Edge of Seventeen
|"Edge of Seventeen"|
|Single by Stevie Nicks|
|from the album Bella Donna|
|B-side||"Edge of Seventeen" (Previously unreleased live version)|
|Released||February 4, 1982|
|Length||5:28 (album version)|
4:10 (single version)
|Stevie Nicks singles chronology|
"Edge of Seventeen" is a song by the American singer and songwriter Stevie Nicks from her debut solo studio album Bella Donna (1981), released as the third single from the album on February 4, 1982. The lyrics were written by Nicks to express the grief resulting from the death of her uncle Jonathan and the assassination of John Lennon during the same week of December 1980. The song features a distinctive, chugging 16th-note guitar riff, drum beat and a simple chord structure typical of Nicks' songs. The song's title for the single release was "Edge of Seventeen (Just Like the White Winged Dove)". In the United States, "Edge of Seventeen" just missed out on the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 11. Despite this, it became one of Nicks' most enduring and recognizable songs and has been covered by several artists.
Background and inspiration
According to Nicks, the title came from a conversation she had with Tom Petty's first wife, Jane, about the couple's first meeting. Jane said they met "at the age of seventeen", but Jane's strong Southern accent made it sound like "edge of seventeen" to Nicks. She liked the sound of the phrase so much that she told Jane she would write a song for it and give her credit for the inspiration.
Although Nicks had originally planned to use the title for a song about Tom and Jane Petty, the death of her uncle Jonathan and the murder of John Lennon during the same week of December 1980 inspired a new song for which Nicks used the title. Nicks' producer and lover Jimmy Iovine was a close friend of Lennon, and Nicks felt helpless to comfort him. Soon after, Nicks flew home to Phoenix, Arizona, to be with her uncle Jonathan, who was dying of cancer. She remained with her uncle and his family until his death.
Nicks had never actually heard a dove's call before, as she revealed in 2020 when she had only just heard it recently. The opening lyrics were inspired by a menu she was reading at a Phoenix restaurant in 1980, which said, "The white wing dove sings a song that sounds like she’s singing ooh, ooh, ooh. She makes her home here in the great Saguaro cactus that provides shelter and protection for her…".
Composition and lyrics
Throughout the song, a distinctive 16th note guitar riff is played by Waddy Wachtel, progressing through C, D, and E-minor chords. During the bridge, the chords alternate twice between E-minor and C. Wachtel claimed that The Police's "Bring On the Night" was the inspiration for the riff. This claim is backed up in Andy Summers's memoir One Train Later, when he states that Nicks asked to meet him after a 1981 show in Los Angeles.
As is typical of Nicks' songs, the lyrics are highly symbolic. Nicks has said that the white-winged dove represents the spirit leaving the body on death, and some of the verses capture her experience of the days leading up to her uncle Jonathan's death. The part when Nicks and her back-up singers sing "ooh baby ooh" is meant to sound like a dove singing, similar to an owl "whooing".
"Edge of Seventeen" peaked at No. 11 on the US Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in April 1982. The live version on the B-side reached No. 26 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart. The original album version of the song had previously made the top five of Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart in 1981, peaking at No. 4. "Edge of Seventeen" also peaked at No. 11 on the RPM Top 100 Singles chart in Canada.
The song entered the UK chart in 2021 following its use in a John Lewis commercial.
Track listing and formats
- US 7" vinyl single
- "Edge of Seventeen (Just Like the White Winged Dove)" – 4:10
- "Edge of Seventeen" (Previously unreleased live version) – 5:57
- Stevie Nicks – lead vocals, writer
- Waddy Wachtel – guitar
- Bob Glaub – bass guitar
- Russ Kunkel – drums
- Bobbye Hall – percussion
- Benmont Tench – organ
- Roy Bittan – piano
- Lori Perry – backing vocals
- Sharon Celani – backing vocals
- Jimmy Iovine – producer
|Canada Top Singles (RPM)||11|
|US Billboard Hot 100||11|
|US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)||4|
|US Cash Box Top 100||19|
|UK Singles (OCC)||86|
|Year-end chart (1982)||Rank|
|US Top Pop Singles (Billboard)||100|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||600,000|
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
- Lindsay Lohan released a version of "Edge of Seventeen" on her second studio album A Little More Personal (Raw) (2005).
