Composition

Waddy Wachtel plays a 16-note guitar riff throughout “Edge of Seventeen.”

“Edge of Seventeen” is full of metaphors, like most of Nicks’ songs.

She believed the song had a lot of energy, so recording it took two nights of constant practicing.

Nicks said that she even cried in the middle of the bridge as she sang about the sea and how she never expected it to rain, and how the colors changed but never changed.

Nicks and the rest of the band gave their all to the recording.

She later said it was exactly what her uncle would have wanted: for her “to go straight to the piano.”

Song Performance

“Edge of Seventeen” got to number 11 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it stayed for two weeks.

It also reached No. 11 on Canada’s RPM Top 100 Singles chart.

In 1982, the live version of the B-side hit No. 26 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock list.

The song’s album version had already reached No. 4 on the Mainstream Rock list the year before.

In 1982, “Edge of Seventeen” was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

The song has been on the charts more than once since it was released.

On season nine of The Voice, Amanda Ayala and Shelby Brown’s version of “Edge of Seventeen” hit the iTunes rock chart top 100.

After it was used in a John Lewis ad in 2021, it made its first appearance on the UK charts.

Notable Covers

Other artists have covered “Edge of Seventeen”.

Nicks was a guest star on the NBC show Up All Night in 2012.

Nicks’ 1981 song “Sleeping Angel” was part of the show.

It included brand new duets with Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph from “Edge of Seventeen” and “Whenever I Call You Friend”.

“Dreams” by the Corrs and “Gold Dust Woman” by Courtney Love’s band Hole are both famously successful covers of the songs.

Destiny’s Child’s number one single from 2001, “Bootylicious,” sampled Nicks’s “Edge of Seventeen,” and Nicks was in the music video for the song.

She was also in the MTV episode of Making the Video with Bootylicious, where she said how much she liked the song and the group.

Lindsay Lohan also covered this song on her 2005 album A Little More Personal (Raw).

Audiomachine released a cover in 2018 on the album Trailerized: Covers and Originals.

In 2020, Miley Cyrus released a song called “Midnight Sky” that used parts of “Edge of Seventeen.”

She later put out “Edge of Midnight”, a remix of the song that she did with Nicks.

The Legacy Of “Edge of Seventeen”

“Edge of Seventeen” (Just Like the White Winged Dove) has become one of Nicks’ most famous songs among fans and critics.

It is essential to her discography because it shows the poetic lyrics that define her solo career.

It’s popular partly because the unique sound makes it stand out and easily recognizable as one of Nicks’ songs.

It sounds a lot like Nicks’ other songs, with a simple chord structure, a drum beat, and a 16th-note guitar riff.

Its effect on both Nicks’ solo career and her time with Fleetwood Mac was more important than how well it did in the industry.

With the help of “Edge of Seventeen”, Bella Donna was a big hit, which showed both music producers and fans that Nicks could do well on her own without the group that made her famous.

Nicks felt like she had her confidence back after Bella Donna’s success and “Edge of Seventeen’s” tremendous success.

She kept improving her solo work and tried to bring Fleetwood Mac back together, which had been challenging because of tensions between Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham and Christine and John McVie.

After a 12-day tour to promote the album, she returned to work with Fleetwood Mac on Mirage.

“Edge of Seventeen” is still a big part of Nicks’ live solo shows, and she usually performs it at the night’s final set.

The singer has said that every time she sings it, it takes her back to the time in her life when she was grieving for her uncle.

Fans always give her gifts during the set, especially flowers and pets of all kinds, which Nick then gives to local children’s hospitals.

Nicks had said that the song now means something different than when it was written.

It’s no longer just a sad song; it’s also a song of love, peace, and remembrance.

You may also like: Meaning of “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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