“This music is dedicated to Robin,” Stevie Nicks wrote on the back cover to her emotional second solo album, 1983’s The Wild Heart. “For her brave, wild heart and the gypsies that remain.” The story of The Wild Heart is not one of songwriting, production and release; it’s one of friendship, grief and the green shoots of emotional recovery.
Listen to ‘The Wild Heart’ here.
The backstory: “She was the one person that knew me for the person I really was”
Robin Snyder Anderson was the dearest friend of Stevie Nicks. “She had been in my life since I was 14,” Nicks remembered in 1998. “She was the one person that knew me for the person I really was and not for the famous Stevie, and it was good to have someone who knew the real you besides just your mom and dad.”
In 1981, Nicks released her debut solo album, Bella Donna, to great acclaim. Fleetwood Mac, too, were riding high, with their first live album – simply titled Live – released at the end of 1980, mainly documenting the immense, lengthy Tusk album tour of 1979 to 1980. “When Bella Donna came out, Fleetwood Mac was at the top of their game. It was the most incredible time,” Nicks said in 1997. “But then my best friend, Robin, was diagnosed with leukaemia and that overshadowed everything. I really didn’t get to enjoy Bella Donna. I found out that Robin was dying on the same day it went No.1.”
Snyder Anderson was also pregnant at the time, and the rapid progress of her cancer meant that her baby boy, Matthew, was delivered prematurely. Two days later, Snyder Anderson died. “She was breathtaking, and that’s why it’s so wild that she could possibly have died,” Nicks said in 1983. “It just doesn’t make any sense at all.”
The heartbreak: “I just went insane. And so did her husband”
Nicks was united in mourning with Kim Anderson, Robin’s husband, who was in a similar state of shock and disbelief – and he had a newborn son to look after as well. “I just went insane. And so did her husband,” Nicks said in 1990. “And we were the only two that could really understand the depth of the grief that we were going through. And I was determined to take care of that baby, so I said to Kim, ‘I don’t know, I guess we should just get married.’”
Stevie Nicks and Kim Anderson married three months after Robin’s death, and divorced three months later. “It was a terrible, terrible mistake,” Nicks said in 1990. “We didn’t get married because we were in love, we got married because we were grieving and it was the only way that we could feel like we were doing anything.”
The songs: “Real black-hearted”
Stevie Nicks has always been candid about how she mines her inner life for inspiration. She claims not to create fiction, but instead to reflect her lived experiences through lyrics and atmosphere. Nicks had already written the song Gypsy (on Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage album) for Snyder Anderson. Given how Snyder Anderson’s death and Nicks’ unhappy, rushed marriage were overwhelming her, these emotions surged in The Wild Heart’s songs.