Bill Clinton, Neil Portnow, Fleetwood Mac

Bill Clinton (L) and Recording Academy and MusiCares President/CEO Neil Portnow (R) present the MusiCares Person of the Year award to honorees (from 2nd L) Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie onstage during MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Fleetwood Mac at Radio City Music Hall on Jan. 26, 2018 in New York City. 

Michael Kovac/Getty Images

It seemed only fitting that President Bill Clinton present Fleetwood Mac with their award as MusiCares Person of the Year at the annual Recording Academy gala Friday night (Jan. 26) since, as he claimed, “I’ve had ‘Don’t Stop’ played more for me than ‘Hail to the Chief’.”

Zac Brown Band had the honor of performing the theme song for Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign at the fete, which took place at New York’s Radio City Music Hall two nights before the Jan. 28 Grammy Awards. While Clinton and wife Hillary -- she received the biggest standing ovation of the night when he acknowledged her -- may have experienced Fleetwood Mac’s deep catalog of hits in real time, the artists who made the biggest impression were those born decades after the group’s '70s heyday.

Lorde turned in the evening’s most intoxicating performance -- an incandescent, transfixing version of the rueful “Silver Springs,” with the young singer crawling inside the Stevie Nicks torch song about her and Lindsey Buckingham’s failed relationship. Lorde has cited the tune as an influence on her Grammy Album of the Year nominee Melodrama (more than 40 years later, it still remains unbelievable that “Silver Springs” was left off Rumours).

Miley Cyrus made “Landslide” her own, imbuing the song with just the right wistfulness, while the three sisters in Haim delivered a bold “Gypsy.” 

Other highlights included Alison Krauss’s ethereal, goosebump-inducing interpretation of “Songbird,” Keith Urban’s galloping “Second Hand News” (complete with a guitar solo that did Buckingham proud), and Jared Leto’s passionate interpretation of “Never Going Back Again” that came across like a religious testimonial -- greatly aided by a choir. 

The move to Radio City Music Hall took away from the usual intimacy of the evening -- if the event’s usual 2,000-seat Los Angeles Convention Center ballroom can be considered intimate -- and made for a completely different vibe from years past. There was no schmoozing between songs during set changes as folks were locked in their seats and while Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the Clintons were in attendance, the usual high-wattage Hollywood stars such as Matt Damon and Tom Hanks were missing.

Still, several top label execs were in attendance, including Island Records president/CEO David Massey; Universal Music Publishing Group chairman/CEO Jody Gerson; Capitol Music Group chairman/CEO Steve Barnett; Capitol Music Group COO Michelle Jubelirer; Concord Music CEO Scott Pascucci; Sony Music Entertainment exec VP of business affairs/general counsel Julie Swidler; Universal Music Group exec VP of business and legal affairs Jeffrey Harleston; and Azoff MSG Entertainment co-presidents Beth Collins and Susan Genco.

All members of Fleetwood Mac except bassist John McVie spoke after receiving their award. Buckingham acknowledged the dysfunction that fueled so many of the band’s hits, but added, “not very far below the level of dysfunction, what we are feeling more than ever in our career is love.”  

However, it was Nicks’ words that were the most poignant. “The loss of Tom Petty has just about broken my heart,” she said of her “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” duet partner and last year’s MusiCares Person of the Year. “He was one of my best friends. My heart will never get over this.”

She recalled how after Petty was honored last year, he talked to Nicks about MusiCares. “Maybe he was talking about MusiCares because [during his last tour] he was not well. He was ill. He should have canceled… Tom, I know you’re standing next to me because you have for so many years.”

Petty died Oct 2, one week after finishing his tour from an accidental overdose. 

Nicks, who turns 70 this spring, also talked about joining the band 43 years ago. “I’ve watched little tiny Rhiannons grow up now and they have two kids,” referring to the younger generation of fans who continue to discover the band’s music through their parents and grandparents.  

After a break to reset the stage, Harry Styles came out to introduce the evening’s honorees, calling himself one of the “babies” Nicks was referring to, before joining them for “The Chain,” a song he’d previously covered. The group then dove into Christine McVie’s “Little Lies,” a wild “Tusk,” complete with Buckingham’s maniacal yelps, and an enchanting extended take on Nicks’ “Gold Dust Woman,” before concluding with a biting “Go Your Own Way,” which had the entire audience dancing, including President and Secretary Clinton, as the evening drew to a close.

The 2018 MusiCares dinner raised nearly $7 million, according to Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow. The money will fund health and human services programs for musicians and people in the music industry. Since 1989, MusiCares has aided more than 125,000 clients and distributed close to $60 million. 

Musicares 2018 Person of the Year set list: 

“Big Love,” Imagine Dragons
“Say You Love Me,” Brandi Carlisle
“I’m So Afraid,” Portugal.The Man
“Hold Me,” Juanes
“Songbird,”  Alison Krauss w/ Jerry Douglas
“Gypsy,” Haim
“Second Hand News,” Keith Urban
“Silver Springs,” Lorde
“Everywhere,” OneRepublic
“Dreams,” Little Big Town
“Never Going Back Again,” Jared Leto
“Landslide,” Miley Cyrus
“Don’t Stop,” Zac Brown Band

“The Chain” Fleetwood Mac w/ Harry Styles
“Little Lies,” Fleetwood Mac
“Tusk,” Fleetwood Mac
“Gold Dust Woman,” Fleetwood Mac
“Go Your Own Way,” Fleetwood Mac