Amid the din of cheering and the shift in audio from the microphone back to the voice-over of news anchors, one would have had to listen closely after former President Bill Clinton finished his speech yesterday at the Democratic National Convention but to those familiar with it – the strains were unmistakeable.
“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow….don’t stop…it’ll soon be here…”
It had been fifteen years since it had first been heard and made one of the Top 10 singles in the U.S., practically three lifetimes in the music industry, but a presidential candidate had personally decided that it would be his official campaign song.
And as the July 1992 convention in New York City which nominated him as the Democratic party’s candidate, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was joined by his family, his vice presidential running mate Al Gore and a host of party officials on stage to the blare of the 1977 hit song Don’t Stop, by the rock band Fleetwood Mac. In fact, the single even hit number three on the Billboard chart in October of 1977.
The song had first been heard on the group’s Rumours album, its second one, which sold some 40 million copies and won the 1977 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. It was written by keyboard player Christine McVie, who sang it with guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.
All across the United States that summer, whether candidate Clinton was appearing at an outdoor rally or in a hotel ballroom, arriving by limousine or his famous campaign bus, anyone within hearing range heard Don’t Stop all over again.
And, for those Americans who never attended a Clinton campaign event, it was heard again on live, national television on Election Night in 1992, when Clinton appeared in front of the Arkansas Governor’s mansion upon hearing he had won the election.
And along with the overwhelming responsibilities and ambitious agenda he took on after that night, president-elect Clinton was determined to do what seemed impossible – reunite Fleetwood Mac for his 1993 Inauguration festivities.
The group, formed in London in 1977, consisting of Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks hadn’t shared a stage since 1982 at that point.
With his considerable powers of persuasion and using the skillful tactics of the centrist Democratic platform he’d been elected on, Bill Clinton pulled them together.
What drew Clinton so strongly to the song? Don’t Stop reflected Christine McVie had written the lyrics to express her separation from her husband of eight years, Fleetwood Mac‘s bass guitarist John McVie. As she later recalled, Don’t Stop was just a feeling. It just seemed to be a pleasant revelation to have that ‘yesterday’s gone.’ It might have, I guess, been directed more toward John, but I’m just definitely not a pessimist.”
What candidate Clinton heard in them, however, was a sense of the need to pay heed to the swiftness with which valuable time is always passing – and the positive results from doing so. The lyrics make no reference to a divorce, but rather speak to the larger point of using the present moment to create a future change for the better:
“Why not think about times to come…And not about the things you’ve done…If your life was bad to you…Just think what tomorrow will do…”Don’t stop thinkin’ about tomorrow…Don’t stop it’ll soon be here…It’ll be better than before…Yesterdays gone, yesterdays gone…”
Here is a rousing rendition, with a bit of an introduction, showing Fleetwood Mac performing the Clinton song at his 1993 Inaugural Gala, where the band was joined on stage by President-elect Clinton, Hillary Clinton and their daughter – as well as other gala performers, notably Michael Jackson.
Bill Clinton’s presidency certainly gave a revivalist boost to Fleetwood Mac and during his second term as President, the group unified for a concert tour and a comeback album, The Dance, in 1997. Shortly thereafter, however, Don’t Stop‘s writer Christine McVie left the group.
She was therefor not there, three years later, in a massive White House tent, when Fleetwood Mac gathered together one more time – this time to utterly shock Bill Clinton, a surprise final performance secretly organized by his staff for his farewell party in January of 2001.
Beside Don’t Stop, the group played a fuller set, including The Chain, Dreams, Landslide, Gold Dust Woman, Go Your Own Way, Rhiannon, Tusk, Big Love, Gypsy and So Afraid, some of which had helped shape what became known as the “California Rock” sound, popular in the late 1970s.
As Buckingham recalled, “We were involved in a small way in ushering in his administration, so it was nice to kind of complete that cycle. Before we did the last song, I said we were just pleased to be here at the end, just as in the beginning . . . Especially in light of what we have coming now, you have to appreciate a lot of the things that he did and what he tried to do and even the things he couldn’t do.”
At the time, he admitted that with the President “sitting twenty feet away” he thought that Stevie Nicks was “a little more nervous” than himself, “because she doesn’t have a guitar to hide behind.”
Don’t Stop remains former President Clinton’s theme song; it was used to introduce his addresses at each Democratic Convention since his own two. Last year, at his 65th birthday gala, a fundraiser for his Clinton Global Initiatives, he even tried to get the group together one more time, all of them now individual artists who would have to produce their performance as a donation. Perhaps his most loyal admirer from Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, agreed to do so and then booked herself a Las Vegas gig to raise her own funds to underwrite the performance.
The theme song has never quite seemed to be out of Bill Clinton’s head. Even at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, when he was both literally and figuratively stepping off the stage, he concluded his speech by saying, “Keep putting people first. Keep building those bridges. And don’t stop thinking about tomorrow!”
With a seeming rise in Clinton nostalgia, perhaps its no coincidence that Fleetwood Mac announced that they will reunite for a tour in 2012.
- Bill Clinton, Politics’ Comeback Kid, Rides Again At The DNC (wnyc.org)
- Bill Clinton ready to fight for Obama (english.ruvr.ru)
- Fmr. John Kerry Campaign Adviser: ‘Barack Obama Needs Bill Clinton Tonight, But Clinton Needs Obama Tomorrow and the Next Four Years’ (foxnewsinsider.com)
- Excerpts of Bill Clinton’s speech at Democratic Convention (americablog.com)
- Arkansas Delegates Attend Former President Bill Clinton Event in Charlotte, NC (arkansasmatters.com)
- About that Republican fantasy of Bill Clinton going rogue … (dailykos.com)
- Dick Comments On Bill Clinton (dickmorris.com)
- 9 Photos That Will Make You Fall in Love With Bill Clinton All Over Again (motherjones.com)
- Fleetwood Mac – The ‘rumours’ Are True, Fleetwood Mac To Tour In 2013 (contactmusic.com)
- Fleetwood Mac Reuniting Next Year (stereogum.com)