The Song Stevie Nicks “Ripped Off”
Stevie Nicks performs at the 2001 Radio Music Awards at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas Friday, Oct. 26, 2001. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect
It’s easy to forget about Stevie Nicks’ commendable solo career because of her long and fruitful association with Fleetwood Mac. Still, even for a prolific songwriter, it might be challenging not to rip off music that originally exist already.
Nicks’ breakthrough record, “Edge of Seventeen,” was the third single from her 1982 first album Bella Donna. The song was inspired by a discussion Stevie Nicks had with Tom Petty’s first wife, who recalled meeting Petty “around the age of seventeen.” Nicks heard the line “at the edge of seventeen,” because Jane Petty’s southern accent was so thick that Nicks misunderstood it.
Nicks had initially planned to create a song about Tom and Jane Petty’s first encounter, but two tragedies—one in her personal life and one in the realm of popular culture—gave the song a new direction. The same week that Mark David Chapman fatally shot John Lennon in 1980, Nicks also lost her uncle Jonathan.
While two deaths associated with Nicks inspired the lyrics, her Bella Donna guitarist Waddy Wachtel said in 1999 that Nicks had “ripped off” a song by The Police from 1979 for the song’s music. The song was “Bring on the Night” from the album Regatta de Blanc. “I had never heard ‘Bring On the Night’, and at that session, they told me they were going to do this song based on this feel,” Wachtel explained. “I had heard something about the Police, but I didn’t know what they were talking about.”
The guitarist only figured out its similarities when he listened to “Edge of Seventeen” on the radio for the first time. “I had the radio on, and on comes what sounds like ‘Edge of Seventeen’ – and all of a sudden, there’s Sting’s voice! I thought, ‘We ripped them off completely!’ I called Stevie that night and said, ‘Listen to me: Don’t ever do that again!’”