Originally Released on "Fleetwood Mac" (1975); Alternate Live Version Appears on "Live" (1980);
Alternate Solo Version Appears on "Enchanted" (1998) and Live on "Crystal Visions" (2007) and
See the original Rhiannon for most of my thoughts on this song. There are many notable differences here, however. Stevie starts out the song slowly with just a piano - it sounds very different from the quick-paced original. Even when the song picks up in the next verse, it's a little slower. "She is the darkness" is changed to "baby, she's your darkness"- an interesting change that adds insight into what kind of darkness she is talking about - making someone crazy! And at the end, she adds pleading - "And he still cries out for her - 'Don't leave me, now'." No one can get over Rhiannon - not ever.
I am convinced that what Stevie means in the song Rhiannon is this: "Rhiannon" is the name Stevie gives to represent the true loves of her life; All the men in her life that were her true loves. Like if I had a true love, and I was so in love, and the man left me. He couldn't feel for me what I felt for him. So our relationship failed. But was what I wanted all that good? Was he a good man? For treating me this way? I call out his name, crying, wishing he'd come back. Stevie used the name Rhiannon to exemplify this. Rhiannon stands for that unattainable person that we want. For example, for Jennifer Lopez it was Ben Affleck. For Nicolas Cage it was Lisa Marie Presley. So instead of crying Rhiannon, they could cry Ben! or Lisa!
But Stevie asks us "if they promised us heaven, would we even try?" because would they really be promising us heaven, or is that just what we think they would offer? Would we even try to keep that person anymore if we knew the truth? In my case, it was not heaven that was promised to me; it was a dead end street that was very lonely, and very sad. And I made the right choice to stop calling upon the "cat in the dark, or then she is the darkness". I was not meant to be the lover of the man I loved. He "ruled h(is) life like a fine skylark, and when the sky was starless." "Dream on silly dreamer" means I was living for a dream. And in Planets of the Universe, Stevie sings "If I had to live my life over, I would never dream" and "I was wrong to live for a dream".
In this world we live in, love is very hard to find. Our "dreams unwind". We must accept love when it knocks on our doors always because we never know when it could come again. I think in my experience I've learned why people settle. Because it really isn't our choice who we love. The state of mind of the world is too corrupt and what we see on soap operas and read about in fairy tales is just that: a fairy tale or a soap opera. With Rhiannon, Stevie is saying "well I loved Rhiannon, (and you can pick who you want in your life to represent Rhiannon) but Rhiannon did not love me, but maybe it isn't so bad? Maybe it really wasn't going to be heaven."
And when Stevie wears black on stage, and looks witchy, I think the black represents the sorrow we face when we face our lives without Rhiannon. It is a funeral. It is a death. And in the song when she plays the piano at the break in the song, where she's playing notes over and over and over and over: That represents the way we feel, like how crazy we've become over losing Rhiannon, we've literally lost our minds, we think about how hard we've tried to keep this love alive, how we went to the ends of the earth to keep Rhiannon (in my case, Michael) in our lives, all the times we shared together, all the memories, and how it's come to this, this utter pain, and sadness...that's why Stevie loses it in the song.
I don't know why she sings "All the same" at the end, I don't know what that means. But I do know she's just exploding at the end, having what we would call a nervous breakdown, maybe. Because the relationship is over, and we cannot accept it. Rhiannon, or for me, Michael, was so special, so unique. I thought he was the one. But Stevie has helped me see the truth. He was Rhiannon. I now love this song because for so long I did not understand it. Now I do. I will no longer "try hard" for Michael's love. I will no longer "dream on". I will let go. And let him be a bird in flight.
TWILIGHT INSIGHT speculates:
This is in response to Anna's questioning of Stevie's singing "all the same" at the end of Rhiannon:
She is refering to all of her loves essentially being the same. Everyone has gone away and everyone has hurt her and what it all boils down to is that everything has turned out the same way. I had a very difficult time trying to understand the grammatical way in which the speculation was expressed, but I have recently gotten to know Stevie and can tell you the black on stage does not represent anything but that she feels more confident in black. She doesn't have time to sit back and contemplate which colors would represent which emotions. If you'd heard her ever speak of the writing of Rhiannon you would also know the name came from a book and she simply sits and starts writing. When she wrote it the words flowed from her pen to paper without much thought. Later, when she looks back, she sees the meaning but not as she writes it. I am a songwriter as well and write in the same way and can confidentally say thus is the case with Rhiannon. "Where would you stay if she promised to you heaven? Would you even try?"- In retrospect probably speaking of someone who has been offered all they could ever desire or need from her, but they become aloof and act as if they can do better as as if they do not desire or need these things. But at the time, it was just words. I hate to be a bummer here, lol, but this is how that unfolds. It means a lot looking back, but at the writing it just went right from her brain to her paper and nothing more. The black is a matter of it being easy to match things to and it being slimming and therefore making her feel more confident. This song is definately a classic and an incredible one at that. I am glad it has so much meaning for you as Stevie would be incredibly touched as well. But I felt the need to explain a few things about it. :o)
In answer to Twilight Insight, I ask how it can be said that Stevie wrote Rhiannon "without much thought"? That when she wrote Rhiannon, she didn't know the meaning of it when she wrote it? That can't be true. I feel she did know the meaning of it when she wrote it. It's not just "thoughts to paper". It's too remarkable of a song to be reduced to that judgment. I find Twilight's review insulting. Stevie wrote about heartache, and she was a knowledgeable woman. To say that she didn't know what she was writing about at the time that she wrote it is to accuse her of being foolish. And foolish Stevie is not. And "All the same" I've come to learn means that the situation has been the same for all of Rhiannon's lovers: she had to leave them all. There was not one that she could be with. As for the black dress, yes, Stevie said it made her look skinny, but that's not the only reason she wore it. I think she wore it to better explain the story of Rhiannon. And it definitely does.
I was reading the comments at the end of the Rhiannon Dance version and I wanted to clarify. I write songs too, but honesty, my best songs came from just writing stuff down. I have written songs that were somewhat prophetic as is Rhiannon. I have written from a point of view where certain words of phrases just felt right, and later on in life became situations that I went through. Sometimes I would write advice, and it turns out that it worked perfectly in a situation that I encountered. That is the magic of songwriting and inspiration.
In response to the idea that Rhiannon was just words on paper or that a lot of thought went into it, from my experience she probably just wrote it down. Some of the best songs ever written come that way. Take "Friends" by Michael W. Smith, or 3AM by Matchbox 20, or rocky Mountain High by John Denver. Some of these songs really connect, but not out of thought or careful deliberation, but out of the emotions at the time.
One of the methods of witchcraft is allowing spirits to write through you, however I think goodness and our own muses have the power to do that as well. There are songs I had written for no one in particular that perfectly describe someone who came in to my life later on and gave them real meaning, and you can't help but smile when that happens.