Monday, October 28, 2019

Blast of the Mohicans

I had a blast talking with Blake Howard on The Last (12 Minutes) of the Mohicans podcast, but once again felt that I'd left so much unsaid and unexplored that I'd wanted to get to. The entire mini-series is available now and the guest line up is juicy. The episodes are as follows:
1: Joe Lynch
2: Fran Hoepfner and Kris Tapley
3: Walter Chaw and J.R. Hennessy
4: Bilge Ibiri and Cam Williams
5: Carly Severn and Mark Olsen
6: Dante Spinotti
7: Brendan Hodges and Jedidiah Ayres
8: Jordan Harper and Stu Coote
9: Sean Burns and Jen Johans
10: Travis Woods and Craig Mathieson
11: Manohla Dargis and Matt Zoller Seitz
12: Michael Mann
 I can't tell you how pleased I am to be keeping this company. It's ridiculous.

Last of the Mohicans was my introduction to Michael Mann and it fucking blew my hair back. I'd grown up reading kiddie versions of James Fennimore Cooper's Leatherstocking tales as well as watching the Steve Forrest / Ned Romero made for TV movies from the 70s (did you know that before Madeleine Stowe was in Last of the Mohicans in 1992 she was in the sequel to 1977's Last of the Mohicans, 1978's The Deerslayer?) which played at about the same tone and aesthetic as Fess Parker's Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. But this... was something so much better. It was so... romantic. And tragic. And just aces all around.

The chance to talk about it with Blake and in the company kept was a serious honor eclipsed only by how much fun it's been listening to the episodes. Really, it's the closest thing I've got to hanging out with friends on any kind of regular basis these days. You guys are my people. Listen here or wherever you get podcasts.

And hey - be sure to stick around once my initial segment is over because I got a bonus segment wherein Blake and I discuss the late-great Russell Means and some of the on-set turbulence of the production. Thanks too to Benjamin Whitmer for the anecdotes and insights.

Also, Blake is producing another meditation on a certain film in bite-size chunks podcast that'll be landing in time for Noirvember: Increment Vice hosted by Travis Woods. Travis dropped the schedule for the release of the first five episodes this week.

Lookit that - Blake, Fran, Jordan, Kayleigh Donaldson and Kim Morgan. That's a strong opening volley, man. Check out Kim's terrific piece on Inherent Vice at the New Beverly Cinema blog and then tell me you're not excited to hear more. On twitter Travis also named a few more guests for Increment Vice including Karina Longworth, Matt Zoller Seits, Rian Johnson, Elric Kane, Bob Freelander, Drew McSweeney and uh me. Shit, guess I'd better bring my A-game. Looking forward to this.

On the latest episode of the Do Some Damage podcast I was all prepared to talk about El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, but right as I was getting ready to watch it in preparation the news of the passing of Robert Forster found me and... ugh, I switched tracks and gave a handful of Forster recs including William Lustig's Vigilante! Joke's on me though, 'cause it turns out Forster is in El Camino reprising his brief Breaking Bad role and you'll just have to wait till next time to hear my thoughts on it.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Lure of The Wolfen and Rocktoberfest

Very excited to be back on The Projection Booth podcast this time discussing Michael Wadleigh's Wolfen with Mike White and motherfucking Stephen Graham Jones. Seriously, if there were one person I would choose to listen to pontificate on werewolves in general, nevermind one with ties to American Indian lore, it would be Jones.

Why him? Well, the first time I saw Wolfen was only a matter of weeks after reading his wonderful Arkansas werewolf crime novel Mongrels. I didn't have any preconceived notions of Wolfen outside of expecting wolves and the whole Indian connection sent me scurrying to Google Stephen Graham Jones and Wolfen for connections where I discovered he'd recently introduced an Alamo Draft House screening of the film in Denver. Fuck that sounds like a great event.

Anyway, very pleased just for the chance to listen to this episode let alone participate in it. I rewatched the film a couple of times the week before recording it and my admiration for the movie only grew. I also read Whitley Strieber's source novel The Wolfen and watched Philippe Mora's adaptation of Strieber's non-fiction book Communion.

