How Did a Misheard Word Lead to the Song “Edge of Seventeen”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: A misheard word due to the accent of Tom Petty’s wife led to the Stevie Nicks’ song “Edge of Seventeen.”

After a number of years having great success as a member of the band Fleetwood Mac, singer Stevie Nicks released her first solo album in July of 1981, titled Bella Donna.

The two biggest singles off of the album were “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” (which was co-written by Tom Petty, who duets with Nicks on the tune) and “Edge of Seventeen.”

“Edge of Seventeen” is a song about death, written by Stevie Nicks in December of 1980 when both John Lennon (who was a good friend of Bella Donna producer, Jimmy Iovine) and her Uncle Jonathon died during the same week that month.

It has the very famous refrain:

Just like the white winged dove…
Sings a song…
Sounds like she’s singing…
Whoo… whoo… whoo…
Just like the white winged dove…
Sings a song…
Sounds like she’s singing…
Ooo baby… ooo… said ooo

The white-winged dove, in this instance, symbolizes the soul leaving the body upon death.

In any event, while the song turned out to be about the death of the two Johns, originally the tune was going to be about the relationship of Tom Petty and his wife Jane.

As mentioned earlier, Petty wrote and played on the album, and Nicks toured with the group during 1980 leading up to the recording and release of her solo album, and Nicks became good friends with the couple during this time (Tom was married to Jane for 22 years).

Well, according to an interview Nicks did with Robert W. Morgan in 1981, the following conversation with Jane Petty ended up leading to the creation of “Edge of Seventeen”…

She was telling me about Tom, about when she met him, and she has an incredible Southern accent…and she said that she met him at the age of seventeen, but I thought she said “edge”, and she said “no…age” and I said “Jane, forget it, it’s got to be “edge”. The “Edge of Seventeen” is perfect. I’m going to write a song, ok? And I’m going to give you credit.” She didn’t believe me, you know? She couldn’t believe it when it came out on the album.

Later, Nicks noted about the song:

So it started out about Tom and Jane basically, who I have no idea what they were at 17, but I made it up. And, uh it went into being written about [her Uncle Jon and John Lennon].

Nicks IS right, the phrase “edge of seventeen” really IS a brilliant turn of phrase.

By the by, a misheard lyric like that is called a mondegreen, just in case you were curious.

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Thanks to Richard Morgan for the interview, Stevie Nicks for the infromation, Jane Petty for the (inadvertant) awesome phrase and John Kinney, operator of the official Stevie Nicks’ website, The Nicks Fix, for the quotes!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

Leave a Reply