Grand Rapids Pops celebrates 50th anniversary of Fleetwood Mac with tribute show, Sept. 22-24

Fleetwood Mac’s drummer, Mick Fleetwood, who gave his name to the band and who is one of its two remaining founders, became a member of the group for reasons having nothing to do with music.

What’s more, Fleetwood only found out recently.

One of the top pop/rock acts of the 1970s and 1980s, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, Fleetwood Mac remains among the best-selling rock bands of all time.

Grand Rapids Pops salutes the iconic group with “A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac” to open the Fox Motors Pops series this weekend.

Shows are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 22-23, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24, in DeVos Performance Hall. Tickets start at $18 adults or $5 students.

Fleetwood Mac, founded in 1967 in London, celebrated its 50th anniversary this past summer. The English blues-rock band’s greatest era of success begin in 1975 with the addition to the lineup of guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks, both Americans.

The new pop-flavored sound led immediately to Fleetwood Mac’s biggest single, Rhiannon on its eponymous 10th album titled Fleetwood Mac.

Mick Fleetwood, who has written three books about the group, was one of its three founders. The others include electric bass player John McVie, whose name also contributed to the name of the band, and blues-rock guitarist Peter Green, who originally was the group’s main singer, guitarist and songwriter.

It was Green who recruited Fleetwood to the group first dubbed John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. But Fleetwood only recently learned why Green recruited him for the group renamed Fleetwood Mac.

“Well, you were so sad,” Fleetwood recalled Green saying in an interview published in Salon magazine this month.

“You were so sad, and you had broken up with Jenny and you were brokenhearted, and I thought you needed to do something.  And that's what made my mind up.”

“He said, ‘I thought you needed it. You needed to pull yourself together,’” Fleetwood told Salon. “And I thought that was such a loving statement. It had nothing to do with playing. He did it as a friend to pull me out of being, you know, blue.”

That story is reflected in the title of Fleetwood’s latest book, “Love that Burns – A Chronicle of Fleetwood Mac: Volume 1, 1967-1974,” a limited-edition book published on Sept. 19.

“And the irony of the title is, if you jump forward thirty years, the whole legacy of this strange band, is all interwoven with love, really, and dysfunctional versions of it as well,” Fleetwood said.

The band’s biggest album, the 1977 release, Rumors, was all about the internal strife in the group. Just one year after Fleetwood Mac rebooted and rebranded itself, the lives of all five musicians were in turmoil. McVie and his wife, Christine McVie, the band’s keyboardist since 1970s, were ending their marriage of eight years. Buckingham and Nicks, who were romantically involved when they joined the band, were having an on-and-off relationship with frequent fights. Mick Fleetwood faced domestic difficulties of his own after learning his wife and the mother of their two children had had an affair with his best friend.

Despite their personal troubles, Fleetwood Mac entered the recording studio to write such songs as Go Your Own Way, Dreams, Don’t Stop and You Make Loving Fun. Released in February 1977, Rumors would spend 31 weeks on top of the pop charts and win the 1978 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

Grand Rapids Symphony Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt leads “A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac” featuring Landslide, a sextet of Los Angeles-based musicians, who took their name from one of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hit songs.

It’s the fourth classic pop/rock tribute show Bernhardt has led with the Grand Rapids Symphony in the past year. The others were salutes to the music of the Beatles in April in DeVos Hall followed by tributes to the music of ABBA and to Chicago in July for the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops.

“In the past 20 years, the cover band playing ‘the music of’ has become incredibly popular,” Bernhardt said. “That’s largely because so many of the bands still have their significant followings, and there is significant nostalgia for the music and the era.”

The presence of a symphony orchestra isn’t simply an add-on.

“Some bands actually either used an orchestra in the background of their songs or conceived their songs orchestrally,” Bernhardt said. “In particular, when the strings are well crafted behind a ballad or a thoughtful song, the emotional content of the song can be underpinned.”

Such examples include the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” as well as several of the Fab Four’s songs produced by Phil Spector, such as “The Long and Winding Road.”

“The quality of the show depends upon two items - the musicianship of the band itself, and how much they invested in orchestral arrangements,” Bernhardt said.

Today, Fleetwood Mac continues to tour and perform periodically.

“We've done, as a band, a lot,” Fleetwood told Salon. “And the main thing is, [we] survived the original idea that those four original members of Fleetwood Mac had, which was a really simple desire just to play music that we really loved to play.”

Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at 7:00 AM
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