Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green has died
Peter Green, who co-founded Fleetwood Mac and was a member of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, has died. He was 73. His family confirmed the news, writing, “It is with great sadness that the family of Peter Green announce his death this weekend, peacefully in his sleep. A further statement will be provided in the coming days.”
Fellow Fleetwood Mac co-founder Mick Fleetwood said in a statement to Rolling Stone, "For me, and every past and present member of Fleetwood Mac, losing Peter Green is monumental! Peter was the man who started the band Fleetwood Mac along with myself, John McVie, and Jeremy Spencer. No one has ever stepped into the ranks of Fleetwood Mac without a reverence for Peter Green and his talent, and to the fact that music should shine bright and always be delivered with uncompromising passion!!!" He also added, "Peter, I will miss you, but rest easy your music lives on. I thank you for asking me to be your drummer all those years ago. We did good, and trailblazed one hell of a musical road for so many to enjoy. God speed to you, my dearest friend."
In the mid to late '60s, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie were all members of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, a band which also included future Cream members Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, future Rolling Stones member Mick Taylor, and several others at various points. Peter Green (vocals, guitar) and Mick Fleetwood (drums) then formed Fleetwood Mac together in 1967 with vocalist/slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer and bassist Bob Brunning, the latter of whom was soon replaced by John McVie. Like the Bluesbreakers, they were originally part of the UK blues rock and psychedelic rock scene, and sounded drastically different than the hit-making Fleetwood Mac of the late '70s and '80s, but no less essential. Green was in Fleetwood Mac for their many early non-album singles and their first three albums: their 1968 self-titled album, 1968's Mr. Wonderful, and 1969's Then Play On, one of the all-time great albums of the original psychedelic rock era. Green was not just a fiery guitarist but also an innovative singer/songwriter, whose compositions included "Black Magic Woman" (which was famously covered by Santana), chart-topping instrumental "Albatross", "Oh Well", "The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)," "Man of the World," and more.
Peter Green left Fleetwood Mac in 1970, though he made brief appearances with them over the years since (including on 1979's Tusk, which features his guitar playing on "Brown Eyes"). Also in 1970, he released his debut solo album, The End of the Game, a psychedelic, jammy, instrumental album that marked a noticeable departure from his work with Fleetwood Mac. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia around then, and he spent time in and out of psychiatric hospitals and undergoing electroshock therapy throughout the 1970s. Famously, Fleetwood Mac manager Clifford Davis cites an instance of Green taking LSD at a party at a commune in Munich as a turning point for his mental state. In Bob Brunning's book Fleetwood Mac: The First 30 Years, Green is quoted as saying in 1988, "I'm at present recuperating from treatment for taking drugs. It was drugs that influenced me a lot. I took more than I intended to. I took LSD eight or nine times. The effect of that stuff lasts so long."
Green began making a comeback with his 1979 sophomore album In the Skies, and he released more solo albums throughout the 1980s. In 1997, he formed Peter Green Splinter Group, with whom he released a handful of albums in the late '90s and early 2000s. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac in 1998. He attended the ceremony but did not perform with Fleetwood Mac, whose Rumours-era lineup performed that night. Instead, he performed "Black Magic Woman" with Santana, who were inducted the same year (video below).
Green's songs have remained highly influential over the years. Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo and Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis released a cover of Albatross for the 2012 tribute album Just Tell Me That You Want Me; Jason Isbell and Haim do "Oh Well"; and "The Green Manalishi" inspired countless metal bands, including Judas Priest, Melvins, and Corrosion of Conformity, all of whom have their own well-known versions of the song. "They were way ahead of their time," Judas Priest bassist Ian Hill said of Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac.
Earlier this week, Fleetwood Mac announced a box set of their 1969 - 1974 work, including an expanded version of Then Play On. Last year, newly-unearthed Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac recordings came out on Before The Beginning 1968-1970: Rare Live & Demo Sessions.
This past February, Mick Fleetwood led a big concert of Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green-era material with Billy Gibbons, David Gilmour, Jonny Lang, Andy Fairweather Low, John Mayall, Christine McVie, Zak Starkey, Steven Tyler, Bill Wyman, Noel Gallagher, Pete Townshend, Neil Finn, Kirk Hammett and many more. It's coming out as a live album on October 19 (pre-order).
"It’s important to recognize the profound impact Peter and the early Fleetwood Mac had on the world of music," Mick Fleetwood said in a news release for that concert. "Peter was my greatest mentor and it gives me such joy to pay tribute to his incredible talent. I am honored to be sharing the stage with some of the many artists Peter has inspired over the years and who share my great respect for this remarkable musician."
There's also a Peter Green tribute album/book project in the works that includes Kirk Hammett, David Gilmour, and several others TBA.
Tributes have begun to come in from fellow musicians. Stevie Nicks, who had been reviving "Black Magic Woman" on Fleetwood Mac's recent tours, wrote, "I am sorry to hear about the passing of Peter Green. My biggest regret is that I never got to share the stage with him. I always hoped in my heart of hearts that that would happen. When I first listened to all the Fleetwood Mac records, I was very taken with his guitar playing. It was one of the reasons I was excited to join the band. His legacy will live on forever in the history books of Rock n Roll. It was in the beginning, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac and I thank you, Peter Green, for that. You changed our lives."
Metallica's Kirk Hammett -- who currently owns Green's ‘59 Les Paul, "Greenie" -- wrote, "No words can describe how I feel right now. Peter Green lives on through his music and his instrument. Our loss is total. Peter Green, Rest In Peace my friend!!!"
Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler wrote, "Sad to hear of Peter Green passing- one of the greats. RIP."
Peter Frampton wrote, "Most sadly have lost one of the most tasteful guitar players ever I have always been a huge admirer of the great Peter Green may he rest in peace."
Yusuf / Cat Stevens wrote, "God bless the ineffable Peter Green, one of the unsung heroes of musical integrity, innovation and spirit. When I heard he left Fleetwood Mac in 1970 to get a real life and donate his wealth to charity, he became something of a model for me."
David Coverdale (of Deep Purple and Whitesnake) wrote, "An artist I truly loved & admired… from the first time I heard him… I supported the original Fleetwood Mac at Redcar Jazz Club when I was in a local band… he was a breathtaking singer, guitarist & composer… I know who I will be listening to today… RIP."
See many more tributes from members of Kiss, Genesis, The Pop Group, The Smiths, Blur, Testament, Primal Scream, Sleaford Mods, Franz Ferdinand, and several others.
Watch some Peter Green-era live videos and stream some of their classic songs below.
Danny Kirwan, who played alongside Peter Green on Then Play On and "Albatross," "Man of the World," and other singles, died in 2018.
Rest in peace, Peter. You were truly one of the greats and your music will live on.