Peter Green, the legendary British blues guitar virtuoso who co-founded Fleetwood Mac in the 1960s, has died at 73. “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,” the law firm Swan Turton revealed Saturday morning.
Green, who was born Peter Greenbaum on Oct. 29, 1946, in London, England, is considered to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time; as B.B. King once noted, Green "was the only one who gave me the cold sweats." Green picked up his first guitar at age 10 and was playing professionally by the time he turned 15. He got his first big break in 1966, when he replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers; his one album with that band, A Hard Road, featured two of his own compositions, "The Same Way" and "The Supernatural." A year later, Green left the Bluesbreakers to form his own blues group with drummer Mick Fleetwood (whom he’d met in 1965 while playing in Peter B's Looners), Jeremy Spencer, and John McVie. This early version of Fleetwood Mac, originally called Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, made its debut at the British Blues and Jazz festival in summer 1967, which led to a record deal.
The Green-led lineup of Fleetwood Mac released four albums between 1968 and 1969: Fleetwood Mac (which stayed on the British charts for 13 months), Mr. Wonderful, English Rose, and Then Play On. Green penned several Mac classics during this time, including “Albatross” (which was the band’s first No. 1 single), “Oh Well,” “Man of the World,” and “Black Magic Woman,” the latter of which was famously covered by Carlos Santana’s group Santana in 1970.
However, Green’s last single for Fleetwood Mac, “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown),” seemed like a cry for help; he had begun experimenting with LSD, and his behavior had grown increasingly erratic. Green later explained in a 1996 interview with Mojo (a magazine that ranked him at No. 3 on its list of the greatest guitar players of all time) was about money, as represented by the devil. Green’s final performance with Fleetwood Mac was on May 20, 1970, and later that year he released his fittingly titled solo album, The End of the Game. Green was officially out of the band for good by 1971.
Green was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, and he spent time in psychiatric hospitals undergoing electroconvulsive therapy during the mid-‘70s. He returned to performing in the ‘90s with the Peter Green Splinter Group, which released nine albums. While Fleetwood Mac went on to massive success with the Rumours-era lineup of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, and Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood has always credited Green for starting it all. When Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, Green attended and memorably jammed with fellow inductee Santana on "Black Magic Woman” at the ceremony.
In 2018, when Fleetwood Mac toured with yet another revamped lineup (with Mike Campbell and Neil Finn replacing Buckingham), they dipped into the Green-era catalog, playing “Black Magic Woman” and “Oh Well”; Mick Fleetwood told Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM Volume at the time, “We've already celebrated 50 years of being in a band called Fleetwood Mac, so we're really looking forward to revisiting of some of the old blues-based rock ‘n’ roll stuff we did back in the day. … We haven't played these songs for many years.” Earlier this year, Fleetwood, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and many others performed at the London Palladium during a gig celebrating the early years of Fleetwood Mac and Green. The news of Green’s death comes just one day after Fleetwood Mac announced the Sept. 4 release of an eight-disc boxed set, Fleetwood Mac 1969-1974, which encompasses the Green era.
On Saturday, luminaries of the rock community took to social media to pay tribute to Green:
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.
— Peter Frampton (@peterframpton) July 25, 2020
Sad to hear of Peter Green passing- one of the greats. RIP. pic.twitter.com/OUHg3KwnNy
— Geezer Butler (@geezerbutler) July 25, 2020
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.
— Yusuf / Cat Stevens (@YusufCatStevens) July 25, 2020
RIP Peter Green. One of the absolute hierarchy of the original British Blues Greats. Clapton, Page, Beck and Green. https://t.co/nKBHLcjcwu
— Paul Stanley (@PaulStanleyLive) July 25, 2020
R.I.P Peter Green. A unique artist and a beautiful guitar player. pic.twitter.com/UeyzpUKlCP
— Johnny Marr (@Johnny_Marr) July 25, 2020
Peter Green was an alchemist, a magician. His ethereal vision of the Blues was unlike anything we have heard before or since. Create in Peace.🎼 pic.twitter.com/35sFKmR46Y
— Michael Des Barres (@MDesbarres) July 25, 2020
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