How Tom Petty encouraged Stevie Nicks to work again after a “terrible record”

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Stevie Nicks is now known as one of the greatest rockers of all time, but there were times in her life when she struggled with a difficult choice: drugs or commercial success. Luckily, she chose the latter, but there was a period when her dreams nearly collapsed.

In the early days of her career, Nicks experimented with cocaine. However, after joining Fleetwood Mac with her then-partner Lindsey Buckingham, her drug use escalated. Surprisingly, group cocaine sessions before shows became a ritual, almost revered as a higher power.

But addiction’s consequences eventually caught up with her. Even after Fleetwood Mac disbanded, her reliance on drugs deepened. “All of us were drug addicts, but there was a point where I was the worst drug addict,” Nicks later recalled. “I was a girl, I was fragile, and I was doing a lot of coke. And I had that hole in my nose. So it was dangerous.”

To overcome her addiction, Nicks was prescribed Klonopin, which helped but also led to another addiction that lasted seven years. When she released her fifth album, Street Angel, its failure hit her hard, amplifying her feelings of regret.

“Even though I thought it was a terrible record, I loved the songs,” Nicks told Barnes and Noble. She was proud of her work, even during times when she felt disconnected from herself. “The songs were my children, you know. And I was very much grieving about the Klonopin and the Prozac because I had done many things in that eight years that I was not proud of, that were not me, things that I would never do.”

Around this time, Nicks met Tom Petty at the Ritz-Carlton, and he helped her reignite her passion. “He said, ‘You know what? Everybody makes mistakes. You can’t blame yourself for the Klonopin and the Prozac; you didn’t go out on the streets looking for that. That’s just a nasty thing that happened to you, so now get over it.’”

Petty continued, “‘You’re upset ’cause you’re 20 pounds overweight -lose it, you can do it. That’s not your problem. Your problem is knowing and remembering that you’re a great songwriter, Stevie. I’m not going to help you write songs, I don’t have to help you. You need to go home to your piano and sit down and do what you love to do.’”

According to Nicks, Petty reminded her that “your love is songwriting,” and challenged her with a stern but necessary question: “What in the world is up with you telling me that you need me to help you write songs?” After their dinner, Nicks felt motivated to return to her music. “That was just that little kick in the butt that I really, really needed from somebody that I totally respect, that always has my best in mind,” she said.

Her next album, Trouble in Shangri-La, was her biggest success since 1983’s The Wild Heart. To thank Petty, she included the song “That Made Me Stronger,” showing that she had found herself again, needing only Petty’s affirmations to help her get there.

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