i will always love you

by rebecca varcoe

The record my parents played the most when I was a child was the still-perfect Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I had no idea, road-tripping in the back of a beat-up station wagon at the age of nine, that my parents were blasting an album created by a bunch of people cheating on each other (and maybe with each other).

From the titular Macs (Christine and John McVie) divorcing, to the romance between witchy queen Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, the band is still on-again/off-again to this day – both romantically and musically. But Fleetwood Mac are not the only musicians who got freaky (and lovey!) with each other – some of biggest tunes of the last few decades were written by musos stuck performing with their exes.


When No Doubt bassist Tony Konal dumped eternal ‘90s crush Gwen Stefani in 1994, he inspired one of the greatest break-up anthems of all time. “Don’t Speak” was one of the biggest bangers on their legendary third album, Tragic Kingdom, and Gwen, the patron saint of blonde quiffs wrote it about Tony. The most bonkers thing about the band is that they managed to stay together despite their relationship’s demise, and then managed to get through 28 (yes, 28) months of touring after the break-up, singing this song every night. I would rather eat my own eyeballs than tour the world with any of my exes. Hard pass.


As Kevin Costner swoops up Whitney Houston in that iconic scene in The Bodyguard, our throats all tighten as the chords of “AND IIIII-EEE-III will always LOVE YOU” swell through our speakers. While many people know that Whitney’s version of “I Will Always Love You” is just that – a version – many don’t know the origin story of one of the most famous love songs of all time. Dolly Parton was discovered in the ‘60s by a chap named Porter Wagoner, who featured the singer on his variety show for over five years. Dolly quickly became a star in her own right, but when she decided to strike out on her own, Porter pitched a fit and wouldn’t let her leave. So, to persuade him, she wrote this song. It worked, and she got to chase a solo career on the condition he produced the hit. They went on to have a fraught relationship, but Dolly was still there by his side when he died, singing this very song to him. Dolly! Forever our gracious, bedazzled queen.


Wyclef and Lauryn are a creative power couple whose messy break-up was a real bummer. Sorry to bring it all the way down in what is already a harsh reminder of the fragility of human romance. The timeline is a little confusing, but the Fugees, the group consisting of Wyclef, Lauryn and Pras Michel, was formed in 1992, and they broke up a short five years later in 1997. Sometime not too long after the band formed, Wyclef and Lauryn began a love affair that they couldn’t sustain. I use 'affair' in the literal sense here – Wyclef Jean was (and is still) married to his wife Claudette for the duration of he and Lauryn’s turbulent relationship. To top things off, in a 2012 memoir, Wyclef claims the divine Ms Hill fell pregnant to another man and told him he was the father in an attempt to revive their love. On one hand, we’ve all made desperate moves in the throes of a break-up; on the other, if my ex-boyfriend published a memoir including his thoughts and theories on our relationship, I’d use it as toilet paper. “Killing me Softly” is still a perfect song, though.


Are they married? Are they related? Are they neither and it’s just a thing they did to market their band? Jack and Meg White entered our collective consciousness in 2000, but records show they had already married and divorced by then. To the public, they insisted they were siblings, but in reality, they had married in 1996 and gotten divorced sometime before their rise to mainstream fame. While they don’t seem to be besties these days (Jack has been quoted as saying they barely speak due to Meg’s extreme reclusiveness), it would be unreasonable to expect them to get divorced, produce a classic like “Seven Nation Army”, and still be close. My ex and I couldn’t assemble IKEA furniture without three face-melting fights, so I think the Whites did pretty good.  

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