Nov 16

“Landslide”: Evolution and Meaning Of a Major Hit Song

If you’ve seen the trailer for the women’s-rights focused Suffragette, you’ve heard Robyn Sherwell‘s hauntingly lovely version of “Landslide“—which, incidentally, is not available on the movie soundtrack.

For me it’s the third time I’ve fallen in love with “Landslide.” First, of course, Fleetwood Mac. Then the Dixie Chicks. And now Sherwell’s, presented below. And, although other covers have also been done, these three happen to be the top selling, at least on Amazon.

The writer of this song many years ago was a 20-something Stevie Nicks, then partnered in love and music with Lindsey Buckingham. On numerous occasions throughout the years she’s explained the meaning behind the lyrics. The site In Her Own Words presents, in fact, some of her interview excerpts on the subject.

In brief, pre-“Landslide” was a shaky time both for her relationship and the prospects of her and Buckingham working successfully in the music biz. Following an incident in which he’d taken off angrily, she began to reflect on whether or not they could ever get over their various obstacles, i.e., “the mountain.” Moreover, instead of continuing to struggle financially, should she consider going back to school, find a different career that would actually get her somewhere?

The heart of the song expresses this uncertainty, the doubts, her fear of changing. The Penguin Lyric Interpretations offers this:

‘Well, I’ve been afraid of changing, ’cause I’ve built my life around you.’ When you give up a part of yourself for someone else, you let go of something personal…Not only is Stevie’s relationship with Lindsey changing, but so is her relationship with those around her – her friends and her family. She is growing up…She wants to be accepted and loved, but because she is changing, she is worried that possibly she or they won’t like the person she is becoming.

‘But time makes you bolder, even children get older, And I’m getting older too.’ She realizes this and also knows that as she does grow up, she will be stronger…

As it went, Nicks didn’t need to change course in the way she’d contemplated. Shortly after penning “Landslide” she and Buckingham were invited into Fleetwood Mac.

The song was on the group’s 1975 self-titled album, though not released as a single and not terribly popular at the time. Over the years, however, “Landslide” became increasingly well known and appreciated, in large part because others—including the Smashing Pumpkins, Tori Amos, and the Dixie Chicks—chose to cover it.

Below, Fleetwood Mac performs it:

The Dixie Chicks (2002):

Robyn Sherwell (2015):