“Edge of Seventeen” is a timeless hit song from the iconic singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks. Known for her distinctive voice and poetic, often mystical songwriting, Nicks has been a powerful force in rock music since the 1970s.
She first rose to fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac, one of the most successful rock bands of all time, before embarking on a successful solo career. “Edge of Seventeen,” released in 1981, is one of her most popular solo hits and continues to resonate with listeners today.
The song’s unique blend of rock and pop, combined with Nicks’ emotional lyrics and passionate vocals, creates a memorable music experience that transcends generations.
This article will explore the meaning and inspiration behind “Edge of Seventeen,” delving into its lyrics, backstory, and enduring impact.
Background of the Song
“Edge of Seventeen” is a song from Stevie Nicks’ debut solo album “Bella Donna,” which was released on July 27, 1981. The song itself was released as the third single from the album in February 1982. “Bella Donna” was a commercial success, reaching number one on the Billboard 200 chart and being certified multi-platinum in the United States.
“Edge of Seventeen” peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, making it one of Nicks’ most successful solo hits. It has since been covered by numerous artists and continues to be a staple in Nicks’ live performances.
The song’s title came about through a misunderstanding. Nicks was inspired to write the song following the death of her uncle and the murder of John Lennon during the same week in December 1980. She misheard Tom Petty’s wife, Jane, say she met him at the “age of seventeen,” hearing it instead as “edge of seventeen.” This phrase struck Nicks and she decided to write a song around it.
Musically, the song is known for its distinctive, chugging 16th-note guitar riff, which creates an intense, driving rhythm. Lyrical themes include loss, transition, and the passage of time, which are conveyed through Nicks’ powerful, emotive vocals.
- Stevie Nicks Chart History (Billboard 200)
- Stevie Nicks Chart History (Hot 100)
- Bella Donna (album) on Wikipedia
- Edge of Seventeen (song) on Wikipedia
“Edge of Seventeen” is a song rich with symbolic and emotive lyrics. Let’s delve into the meaning behind the words.
Just like the white-winged dove Sings a song, sounds like she’s singing Ooh, ooh, ooh
The song opens with these lines, introducing the symbol of a white-winged dove. Doves are often associated with peace, love, and innocence. The dove’s song could represent the expression of these emotions despite the pain of loss.
And the days go by Like a strand in the wind In the web that is my own I begin again
These lines reflect the passing of time and how life continues despite personal grief. The phrase “in the web that is my own” suggests that Nicks is entangled in her own thoughts and emotions, yet she resolves to “begin again,” showing resilience.
I went today, maybe I will go again tomorrow Yeah, yeah, well, the music there it was hauntingly familiar
These lines suggest a sense of restlessness and a search for solace in familiarity, perhaps through visiting places or listening to music that reminds her of the loved ones she’s lost.
And I see you doing What I try to do for me With the words from a poet And the voice from a choir And a melody, nothing else mattered
Here, Nicks seems to be speaking directly to someone who has passed away, acknowledging their influence on her and expressing how their memory lives on through poetry, music, and melody.
Just like the white-winged dove Sings a song, sounds like she’s singing Ooh, baby, ooh, said, ooh
The chorus repeats, reinforcing the image of the dove and its song. This could be a metaphor for Nicks herself, as she uses her music to express her emotions and cope with her loss.
The lyrics of “Edge of Seventeen” tell a story of dealing with grief and loss, but also finding strength in memories and the power of music. The poignant imagery and raw emotion in Nicks’ words make this song a powerful expression of human resilience in the face of adversity.
Inspiration Behind the Song
“Edge of Seventeen” was inspired by a period of personal loss and grief for Stevie Nicks. In December 1980, within the same week, Nicks’ uncle Jonathan and John Lennon, one of her musical inspirations, both died. This double tragedy deeply affected Nicks and served as the emotional catalyst for “Edge of Seventeen.”
The phrase “Edge of Seventeen” itself came about through a misunderstanding. Nicks was having a conversation with Tom Petty’s wife, Jane, who said that she met Petty at the “age of seventeen.” However, due to Jane’s Southern accent, Nicks misheard it as “edge of seventeen.” She found the phrase intriguing and decided to use it as the title and a key lyric in her song.
In terms of its meaning within the song, “Edge of Seventeen” can be interpreted as a metaphor for a precipice or turning point in life. The age of seventeen is often seen as a transitional stage, on the cusp of adulthood but not quite there yet.