Having now read The Wolfen and seeing how greatly the film strays from the source material I find it remarkable that Strieber's three adapted works, Communion, Wolfen and Tony Scott's feature debut The Hunger, each made by different filmmakers in separate sub-genres of horror, all achieve such striking heights of style that maximize the potential inherent within the material.

Anyway, tune in for that conversation here.

And if you're looking for more spooky-ass podcast shit you can also listen to me yap my trap on The Projection Booth about Brad Anderson's Session 9.

Man... thinking back to the day I recorded that Session 9 episode and it was also the day of the N@B *Pumpkin Spice Edition and... it was such a great event and I was so sick that day. Soooooo sick. It kills me to think that I didn't have more energy to pump into those amazing readers, because it doesn't matter how much I give them they always give me back more.

I was thinking about it because fuckin Fred Venturini read at that event and I think it's the last time I saw him and since then I've read a new book by him (that's not out) and he'd got a brand new book he's promoting, Escape of Light (St. Louis area folks can find him at Barnes & Noble in Fairview Heights on Saturday from 4-7pm).

Lookit that crew, man. Since that night Jessica Leonard has announced the sale of her debut novel Antioch (which she read from at the event) to Perpetual Motion Machine, S. L. Coney and (N@B veteran) Richard Thomas have announced their new venture; Storyville Studio.

Josh Woods' released the collection O Monstrous World!, Seth Ferranti has been keeping the content coming with multiple film projects and Gorilla Convict Publications, Hoping we get a new novel from Kea Wilson soon and Sarah Jilek joined N@B star Tawny Pike in making the Stiletto Heeled issue of Switchblade Magazine such a fucking beast. Get on that shit if you haven't yet.

Will we ever have another N@B-STL event?

I dunno. Maybe. I love 'em and they've... caught on? and that's very cool and gratifying, but honestly they're exhausting for me to put together and I've got other things I'm focusing on for the moment.

I'm super fond of the crew that's come through St. Louis doing the event - I'm proud to think we may have boosted a worthy signal or two and I'm floored by power and raw fucking talent that we saw at those events.

If you dig the same things I do - and if you'd like to support them, let me encourage you that even a single-sentence review left on a website (Amazon, B&, Goodreads etc.) helps boost the signal of very worthy folk whom I guarantee appreciate it very much. Hell, a tweet or facebook or blog post do good things too.

So spread some love for recent releases by N@B alum like Laura Benedict's The Stranger Inside, Max Booth III's Carnivorous Lunar Activities, William Boyle's A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself, Hilary Davidson's One Small Sacrifice, Sean Doolittle's Kill Monster, Jake Hinkson's Dry County, John Hornor Jacobs' A Lush & Seething Hell, Matthew McBride's End of the Ocean, Anthony Neil Smith's The Cyclist, John F.D. Taff's The Fearing, Fred Venturini's Escape of Light, Josh Woods' O Monstrous World!

I've been enjoying participating in Daily Grindhouse's Rocktoberfest 2019. Every day on the site they've been featuring pieces about horror movies with strong musical components as well as having multiple folks answer questions about music in horror films. I wrote about Agnieszka Smoczynska's wonderful 2015 Mermaid monster musical The Lure. Or you can click here to find out my favorite 90s horror soundtrack (pop songs, not score) and here for my favorite use of a pop song in a horror movie. Right here I talk about my favorite performance from a musician in a horror film and tomorrow I'll answer the question: What's your favorite John Carpenter score? It's been fun participating along with Grindhouse folks like Jon Abrams, Rob Dean, Matt Wedge, Stephanie Crawford, Jeremy Lowe, Alejandra Gonzalez and a whole bunch more.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

31 New to Me Horror Picks For October

For October I've made a list of 31 movies that I dug on my first-watch in the last year. Going through this list you may find legitimate grounds for completely dismissing me - seriously, you've never seen X or Y or Z before? Nope. I hadn't. Horror really isn't my first love, but I'm coming around and did honestly enjoy all of these flicks.

Antibirth - Danny Perez - If the names Natasha Lyonne, Chloë Sevigny and Meg Tilly aren't enough to get you interested in this goopy, soupy sludge of a hilarious paranoid, stoner body horror gross out then I just don't even know about you. It's the funniest, goriest thing I lived, laughed loved this year and I want to go again.