- The distinctive riff from the song was sampled by the American girl group Destiny's Child in their 2001 hit single "Bootylicious", with Nicks making a cameo appearance in the accompanying music video.
- Audiomachine released a version of "Edge of Seventeen" on their album Trailerized: Covers and Originals (2018).
- In 2020, Miley Cyrus interpolated the song for her single "Midnight Sky", which was later remixed as a mashup featuring Nicks titled "Edge of Midnight".
- Lilith Czar released a version of "Edge of Seventeen" on her album Created From Filth And Dust (2021).
- "Stevie Nicks - Edge Of Seventeen (Just Like The White Winged Dove)" – via www.45cat.com.
- "Old Trivia Questions". Retrieved 2007-09-11.
She was telling me about Tom, about when she met him, and she has an incredible Southern accent ... and she said that she met him at the age of seventeen, but I thought she said 'edge,' and she said 'no ... age' and I said, 'Jane, forget it, it's got to be "edge." The "Edge of Seventeen" is perfect. I'm gonna write a song, ok? And I'm gonna give you credit.' She didn't believe me, you know? She couldn't believe it when it came out on the album.
- "Stevie Nicks on 'Edge of Seventeen'".
So it started out about Tom and Jane basically, who I have no idea what they were at 17, but I made it up. And, uh it went into being written about [her Uncle Jonathan and John Lennon].
- "The Sun".
Jimmy was absolutely best friends with John Lennon," she says. "So when that happened, a hush came over the house that was so overwhelming that there was nothing that I could do to help. There was nothing I could say, there was no way I could comfort him." Unable to help, Nicks flew home to Phoenix. "I went straight over to my uncle's house, and my uncle died that day. He died right there with me holding his hand, just me and my cousin, who's a little younger than me, sitting there on the bed and on the floor next to him.
- Spanos, Brittany (2020-04-07). "Stevie Nicks Meets Dove, Reveals 'Edge of Seventeen' Lyric Inspiration". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
- Simons, David (April 1999). "Waddy Wachtel". Musician. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
- White, Timothy (September 3, 1981). "With Her New Solo Album, Fleetwood Mac's Good Fairy Tries to Balance Two Careers — and Two Personalities". Rolling Stone.
The line 'And the days go by like a strand in the wind' that's how fast those days were going by during my uncle's illness, and it was so upsetting to me. The lyric “I went today... maybe I will go again... tomorrow” refers to seeing him the day before he died. He was home and my aunt had some music softly playing, and it was a perfect place for the spirit to go away. The one-winged dove in the song is a spirit that is leaving a body, and I felt a great loss at how both Johns were taken. 'I hear the call of the nightbird singing..... come away ... come away....'
- "Stevie Nicks Edge Of Seventeen (Just Like The White Winged Dove) Chart History". Billboard.
- "John Lewis advert praised by singer Stevie Nicks after row". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 2021-11-18.
- "Canadian peak". Archived from the original on 2012-10-22. Retrieved 2010-11-13.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
- "Talent in Action : Top Pop Singles". Billboard. Vol. 94 no. 51. December 25, 1982. p. TIA-20.
- "British single certifications – Stevie Nicks – Edge of Seventeen". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
- Video on YouTube
- Willman, Chris (6 November 2020). "Miley Cyrus and Stevie Nicks Team Up for 'Edge of Seventeen'/'Midnight Sky' Mashup". Billboard. Billboard. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
- Stevie Nicks on "Edge of Seventeen" — Quotes by Nicks about the song, gathered from interviews throughout the years.