Similarly, Nicks was in a transitional and challenging period in her life when she wrote the song, dealing with significant loss and change. Thus, the phrase “Edge of Seventeen” encapsulates the themes of transition, uncertainty, and emotional turmoil that are central to the song.
The Song’s Impact
“Edge of Seventeen” has had a significant impact on fans, the public, and the broader music industry. Stevie Nicks’ raw emotion and poetic lyrics resonated deeply with listeners, many of whom could relate to her experiences of loss and grief.
The song’s distinctive guitar riff, emotive vocals, and memorable title have made it a staple in popular culture. It has been covered by numerous artists, further cementing its status as a classic track. It’s also frequently used in various media like films and TV shows, helping to introduce the song to new generations of listeners.
Fans often cite “Edge of Seventeen” as one of Nicks’ most powerful songs. The emotional depth and relatable themes have helped many people cope with their own experiences of loss and change. The song’s continuing popularity is a testament to its enduring relevance and the deep connection it fosters with listeners.
In terms of influence on the music industry, “Edge of Seventeen” showcased Nicks’ songwriting talent and solidified her status as a successful solo artist. Her distinctive style, blending rock with a touch of mysticism, has influenced countless musicians over the years. Nicks’ success with “Edge of Seventeen” and her other solo work helped pave the way for other female artists in the rock genre.
The song’s impact extends beyond music to influence fashion and social attitudes, much like rock and roll has done more broadly. Nicks’ unique bohemian style, often associated with her “white-winged dove” persona from “Edge of Seventeen,” has inspired fashion trends and been emulated by fans.
Overall, “Edge of Seventeen” is more than just a song. It’s a cultural touchstone that continues to resonate with people decades after its release, demonstrating the power of music to connect, heal, and inspire.
- Social effects of rock music on Wikipedia
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Stevie Nicks’ View on the Song
In an interview with In The Studio with Redbeard, Nicks said that “Edge of Seventeen” was written about the death of her uncle and the murder of John Lennon. She described the process of writing the song as cathartic, saying, “I was in a very emotional state. It was all about death. Death became very real, death became very close to me. And from that came ‘Edge of Seventeen.'”
Nicks has also spoken about the unique guitar riff in “Edge of Seventeen.” In a 1981 interview with Jim Ladd from Innerview, she said, “Waddy [Wachtel] started the…guitar figure and it was so… fabulous that I just started this sort of rap with myself and that’s where the song comes from.”
Over the years, Nicks has continued to perform “Edge of Seventeen” at her concerts, a testament to its enduring significance in her career. In a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, she mentioned how she still gets nervous before performing, yet once she’s on stage, she feels “like a racehorse in a starting gate,” ready to give her all to the audience. This passion likely extends to her performances of “Edge of Seventeen.”
- “Stevie Nicks: ‘I was the worst drug addict'” on The Guardian
- “Stevie Nicks on Secret to Fleetwood Mac’s Longevity, Touring Like Prince and More” on Rolling Stone
The song “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks, released in 1981, holds a special place in the hearts of many fans. Its profound meaning resonates deeply with listeners and has made it a timeless piece in the music industry.
Contrary to some misconceptions, the song is not about lusting after an underage person. Instead, it was inspired by a period of personal loss and grief for Nicks. The title came from a misunderstanding during a conversation with Tom Petty’s wife, Jane. She mentioned meeting Petty at the “age of seventeen,” but due to her Southern accent, Nicks misheard it as “edge of seventeen.” This phrase intrigued Nicks and became a key lyric in her song.
In terms of its meaning, “Edge of Seventeen” can be viewed as a metaphor for a precipice or turning point in life, particularly reflecting on the past and the impact of a relationship. The song explores themes of transition, uncertainty, and emotional turmoil, which were central to Nicks’ life when she wrote the song.
Stevie Nicks once said about the song, “That song is sort of about how no amount of money or power could save them. I was angry, helpless, hurt, sad” (BAM, 1981). This perfectly encapsulates the feelings of grief that Nicks was going through at the time.
As for its impact, “Edge of Seventeen” has become an anthem that transcends generations. Its unique guitar riff, emotive vocals, and memorable title have made it a staple in popular culture. It has been covered by numerous artists and used in various forms of media, including films like “The Edge of Seventeen.”
Despite being over four decades old, “Edge of Seventeen” remains relevant in today’s music scene. Its enduring popularity testifies to its timeless appeal and the deep connection it fosters with listeners.