Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green: 1946 – 2020
Peter Green, the co-founder and the original guitar player of Fleetwood Mac, has died. His death was confirmed by his family in a statement to the BBC that explained that he passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 73.
Green’s impact on the rock world is almost incalculable. He was able to play with both grace and power but equally significant was his way with words.
His lyrics often documented his own increasingly troubled state of mind. Man Of The World, written by Green and a hit for Fleetwood Mac in 1969, typifies his finesse as a player and his languorous vocal style as well as his existential lyricism – the line ‘But I just wish I’d never been born’ underlining his introspective, melancholic outlook.
Indeed, by that time Green was struggling with both the pressures of stardom as well as his prodigious intake of LSD – a drug that contributed to his increasingly fragile mental state and ultimately led to his departure from Fleetwood Mac the following year.
Prior to forming Fleetwood Mac in ’67, Green had played in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – the band that had helped usher in the hugely influential British blues boom. His departure from Mayall’s band saw him take electric blues music into a new, expansive territory with the Mac as he developed his own distinctive style.
While the band’s early repertoire consisted largely of blues covers, Green’s songwriting soon saw them enjoying commercial success thanks to tracks that included Black Magic Woman (also a worldwide hit for Santana in 1971), the atmospheric Albatross and the classic stomp of Oh Well.
A widely covered tune, the track captured Green’s heavy and dynamic approach. The same can be said of his playing on The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown) – a tune he wrote and released the following year.
Despite its fanciful title, the track dealt with the evils of money – something that Green himself wrestled with intensely as the Mac’s fortunes rose. The track itself proved hugely influential on a new generation of musicians, with British metal legends Judas Priest among those who incorporated the track into their set – releasing a version of it on their 1978 album, Killing Machine.
When Green parted ways with Fleetwood Mac in 1970, they went through several line-up changes before finding global superstardom. Peter, meanwhile, continued to battle his demons as he embarked on a fitful solo career that saw him largely withdraw from the world.
However, his work with Fleetwood Mac meant that he remained revered as a player. When in 2007 I arranged for him to be presented by Noel Gallagher with the Les Paul Award at the MOJO magazine awards for his pioneering work as a guitar player, Peter appeared both grateful and yet blissfully unaware of his achievements in equal measure.
Most recently, his life and music were further celebrated by his former bandmate Mick Fleetwood who organised a one-off celebration of the man’s work at the London Palladium on February 25, 2020. Green himself did not attend but musicians who played the show and paid tribute to him included John Mayall, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, The Who’s Pete Townshend and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett.
Kirk is in fact the proud owner of Peter Green’s trusted ’59 Gibson Les Paul, Greeny. He was also working on a book and audio project with Peter earlier this year for which the Metallica guitarist recorded music at Abbey Road.
Posting a photo of Greeny on Instagram and paying tribute to his hero, Kirk 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.”
Kerrang! would like to echo those sentiments and extend our condolences to the Green family as well as Peter’s bandmates and friends.
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