Stevie Nicks has said that “Sara” is about the doomed affair she had with her best friend’s husband — who just so happened to be Mick Fleetwood, her own drummer. Fans have said that it is about the doomed affair she had with Don Henley of the Eagles — and the abortion she had by him. Other suggestions: Sara refers to the name of her inner child — or the name, actual name, of Fleetwood’s wife at the time. Well, whatever. Stevie’s stay at the Hotel California may be legendary, but “Sara” needs no such baggage in order to remain the saddest song on Tusk.
Borne of much vamping in the studio, the song sounds quite literally haunted. Fleetwood drums using brush-sticks. Sun-dappled harmonies wash in and out. Lindsey Buckingham, the guitarist and nominal leader of the band (for this version of the Mac), coats Stevie’s simple piano lick in effervescent waves of sound. If you listen hard enough, you get an overall impression of guilt and self-ruin — but no more. Who started the fire and whose house did it burn down? Is the house a metaphor like the sea is? Is Stevie a castaway, slave to the drift? The basic repetition of the same few cryptic lyrics has a kind of zoom-lens effect. By pairing it with the slow build-and-release of the mix, the song lingers in the mind. “Sara” refuses to resolve itself (I see Stevie waiting, steeling herself for still another storm), yet by song’s end you feel a journey is ended. Someone’s heart is on the mend.