Apostle - Gareth Evans - The dude behind The Raid movies proves he can do something different like somebody said hey, Gareth can't you do anything different? Well, he can. And I liked it. It's a Netflix original which pretty much means you get movies that studios wanting a theatrical run won't release - they tend to be a little shaggy in the edit - and this one's no exception. It's longer than really seems necessary, but good gravy it does deliver where it's supposed to. Some great swampy, subterranean horror here as well as a couple gnarly scenes of martyr porn. Now, Gareth, can you do something same again?

Assassination Nation - Sam Levinson - Man did they think they had box-office gold with this bit of culturally relevant bloodletting. I dunno maybe the marketing campaign hurt it or maybe folks were bracing for the one-to-one allegories in the wake of Get Out. Or maybe the incessant acerbically teenaged-ness of the protagonists was just a bit much for audiences to really get behind (a problem I have with a lot of horror films - especially teenaged-character-heavy slasher films. I often end up rooting for everybody to die - recent examples include Tragedy Gilrs, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Donkey Punch - which isn't to say I don't enjoy those movies, I mean I get my wish more times than not, but a recipe for mass appeal it is not). Whatever the reason this was a zeitgeist misfire that may yet have its moment. Going for it - bigness. Just, I mean, huge swings at (obvious, but) deserving targets and the full-on batshit mayhem of the climax. It's loud and brash, splashy and confident and y'know pretty watchable even if I don't think it touches the Purge movies for catharsis.

Black Christmas - Bob Clark - Can't believe how unaware of this slasher classic I was. All I knew was it was from the director of Porky's and A Christmas Story (wasn't aware Clark had also done a couple more teenage-favorites of mine, From the Hip and Turk 182) and that didn't give me, any kind of preparation for what was on the way. I think... it might be my favorite slasher movie? Gonna have to get back to you on that when I've had a little more time and maybe filled in a few more blindspots, but I found it unusually satisfying. Great look - so warm in ways that feel comforting and claustrophobia needlingly stuffy simultaneously - set at Christmas and works as a Christmas movie too as far as I'm concerned, good use of a single locale, good cast and a few superb scares. Creepy and atmospheric.

CamDaniel Goldhaber - A sex-cam operator has her online identity stolen and suffers real-world consequences (loss of income, personal security concerns, having to come out to her family and community as a sex worker), but that's really just the tip of iceberg in this De Palma-y thriller. Maybe it's my age, my squareness and general generational anxiety about technology and sex norms, but I was unnerved and upset by many of the film's concerns that I wouldn't have been as a younger man. Make a good double feature with King Kelly.

Chopping Mall Jim Wynorski - Stupid fun Robocop/Short Circuit mashup that should have saved us from Chappie. Lazers and laughs and good gore bits.

Christine - John Carpenter - Confession: even though I'm a big fan of Carpenter I definitely prefer his science fiction films over the overt horror stuffs (I know, I know, how do you delineate and untangle those elements? I guess I'm saying I like Escape From New York a lot more than Halloween, and Big Trouble in Little China lots more than Prince of Darkness) so maybe that's why I'd never sought out this Stephen King adaptation before now. And? It's never going to be one of my favorite Carpenters, but it will probably survive as one of my favorite King adaptations (never having read the book).

C.H.U.D. - Douglas Cheek - Another movie long time a part of my consciousness, but it turns out I was very mistaken on its actual content (I think I was imagining something more like Ghoulies). This one turned out to be a bit more serious-minded than I'd imagined, but c'mon, not that serious. It had some great 80s special effects that I'm a sucker for. Also, very possible that childhood nostalgia colored my experience more than actual quality.

Climax - Gaspar Noe - So glad I caught this one theatrically. On the big screen it was an absolutely overwhelming sensory experience if not emotionally. Easily my favorite Noe film (and I haven't seen all of them) it's still not as great as I'd like it to have been. It goes on longer than my interest in the characters and the ultimate payoff isn't as terrifying as I was beginning to believe it could be. This gradual cooling of expectations should not deter you from seeking it out however because it is full of virtuoso camera work and the first long-take dance number/party scene is just fan-fucking-tastic. Noe's a another film maker like Lars Von Trier or Pedro Almodovar for me; an immense talent who doesn't always (or often) do what I'd like them to with that talent.

