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Lindsey Buckingham is a multi-platinum enigma -- massively successful and still somehow an enduring, intriguing mystery. As an individual artist, Buckingham has remained a curiously low-profile figure, despite decades of high visibility as a member of Fleetwood Mac -- the legendary band for which he has long served as a visionary leader and bold sonic architect.
For Buckingham, "Fleetwood Mac has been one of the joys of my life, but that kind of success is a double-edged sword. You're under tremendous pressure to sell as much and as often as possible, to become an assembly line, to feed the philosophy, `If it works, run it into the ground.' Artists need to take their time to breathe in and out, to take risks though it may not always be good for business."
Buckingham is that rare artist whose body of work shows a refusal to allow commerce to swamp art. His series of wildly eclectic and consistently acclaimed albums have topped more critics' annual Top Ten lists than sales charts. Within Fleetwood Mac, his role is fascinating-- his brilliance as a singer-songwriter-arranger and producer have been key in making the band's music so successful, yet he's famously displayed a commercially subversive tendency dating back to Fleetwood Mac's Tusk -- the band's daring follow-up to 1977's Rumours, one of the best-selling albums in music history. Rarely has anyone followed their muse so strongly, challenging himself and his bandmates rather than taking the formulaic path of least resistance.
"On the heels of Rumours, the pressure was very great to come up with something like Rumours II," Buckingham remembers. "But the process of making Rumours had been about spontaneous events as a band and as individuals -- events never to be repeated. Why try? We were at the crossroads, and I felt as a writer and producer I was being given the opportunity to make choices that would define me forever after. It defines the ethic I try to uphold to this day. I remember hearing that when the Tusk album was played for the first time at the Warner Bros. weekly staff meeting, everyone saw their Christmas bonuses flying out the window! That was their equation and therein lies the dilemma between creativity and business."
Today, Tusk is viewed not as a commercial letdown, but rather as an influential rock classic. It stands as a testament to the unflinching talent that makes Buckingham a true musical artist. His refusal to sell his own musical gifts short can be heard loud and clear on his wonderful and willful solo albums -- Law and Order, Go Insane, Out of The Cradle -- and most recently on Fleetwood Mac's 2003 smash release Say You Will, an acclaimed album that has stunned critics with its ambition and accomplishment. For anyone who's been listening closely, Say You Will is the latest evidence that Lindsey Buckingham is a daring musical genius who remains at the height of his powers, refusing to rest on his laurels. Lindsey Buckingham is that rare rock god who seems constitutionally incapable of simply going with the flow.
All in all, he'd rather go his own way.