Nicks wrote this song about the death of her uncle and the death of John Lennon. The line about the "Words from a poet and a voice from a choir" refers to Lennon.
Speaking about the song in commentary for her Live In Concert video recorded on her Bella Donna tour, she explained: "I was in Australia when John Lennon was shot. Everybody was devastated. I didn't know John Lennon, but I knew Jimmy Iovine, who worked with John quite a bit in the '70s, and heard all the loving stories that Jimmy told about him. When I came back to Phoenix I started to write this song.
Right when I got to Phoenix, my uncle Bill got cancer, got very sick very fast, and died in a couple of weeks. My cousin John Nicks and I were in the room when he died. There was just John and I there. That was part of the song when I went running down the hallways looking for somebody - I thought where's my mom? Where's his wife and the rest of the family? At that point I went back to the piano and finished the song."
Speaking further in her video commentary, Nicks spoke about the "white-winged dove" and what this song means to her: "It became a song about violent death, which was very scary to me because at that point no one in my family had died. To me, the white-winged dove was for John Lennon the dove of peace, and for my uncle it was the white-winged dove who lives in the saguaro cactus - that's how I found out about the white-winged dove, and it does make a sound like whooo, whooo, whooo. I read that somewhere in Phoenix and thought I would use that in this song. The dove became exciting and sad and tragic and incredibly dramatic. Every time I sing this song I have that ability to go back to that two-month period where it all came down. I've never changed it, and I can't imagine ending my show with any other song. It's such a strong, private moment that I share in this song."
Stevie came up with the title when she asked Tom Petty's wife Jane when the couple met. Jane said, "At the age of seventeen," but she had a very strong southern accent and Stevie thought she said "the edge of seventeen," which makes a great song title. Telling the story in a 1981 interview with Los Angeles disc jockey Robert W. Morgan, Nicks said she told Jane: "It's got to be 'edge.' 'The Edge of Seventeen' is perfect. I'm going to write a song."
At first, the song was going to be about Tom and Jane, but it became something completely different.
was Stevie's first solo album. This was the third single; the first two were duets: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around
" with Tom Petty and "Leather And Lace
" with Don Henley. The album proved that Nicks had enormous appeal outside of Fleetwood Mac, and this song in particular gave her tremendous confidence, as it's a very personal track that resonated with listeners and went over very well live.
When Nicks toured for Bella Donna
, it was just a 12-date trek, as she had to return to Fleetwood Mac to start work on the Mirage
album. The tour imbued her with the strength she needed to carry on in the group, where there was lots of lingering tension, notably between her and Lindsey Buckingham.
When Nicks played this as the last song at the last stop on her Bella Donna tour at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles, California, she walked across that stage and collected various gifts audience members brought for her as she finished the song. This became a tradition, with Nicks ending up with a mountain of flowers and stuffed animals at the end of her solo shows which she always donates to local children's hospitals. Performing with Fleetwood Mac, she can't do this as there are five stars in the band.
Nicks always ends her concerts with this song, sticking with the same arrangement. "It's such a strong, private moment that I share with people in this song."
Nicks' performance from her Live In Concert
video, which aired on HBO, serves as the music video for this song. It was directed by Marty Callner, who also did the clips for "I Can't Wait
" and "Rooms On Fire
The Bella Donna
album was produced by Jimmy Iovine, who was dating Nicks at the time. According to Nicks, he didn't think the album had a hit, which is why he had her record "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around
" with Petty. Released as the lead single from the album, it reached #3 in the US and helped "Edge Of Seventeen" earn airplay when it was issued as a single a few months later.
This song is featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV
, developed by Rockstar Games and distributed by Take-Two Interactive for multiple video game consoles. The game features fictional in-game radio stations that can be heard when the player gets in a car; this song is featured on the "Liberty Rock Radio 97.8" station along with other rock songs such as "1979
" by the Smashing Pumpkins and "The Seeker
" by The Who.
Rob - Saratoga Springs, NY
Destiny's Child sampled the famous guitar riff on this track for their song "Bootylicious
." Some of Stevie's fans were horrified, but she loved it, and even appeared in the video. Stevie met the group when she was on the The Rosie O'Donnell Show
promoting her Trouble In Shangri-La
album, and Destiny's Child was in the same building rehearsing for Saturday Night Live
This featured prominently throughout American Horror Story: Coven (2013) as the Stevie Nicks-obsessed, hippie witch Misty Day, played by Lily Rabe, used it as her anthem. Nicks would guest star towards the end of the season.
A movie called The Edge of Seventeen starring Hailee Steinfeld was released in 2016, but this song was not part of it.