Communion - Phileppe Mora - Based on the non-fiction book by novelist Whitley Strieber about his alien abduction experience. Make what you will of the author's claims, the emotional reality feels authentic and the surreal scenes of trance-induced memory are very effective and walk the line between unsettling and inspiring - a quality that somehow applies to the film versions of every Strieber adaptation (also Tony Scott's The Hunger and Michael Wadleigh's Wolfen) despite being made by very different film makers and at least in the case of The Wolfen (the only Strieber book I've read and can attest to) straying fairly far afield from the  source material. Christopher Walken is of course worth watching.

The Crazies - George Romero - Having first seen and very much enjoyed Breck Eisner's 2010 remake before I even knew it was one (I've mentioned being pretty new to horror, right?) I put off watching Romero's original till the remake wasn't as fresh in my mind and... turns out I didn't really need to as this version felt very different to me. Dug it.

Dance of the Damned - Katt Shea - A vampire wanders the streets of New York(?) hunting by feel and his instincts lead him into a strip club where the object of his fascination is revealed to be a dancer. He takes her home and seduces her over the course of the evening intending to absorb her story and essence before consuming her body just before daylight. It's an extremely skin-a-max set-up, but Shea is a film maker whose commercial savvy gets her movies made, but never trumps her human interests as a film maker. Yes, it's got a lot of awkward on-the-nosed-ness to it, no I won't hold it against you if you roll your eyes and pass on this one after a few minutes, but the longer the film goes on, like the vampire, I think you'll find yourself more intrigued by the conversation than you expect.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again - Robert Fuest - Not sure why I'd put it off as long as I did, but it turned out to be a very worthy sequel to The Abominable Dr. Phibes and only made me wish the many proposed franchise entries had been realized. These fucking weird as fuck campy horror movies are so fucking gorgeous as fuck with their fucking weird-ass fucking animatronics and masks and capes and fucking delightful visions of fucking awful deaths they're absolutely mesmerizing. Just terrific triumphs of set design and costumes and art direction and visual story telling. Fucking wonderfully hypnotic.

Goodnight MommySeverin Fiala, Veronika Franz - Creepy kid fest combined with isolation paranoia, psychological thriller and hints of body horror make virtually ever frame of this one an intense experience. Twin brothers living alone in a beautifully sterile house in the woods with their heavily bandaged mother regard her with suspicion and continually run afoul of her very strict rules. We don't know what's happened to mother (her face is wrapped in bandaging), but the boys are increasingly unconvinced that she is actually their mother and increasingly concerned that she is actively trying to harm them. The tables turn and turn again and when they stop it's pretty fucking awful.

The Last Horror Film - David Winters - Joe Spinell is back in Maniac land with this story of a creepy outsider obsessed with making a horror film starring Caroline Munro the it scream-queen of the fictional moment. The limits of his commitment to that goal drive the plot as his (ahem) taxi driver takes his unhealthy fixation all the way to the Canne Film Festival to shoot his movie with an unwitting star and as he's on hand to film a series of real murders (and her reaction to them) the tension mounts. It's very icky and creepy and often effectively funny in an unexpectedly self-aware way (again, I don't know horror that well). It's probably not going to make me many friends among horror fans, but I think I prefer this on to Maniac.

Late PhasesAdrián García Bogliano - Put this one alongside Bubba Ho-Tep in the underpopulated sub-genre of retirement horror. This one has Nick Damici's recently widowed, blind Viet Nam vet being unceremoniously dumped into a retirement village by his semi-estranged son and almost immediately realizing there's more pattern to the cycle of gruesome local murders than the cops have caught on to. His heightened remaining senses make him formidable enough when when combined with his hardass marine instincts to take on the werewolves wreaking havoc. Plenty of good gore and humor balance this one.

