Arizona Republic (07/20/2003), Stevie Nicks keep Valley in heart at all times
Arizona Republic, July 20, 2003
Stevie Nicks keeps Valley in heart at all times
by Larry Rodgers
When globe-trotting rock superstar Stevie Nicks needs songwriting inspiration or an outlet for her generosity, she returns to Phoenix, the place she was born. Whether she's penning a multiplatinum hit in her "magical" home in Paradise Valley or planning a high-profile benefit concert for the Arizona Heart Foundation, Nicks and her family agree that Arizona is both a refuge and creative inspiration for the singer, who has sold 70 million albums with recently reunited Fleetwood Mac.
"I will always have a place in Phoenix, because when I fly in there and I feel that desert air start to touch my face, it's like the angels are touching me and saying, 'Welcome home,' " says Nicks, who has owned her five-bedroom home for two decades.
The smoky-voiced singer and songwriter, who was born at Good Samaritan Hospital in 1948, also rents a place in Los Angeles, where she spends a good chunk of time each year on music-related projects.
That city was headquarters for Fleetwood Mac when the band reunited last year to record Say You Will, its first studio album in more than a decade, and prepared to launch a tour that visits America West Arena on Monday.
The group's concert benefits the Heart Foundation, a non-profit Phoenix-based organization that has netted more than $2 million from events staged by Nicks and her father, Jess.
'A magical place'
Jess Nicks and his wife of 56 years, Barbara, are both Phoenix natives. Jess promoted concerts in the Valley and built the original Compton Terrace amphitheater on the site that now houses Salt River Project's headquarters on the Phoenix-Tempe line.
The Nicks family left Phoenix when Stevie was 13 months old.
The singer moved back to the Valley in 1981 to be close to her parents, who had returned a few years earlier. When she needed to write four new songs for Say You Will, she came home to her gated community at the foot of Camelback Mountain.
"Every time I do a record, half of my songs are written there," says Nicks, who also has found success as a solo artist with tunes such as Edge of Seventeen, Leather and Lace and Stand Back.
"I can walk into my house in Phoenix and if I go into a songwriting mode, we snap our fingers and the house just turns into a magical place for writing."
Nicks did just that early last year after she and drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham decided to record the group's first studio album since 1990.
Nicks had written 17 potential songs for Say You Will before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. When terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, she was staying in a nearby New York hotel. She told her bandmates that her "world was forever changed" and that she needed to pen fresh material in the Valley for four weeks.
"The house became a recording studio. I set up my typewriter and all my little writing tools in my living room, where I have written so many songs," recalls Nicks, 55, who shares the two-winged residence with her younger brother, Chris, and his wife, Lori, and their daughter, Jessie, as well as two dogs.
Among the four songs that Nicks wrote was the bouncy title track for Say You Will, which has received healthy radio play, and the haunting Illume (9-11), which she dedicated to the people of New York.
'Best writing I've ever done'
"I think this is some of the best writing I've ever done," says Nicks, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with her bandmates in 1998.
Nicks is equally proud of the work she has done for the Heart Foundation, the research and education affiliate of the for-profit Arizona Heart Institute.
Monday's concert marks the fifth event that Nicks has staged since 1996 to help the foundation raise funds for a $12 million center scheduled to be built in 2004 next to the Arizona Heart Hospital at 20th Street and Thomas Road.
Her father, who has undergone two heart operations, was chairman of the foundation's board for three decades.
Stevie Nicks' dedication to the cause was triggered when her father underwent open-heart surgery in the early '70s.
'I'm going to do something'
"It was horrible, and it was, like, 'I'm going to do something,' " the singer recalls. "So when I joined Fleetwood Mac (in 1974), I realized, 'Aha. Now I can do something,' and I set out on my little cause."
Her first benefit for the heart-disease battle was a huge outdoor Fleetwood Mac concert in Tucson in the mid-1970s. That show raised $375,000 for the American Heart Association's Arizona branch.
Her work with the Heart Foundation began with a private 1996 performance for 50 donors at the Paradise Valley home of Dr. Edward B. "Ted" Diethrich, a noted surgeon and medical consultant to the Heart Foundation.
"She was essentially solo," Diethrich recalls. "Just to sit in your back yard and have her entertain you for an hour was the most fabulous thing. It's going to be a lot different on Monday night, with all those screaming people."
New foundation chief Herman Chanen also has praise for Nicks, her band and family:
"There's no question that she is our Number 1 celebrity supporter and always will be, because back in the early days, she was willing to do it when it (the research center) was just an idea."
Nicks says she hopes to raise plenty more money in the search to cure heart disease:
"This is something that I will do until I'm a little old lady and can no longer walk onstage and do a few songs, because I think it's that important.
"Maybe our hospitals and our (center) in Arizona, maybe those will be the doctors who will find the cure."
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