400 Songs That Shape My World: #397 “Gold Dust Woman” by Fleetwood Mac

This is a list of 400 songs that continue to shape my world, the soundtrack of my life.  I encourage you to click on the above video, to hear the song a couple of times as you read the lyrics and comments below.  I don’t recommend watching the video slideshow images above;  rather, listen to the music and read the words below.

#397: “Gold Dust Woman” by Fleetwood Mac

Songwriter:  Stevie Nicks


Rock on gold dust woman
Take your silver spoon
Dig your grave

Heartless challenge
Pick your path and I’ll pray

Wake up in the morning
See your sunrise loves go down

Lousy lovers pick their prey
But they never cry out loud, cry out

Well did she make you cry?
Make you break down?
Shatter your illusions of love?
And is it over now?
Do you know how?
To pick up the pieces and go home?

Rock on ancient queen
Follow those who pale in your shadow

Rulers make bad lovers
You better put your kingdom up for sale, up for sale

Well did she make you cry?
Make you break down?
Shatter your illusions of love?
And is it over now?
Do you know how?
To pick up the pieces and go home?

Well did she make you cry?
Make you break down?
Shatter your illusions of love?
And is it over now?
Do you know how?
To pick up the pieces and go home? 

Go home, go home

Ooh, pale shadow of a woman

Black widow

Pale shadow of a dragon

Ooh, pale shadow of a woman

Black widow

Pale shadow, she’s a dragon

Gold dust woman


Songs are not always better when you learn all the lyrics.  Sometimes the musicality of a song, and the ambiguity of the lyrics work magically together.

For example, I always thought the lyric was:

Lousy lovers think they’re brave
But they never cry out loud

And that mis-heard lyric works just as well for me.

This song probably cannot be fully appreciated until you’ve loved and lost.  The instrumental accompaniment, the Wild West steel guitars, the thumping bass drum beats – all work to conjure up heartache – like a Native American chant, trying to call old spirits back to life.  But a blues theme in the song is:  No amount of earnest incantations will bring certain things back to life.

About the song’s meaning, Stevie Nicks said “I know there was cocaine there and that I fancied it gold dust, somehow . . . It’s weird that I’m not quite sure.  It can’t be all about cocaine.”

As with many great songs or poems, “Gold Dust Woman” is open to many different, but still accurate interpretations.  The song can be about losing a relationship with a person (not necessarily just a woman) who has chosen to abandon you, preferring to pursue some other “addiction” or “habit” or “pain-killer” or “anesthetic.”  Alternatively, the song can be about being poor, and losing a relationship with a rich person, who you perceive does not value others because they can buy what they need, even new social relationships.

Interestingly, Hall & Oates released a song, “Rich Girl,” in the same month in 1977, with similar lyrical themes.  Musically, it had a completely differently feel, but the lyrical sentiments were very similar.  Here are some of the lyrics:

You’re a rich girl and you’ve gone too far
‘Cause you know it don’t matter anyway
You can rely on the old man’s money
You can rely on the old man honey
It’s a bitch girl, but it’s gone too far

The music video for “Rich Girl” is interesting, as the band of gay musicians sing for mostly men in the audience, and “Rich Girl was probably not intended to be gender restricted.

Similarly, “Gold Dust Woman” is not intended to be misogynist against only women.  The song’s frustrations can be directed at men and women equally.

In “Gold Dust Woman,” it is unclear why she left – just like it is often unclear why any one person leaves another.  This is not a “she done me wrong” song;  rather, she may have left exhibiting cruel intent, genuine indifference, or compassion for you or another.

Regardless of why she left, the song’s melody and acoustic soundscape capture the waves of feelings of abandonment and bewilderment that occur nonetheless.

To understand the song, it is essential to know this:  You loved her.  That is what you must understand from a first person perspective.  And whether she left for reasons good or ill, her abandonment (or departure) shattered not just your expectations . . . it shattered you.  It shattered the frameworks you built up through your stages of cognitive development, through your adolescence.  It shattered your understanding of yourself.

The questions in the chorus are knowingly rhetorical because her departure:

Made you cry
Broke you down
And shattered your illusions of love
While the relationship is over
Your feelings and knowledge about the loss of her, and the loss of the chemistry of the two of you, may never be over
Nevertheless, you will have to figure out how to pick up the pieces of you she chose to leave behind
And somehow find a new “home”

And those are just some of the reasons why this remains and often-played, great song.

Gold Dust Woman on Wikipedia

Stevie Nicks on Wikipedia

Fleetwood Mac on Wikipedia

Rumours on Wikipedia

In a marvelous poetic twist, “Gold Dust Woman” was released as the B-Side (in the US) to the contrarian, light-hearted Fleetwood Mac disco-beat single “You Make Lovin’ Fun”:


(Click on the image if you wish to view it larger or in greater detail.)

© All rights reserved by the respective artists.

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