Lord of Illusions - Clive Barker - I've got to hand it to Barker, adaptations of his writing never feel quite like any other horror films I've seen (even Candyman which kinda has box office hit stamped on it in many ways feels magically different to me than other boogey-man fare). They tend to go places or sustain moods, poke at things, or take subject matter head on, in ways that tend to feel refreshing to me. Even the nineties-ness of the early digital-effects and shit is kinda cool now and I dug being inside this weirdo world.

Lords of Chaos Jonas Åkerlund - Knowing nothing of the true story the film is based on probably worked in my favor. I really didn't know where the story of the right to claim the mantle of True Norwegian Black Metal was heading. I know there was controversy around the accuracy as well as the streak of white supremacy that festers in some of the scene, but the film rests well on Rory Culkin's shoulders and he lends a believably human presence to the often outlandishly ugly behavior. The lines separating professional provocation, performance, persona and practicing nihilism are crossed and blurred and a lot of blood is let. I'm also not investigating the actual events, I'm hoping there was a lot of printing of the legend going on here. Say what you want about the tenants of national socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.

Maniac Cop 2 - William Lustig - Just pure fucking pleasure. Just heard Nicolas Winding Refn is making a TV show based on Maniac Cop (though I believe it's the series' second installment that is where his true admiration lies) and... I dunno. Of course I'm interested, but this is already great. Interesting news about the TV show - John Hyams is co-creating the show and that's exciting considering his work revitalizing the Universal Soldier franchise and digging the horror concepts out of the carcass.

Piercing - Nicholas Pesce - Christopher Abbott is a young father who cooks up a scheme with the help of his wife (Laia Costa) to murder a call girl in order to keep loved ones safe from what is apparently an overwhelming urge of his. Mia Wasikowska plays the intended victim and the film plays out mostly in the hotel room where the event is supposed to take place. Piercing is a fucking sick movie played very effectively for laughs. My favorite guffaw-moments came during the montage of Abbott rehearsing the murder, dismemberment and disposal of evidence. The whole sequence is just him pantomiming to wonderful editing and sound design that ought to illicit gasps and giggles in more or less equal proportions. Of course nothing goes as planned and fans of Audition will find a lot of similarities and could probably guess they came from the same mind (both are based on novels by Ryû Murakami).

Possum - Matthew Holness - This one is legitimately unsettling and upsetting. It's kinda like a feature length version of The Cure's Lullaby music video... without the awesome song.

Prophecy - John Frankenheimer - Surprisingly potent bit of ecological horror about deforestation and pollution and how responsibility for corporate atrocity applies to everybody and how easily shrugged it is.

Psychos in Love - Gorman Bechard - This could've been a good 5-minute Saturday Night Live sketch about a love match made between lonely souls whose peculiar passions happen to be the same: murder and dismemberment. Whether it's the corny jokes, the film nerd stuff, the commitment to blending horror and rom-com tropes in a pre-digital age, Psychos in Love manages to be funny and maybe sometimes sweet... probably just the effect of watching it 30 years later, but I liked it a lot more than I would have expected to reading about it.

The Rage: Carrie 2 - Katt Shea - For fans of Brian De Palma's original this probably felt a little heretical, but for fans of Katt Shea I think it feels very personal and appropriate. It was not a hit when it came out, but I suspect it could have been what the makers of Assassination Nation were hoping for in the wake of #metoo.

Scanners II: The New Order - Christian Duguay - On twitter the other day I saw that Stephanie Crawford had copped to preferring Scanners 2 & 3 to David Cronenberg's original and while I'm not willing to go that far (not nearly that far) I will still defend these films from accusations of garbage. Trash they may be, but garbage they are not. Like many sequels to iconic originals these cheaper, lower-brow(?), explorations of the world and rules and undefined mythology find a lot of room to play with the fun stuff (more exploding heads, more gun battles) trusting that thirst for the other type of headiness was satisfied the first time around. Kinda like a low-budget gruesomer X-Men movie. But don't take my opinion seriously because I also dig the Robocop sequels.

Skinner - Ivan Nagy - Ted Raimi plays a lonely Ed Gein-esque psychopath who needs more material to make his ultimate cross-dressing suit a reality. Yeah it's another light movie that casually kills women (specifically) for entertainment and maybe you've had quite enough of that in your life, but the real pleasure here is the silliness and the gore effects. By the time Raimi got his suit on I was glad I stuck around.

