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Don’t Stop: The Story Behind Fleetwood Mac’s Enduring Hit Song
Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo
In Depth

Don’t Stop: The Story Behind Fleetwood Mac’s Enduring Hit Song

Written by Christine McVie as a plea for optimism, the song Don’t Stop is an ageless rock classic from Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ era.

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Since its appearance on 1977’s colossal hit album Rumours, Don’t Stop has become one of Fleetwood Mac’s signature tunes. Written by Christine McVie as a song of encouragement and resilience in tough times, it was a massive worldwide hit following its release as the second single from Rumours, in April 1977, reaching No.3 on the US Billboard 200, going Top 10 in Belgium, Canada and the Netherlands, and becoming a staple of Fleetwood Mac’s live sets during the Rumours era and beyond.

What’s more, Don’t Stop has endured, lodging itself in the collective consciousness to the point where Bill Clinton used it as his campaign song when he successfully ran for US President in 1992. Fleetwood Mac even performed it at Clinton’s inauguration gala. And musicians of every stripe love it, too – over the years the song has been covered by Elton John, the cast of Glee and Status Quo, to name just a few.

Listen to the best of Fleetwood Mac here.

Who wrote Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop?

Don’t Stop was written by Fleetwood Mac keyboardist Christine McVie during a period of upheaval. After eight years of marriage, Christine and the group’s bassist, John McVie, divorced in 1976. Their relationship had become increasingly strained under the pressures of fame and life on the road following the success of Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 self-titled album, and Christine had reaching breaking point.

“I was aware of it being irresponsible,” she told Rolling Stone’s Cameron Crowe in 1977. “But I had to do it for my sanity. It was either that or me ending up in a lunatic asylum. I still worry for him, more than I would ever dare tell him. I still have a lot of love for John.”

What is the meaning behind Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac?

Fittingly, Don’t Stop is far from a one-dimensional or bitter breakup song. Despite expressing the melancholic realisation of things having not worked out, the song’s lyrics carry a hopeful meaning and a sense of affection for a former flame. They also draw a line under the past. Don’t Stop’s chorus hook – “Yesterday’s gone” – was even considered as a title for Rumours, which would have been fitting considering the levels of inter-band drama during its writing and recording.

Rumours, that album is all about us,” Christine told Mojo in 2017. “The whole band. That’s how we were. Something that isn’t tangible drove us on to do it. We wrote those songs despite ourselves, because that was the only way we could describe what we were going through. It was a therapeutic move. The only way we could get this stuff out was to say it, and it came out in a way that was difficult.

“Imagine trying to sing those songs on-stage with the people you’re singing them about,” Christine continued. “It was difficult for Stevie [Nicks] to sing Dreams, difficult for Lindsey [Buckingham] to sing Go Your Own Way, difficult for me to sing Don’t Stop, about John.”

The recording: “We were as cold as ice to each other”

Things were even more fraught throughout the Rumours recording sessions, during which Don’t Stop was laid down. “We literally didn’t talk, other than to say, ‘What key is this song in?’” Christine told Uncut in 2013. “We were as cold as ice to each other because John found it easier that way.”

The tangible sense of drama – plus its bulletproof melodies and a polished FM-friendly rock-pop sound – meant that audiences couldn’t get enough of Rumours. The album sold over ten million copies worldwide within a month of its release, and it has long ranked within the Top 10 best-selling albums of all time. And new generations are still discovering it: in 2023, Rumours was the UK’s fifth biggest-selling album of the year on vinyl, and, incredibly, it also came in at No.25 on the US Billboard 200 end-of-year list.

The reunion: Don’t Stop takes pride of place on the setlist

Don’t Stop also played its part in Christine McVie’s reunion with her bandmates before her untimely death in 2022, aged 79. She’d retired from touring in 1990, following the death of her father, Cyril Perfect, while she was on the road with Fleetwood Mac, and, after contributing to the band’s 1995 album, Time, she quit the group. Christine made a brief return for the 1997 reunion album, The Dance, and its subsequent tour, but she left again – seemingly for good – the following year. In 2004, she would refocus on her intermittent solo career, releasing the album In The Meantime.

When Fleetwood Mac announced a world tour in 2012, McVie wasn’t part of the line-up, but when she made a surprise appearance on stage during the group’s encore at London’s O2 Arena, on 26 September 2013, Don’t Stop was the obvious song to perform. That appearance led to a full reunion and subsequent tours, with Don’t Stop taking pride of place on the setlist.

McVie’s final appearance with Fleetwood Mac came on 20 November 2019, at Oracle Park, San Francisco. Her passing appears to have brought an end to Fleetwood Mac, but as long as new generations of fans are discovering her music, Don’t Stop will remain an anthem of defiant hope among the best Fleetwood Mac songs.

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