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Stevie Nicks Recalls Songs, Advice and Friendship From Tom Petty

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

A close friend and self-professed super-fan of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for decades, Stevie Nicks has been looking back on her relationship with Petty and the last time they performed together.

In an interview with Rolling Stone a week after Petty’s unexpected death at the age of 66, Nicks fondly recalled her gig opening for her favorite band just a few months prior — at London’s Hyde Park in July. There, Nicks performed “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” from her 1981 debut solo album, Bella Donnawith, among others, the men who wrote it, Petty and Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell. (They had last performed the song together in February, when Petty was honored as the MusiCares charity Person of the Year.)

“When I went into the dressing room before the Hyde Park show, it was me, the Heartbreakers, the Webb Sisters [Petty’s backup singers], some other friends,” she said. “We stood there and rehearsed it with [drummer] Steve Ferrone beating on the couch, everybody sort of humming their parts. Tom and Mike played guitar. Ron Blair dragged out a bass but didn’t play it very loud because it wasn’t plugged in. We went through it a couple of times. It was funny – you play a wrong chord, and everybody’s eyes go straight up. We didn’t know it as well as we thought we did.”

Nicks, who first met Petty in 1978, has long joked, “If Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers had said ‘Leave Fleetwood Mac and come and join us,’ I probably would have joined Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.” But he told her there were no girls allowed in the Heartbreakers. So she settled for a long friendship and occasional collaborator, helped along by her then-boyfriend Jimmy Iovine, who had been working as an engineer and producer for Petty.

“Stevie came to me around ‘78. And she was this absolutely stoned-gone huge fan. And it was her mission in life that I should write her a song,” Petty said. “And we were a little wary of Stevie. We didn’t quite know whether to like Stevie or not, because we kind of saw this big corporate rock band, Fleetwood Mac, which was wrong — they were actually artistic people. But in those days, nobody trusted that sort of thing, and we just kept thinking, “What does she want from us?” And then, of course, she turned into one of my great, great friends forever. But Stevie was really adamant about me writing her a song.”

Nicks’ friend, pop and country singer-songwriter Shania Twain, had come to the show, and after Nicks’ opening set, the two watched Petty’s set from the side of the stage. “Shania and I watched Tom’s show and sang at the top of our lungs,” Nicks recalled. “I look back on that and what a magical moment that was. Shania got to stand there with me and watch my boys.”

One of her boys, Petty, was always giving her advice, she added as she reminisced about their friendship. “He gave me a lot of advice about stuff,” she said. “He was the kind of person who said, ‘Here’s my advice. If you take it, great. If you don’t, that’s fine too.’ He was never going to shake a finger in your face and make you feel bad if you didn’t take his advice.”

One of those instances occurred while the two were having dinner one night in 1994, following her stint in rehab. “I had a visitation from an old boyfriend, right after my rehab, and it had shaken me,” Nicks recalled. “I asked Tom if he would help me write a song. And he said, “No. You are one of the premier songwriters of all time. You don’t need me to write a song for you.” He said, “Just go to your piano and write a good song. You can do that.”

Nicks, buoyed by his confidence and her and with a sneaking suspicion that he’d follow up and want to hear what she wrote, got to work that night. She included the song, “Hard Advice,” on her 2014 album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault. “The chorus goes,Sometimes he’s my best friend.’ It was really “Sometimes Tom’s my best friend.” I changed it because I knew Tom would not want me to say his name,” Nicks said. “That’s how well I know him.”

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