Society - Brian Yuzna - What if David Cronenberg directed a run of Beverly Hills 90210? Like full on motherfuckers getting turned inside out - faces coming out their own assholes during an orgy shit. What if that's all I needed to hear? Fuckin sign me up.

Spontaneous Combustion - Tobe Hooper - No idea where fans of Hooper land on this one, but I went in entirely unfamiliar with it. Easy to see why it's not held in Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Poltergeist esteem, but when you task Brad Douriff with convincing us he's killing people over the telephone with fire that's probably going to be worth your time right there. Lots of fun.

SuspiriaLuca Guadagnino - Confession time. I've tried several times and have yet to make it through Dario Argento's Suspiria. It's... going to take a mighty effort when I finally do. Yes, I've enjoyed clips from it plenty (enough to try watching it again and again), but it's somehow never been the right moment for me to experience it. So, I was very surprised how easily I was sucked into and shat out of the remake. I really can't say what the ultimate differences are (having only seen the remake really), but some of the superficial choices - the muted color scheme this time around vs. the deeply rich over-saturated palette of the original plus the pulsing, popping electronic score by Thom Yorke vs. Goblin's prog-rock bombast make for distinctly different experiences. I dug the creepy, crawly and deep shivery feelings this one gave me and the dance numbers are mesmerizing. Tilda Swinton of course is, as always, worth the price of admission.

Trouble Every Day - Claire Denis - Denis makes a commitment with every film goer: hang with me and you'll have an experience. It's no guarantee of how you'll respond, it's not a promise of thrills or even that that thing you think you want out of this type of movie will survive - she may well ruin that favorite trope of yours forever - but it will be a potent experience one way or the other. This vampire film is no different. Sexy vampires? Not so much, but erotically-charged vampirism? Absolutely. In fact the movement between sexual hunger and bloodlust is so fast and frequent it's not just criss-crossing lines it's more like playing a finely-tuned stringed instrument. And the results are strong, they're upsetting, they're horrifying. I kinda love this movie.

Us - Jordan Peele - Hawt damn, I think this is my favorite horror movie of the year. I really enjoyed Get Out and even revisiting it to pick up on the tiny details, but the one-to-one allegory was pretty much swallowed whole. Us, however, is a much trickier, pricklier thematic puzzle box. I suspect it's only going to improve and prove more satisfying with every revisit. Race isn't the main issue this time out, but class around the world and also in the um U.S. The resistance of privileged people to view the underclasses as 'just like us' and our comfort level with the poverty of others that can only be achieved with calculated and willful callousness. A lot to dive into and of course thrills and chills and plenty of humor along the way... not to mention that the central performances are so effortlessly engaging I'd frankly have been happy to just hang out with Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke's family on an otherwise happy trip to the beach.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Taken by the Wind: Marietta Miles on Stevie Nicks

Marietta Miles writes rough fiction with a dark sensibility that fits this here blog in case you didn't know. She's been a guest here before (check out her scorcher of a CriMemoir piece) and she's back with a brand new novel, After the Storm, and a brand new guest piece about one of her inspirations. Check it out and then go grab a couple Miles titles to get you through the upcoming silly season.

Taken by the Wind
by Marietta Miles

I f my heart were a bedroom, Stevie Nicks would be tacked to the wall. Her voice ringing from ceiling to floor. Spilling from my bright white, carefully-placed Sears and Roebuck Turntable, Cassette Combo.

In May, predecessor to the current release After the Storm, there is a scene where my protagonist, a lonely, small-time weed dealer named May, is in her bedroom packing and preparing her house for an approaching winter storm.

With the wind howling outside, she chooses what to try and save while listening to the stereo. Smoking and getting lost in the music. Stevie Nicks is singing to her. There, alone in her tiny and remote house, with no one caring whether she lives or dies, Stevie feels like May’s only friend.

There have been so many times in my life when it felt as though the only person who cared or understood was a stranger reaching out from the speakers.

Stevie isn’t really a stranger, though. She’s been with me as I write my books. As inspiration for characters or the soundtrack to a scene.

Why does she possess me?

