The "gypsy" is the free and fearless side of one's personality, which Stevie Nicks channels in this song.
Stevie Nicks wrote this song and planned to include it on her 1980 solo album Bella Donna. She didn't have room for it on the album, so she held it over for Fleetwood Mac's Mirage album. By this time, her friend Robin Anderson was dying of leukemia and the song became a tribute to her.
Shortly after Robin Anderson died, Stevie Nicks married her husband, Kim Anderson. In a 1990 interview with US magazine, Nicks explained: "Robin was one of the few women who ever got leukemia and then got pregnant. And they had to take the baby [named Matthew] at six-and-a-half months, and then she died two days later.
And when she died, I went crazy. I just went insane. And so did her husband. 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.' And so we got married three months after she died, and it was a terrible, terrible mistake. 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. And we got divorced three months later.
I haven't seen Kim, nor have I seen Matthew, since that day. I suppose that Matthew will find me when he's ready. I mean, I am, really, next to Robin, his mommy. But Kim and I can't deal with each other at all. So when the baby's old enough, I have all of his mother's things, and I have her life on film for 14, 15 years. I have us on tape singing, I have a beautiful book that I wrote the year that she died, I have a roomful of stuff for him. I have his mother to give back to him when he's ready."
Fleetwood Mac recorded this at Le Chateau Studios in France, which was known as the "Honky Chateau" - Elton John recorded there and named his 1972 album after the studio's nickname.
Mick Fleetwood has cited this as one of his favorite Fleetwood Mac songs. "It really crystallizes that whole period of the early 1980s, when we were in our mid-30s and beginning to look back at our lost youth," he said.
Fleetwood Mac was an early adopter of music videos, making some even before MTV launched, since there were shows in Europe that would play them. Once MTV went on the air in 1981, they put more effort into their clips. The "Gypsy" video was directed by Russell Mulcahy, who directed the Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star
." Mulcahy wasn't familiar with the tribulations of the band members' love lives, so he paired up Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in some scenes. They had ceased to be a romantic couple six years earlier and had since become a contentious one. Still, they danced together in the video.
Stevie Nicks recorded a new version that was used as the theme song to the 2017 Netflix series Gypsy, starring Naomi Watts as a therapist who assumes an alternate personality she uses to connect with people her clients tell her about. The show's creator Lisa Rubin said she was listening to the song when she wrote the pilot. She told Entertainment Weekly: "It's melancholy yet full of desire. The tone captures the longing for who you used to be."