You Can “Go Your Own Way” (And Surely Will)

I’ve listened to this podcast about Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” from Song Exploder a […]

Larry Parsley / 1.15.19

I’ve listened to this podcast about Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” from Song Exploder a half dozen times already, and I know I’m not done with it. If you’re not familiar, Song Exploder is a podcast “where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.” To be sure, I know next to nothing about rock and roll or any other kind of music (for that DZ is your man). But there is something absolutely mesmerizing about hearing Lindsey Buckingham narrate the story of this song that occupied a solid spot on my teenaged Top 40 list.

To hear him tell it, Buckingham’s romantic relationship with girlfriend Stevie Nicks was over. As a child, Nicks moved around a bunch, and from Buckingham’s point of view, she never grew out of that inner restlessness. He says he composed the lyric “almost as a stream of consciousness” chronicle of his sadness over their breakup (Fleetwood Mac was apparently pretty hard on relationships). The song does not paint his ex in a wonderful light (see “packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do”). The podcast not only does a great job of isolating the genius bass, drums, guitars, organ, etc, but even more the raw, outraged vocals of Buckingham (not to mention the backing vocals of Nicks and Christine McVie). Buckingham was essentially telling Nicks she could continue to “go her own way,” but loneliness would be awaiting her when she got there. Nicks was so incensed, she told Rolling Stone, that every time she heard those harsh lyrics on stage she “wanted to go over and kill him.”

Here’s what I could not get out of my mind. With “Go Your Own Way” becoming a monster hit, Nicks was doomed, in one sold-out venue after another, to hear nightly those grim words and add her voice to them, like some dark liturgy of waywardness and unfulfilled love. It was not too hard for me to hear somewhere in the refrain a hint of the brutal truth the prophet Isaiah sings over all of us: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Not to be too gloomy, you understand, but daily singing backup vocals on a song of my own failure sounds like a pretty good definition of hell to me. But in Isaiah’s lyric, there’s another line that follows immediately after our turning, like lost sheep, down a self-chosen and lost path: “… and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Christ, our Suffering Servant, will find a way to absorb the price of our lostness and shacking up with lesser gods.

You will go your own way. Count on it. But that’s not how your song has to end.