The tales she tells…

Think of Rhiannon. The unlikely, funky bass and drum foundation fronted with a finger-picked guitar. From the mist comes a raspy, dreamy voice singing the story of a Welsh witch. A woman flying in the night. Taken by the wind.

Her songs are poetic and mysterious. Graceful. Yet, below the shawl of sage and silk, her words are rhythmic reflections on her years spent rising from the ashes.  Stevie conjures magic from her darkest times.

Her history…

Through all the heartbreaks, addictions and abuses she wrenched herself open and whispered in our ears about the emotions rolling over her. 1977’s Rumours was practically an audio documentary of broken friendships and love-affairs, wild nights and hard days. It’s not a reach to say, many of her best songs grew from turmoil. But her watercolor heart always seemed shaded with hope and second chances.

According to the 2017 unauthorized biography Gold Dust Woman, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, on and off artistic and intimate partners, had a relationship that was often off balance.

The controlling Buckingham would publicly and blatantly insult and bad-mouth the naturally charismatic Nicks. Gold Dust Woman recounts how, in the very early years of their partnership, he went so far as to bully her into removing her shirt for the cover of their first album, Buckingham Nicks. He belittled her songwriting, performances and, according to witnesses that include Fleetwood Mac band-members, physically attacked her.

He seemed to have and want the power, but as the world was introduced to Stevie and her ethereal way with words, his control shifted and dissipated. It was time for Stevie to tell us the story of a woman breaking free and flying far away from her unworthy prince charming.

Her individuality…

Stevie made the choice, made the choice, not to have children and is honest about the feelings and stigmas that are attached to her life-decision. We live in a time when women are still considered less than ideal if they aren’t mothers, but not having children makes her no less of a woman. She shows the importance of making your own path and living without regret.

The sound of her voice…

Stevie’s imperfect vocals hold strength in their fragile parameters. She fills the words with emotion. What may start as a gentle murmur speaking of leather or lace then erupts into wild, unearthly bellows. This is especially true in her live performances. Fleetwood Mac was famous for extending a five-minute song to fifteen, walls of speakers and bombarding waves of sound, with Stevie keeping pace. Her voice a siren song to the heart. Listen to The ChainLandslide.

Her strength…

Stevie fought a rough battle against addiction — with cocaine and later Klonopin — and though it was a bump in the road, she did not allow it to sweep her away. She got help and has been candid and open about her fight, inspiring others.

With her music, she allows us to truly experience our feelings. Wring them from our soul and drown in them, but not forever. Her music also reminds us that heartbreak is a natural, if not necessary, part of living. It will pass, see the beauty in it all because it’s better to feel something than nothing at all.

Her power to heal…

I remember driving south on 95, two cats and a futon in the back of my Honda, leaving New York City and a man who didn’t truly love me. Leaving his gloomy addictions. His other women.

It was raining and the skyline was behind me. Windows rolled up, stereo blasting, I was taking the first steps of starting over. Stevie Nicks, some twenty years after making Buckingham Nicks, was the only person I wanted to listen to at that moment. Well, Stevie and my Mom. I wanted very much to listen to Stevie and my Mom.

Stevie Nicks has led a fascinating and rollercoaster life as one of the true icons of rock. More excitement and sadness in her years than I can imagine. She’s the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, with Fleetwood Mac in 1998 and as a solo artist in 2019. Her albums, solo or with Fleetwood Mac, have sold millions. Nominated for Grammys.

She has fought and worked to succeed in an industry run by aggressive and commanding men. Stevie fell into the lush and tactile nature of her femininity, even as it was used against her in her bid to be taken seriously. All the while she stayed true to her personal artistic vision. Sharing her mistakes and triumphs for anyone who might listen.

Is it any wonder that my heart jumps when I hear my youngest daughter listening to Sara and Edge of Seventeen? Do I attempt a perfect twirl as I head to the kitchen to begin the fiesta that is Taco Tuesday? Hell, to the yes. And I hum and pirouette and shake my invisible tambourine. Oh, it’s something to see.

Cause you see you’re a gypsy…

Marietta Miles is the author of May and Route 12. Her latest title from Down and Out Books is After the Storm