I have been listening to Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and Peter Green, Blues for Dhyâna while burning chicken this morning on the barby when i heard the news of Peter Green’s death … Fleetwood Mac was an English blues group, formed in 1967 and lasted until the mid-70’s when they went pop with the gals. What a fucking band … and so many listeners weren’t even aware of their blues past, in the beginning. What a loss.
Green’s family confirmed his death in a statement to the BBC, “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.”
Green was one of eight Fleetwood Mac members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998; the blues guitarist also placed number 58 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists list.
The London-born blues guitarist first came to prominence beginning in 1965 when he was handpicked as Eric Clapton’s replacement in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. “He might not be better [than Clapton] now. But you wait… he’s going to be the best,” Mayall told his producer at the time.
Two years later, Green and fellow Bluesbreaker and drummer Mick Fleetwood formed their own band, later to be known simply as Fleetwood Mac; the pair would later recruit another veteran of the Bluesbreakers, bassist John McVie.
With Green at the helm, this early blues rock incarnation of Fleetwood Mac released three albums, beginning with their 1968 self-titled debut. The instrumental “Albatross,” a non-LP, Green-penned single, would reach Number One on the British singles chart soon after, with a follow-up single “Man of the World” peaking at Number Two. Green also wrote the band’s 1968 single “Black Magic Woman,” which later became a hit for Santana.
Following 1968’s Mr. Wonderful, Green’s Fleetwood Mac released their most revered album, 1969’s Then Play On. However, at that point, Green’s mental well-being began to deteriorate – he was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent time in psychiatric hospitals – and by May 1970, Green departed Fleetwood Mac after spending time in a commune and swearing off material goods.
“I’ve got to do what God would have me do, start some kind of positive action, despite newspaper distortion or whatever,” Green said at the time. “I’m not worried if it means I’ll fade from public view – it’s better to set a good example.”
In the early Seventies, Green remained musically active, releasing his solo LP The End of the Game and temporarily rejoining his Fleetwood Mac band mates. However, over the rest of the decade, the guitarist was plagued by mental illness; he wouldn’t release another solo album until 1979.
In February, Mick Fleetwood staged a tribute show in celebration of Green’s legacy, a gig that drew friends and admirers like David Gilmour, Billy Gibbons, Pete Townshend, Steven Tyler, Neil Finn and many more.
“I wanted people to know that I did not form this band — Peter Green did,” Fleetwood told Rolling Stone. “And I wanted to celebrate those early years of Fleetwood Mac, which started this massive ball that went down the road over the last 50 years.”
Fleetwood added in a statement in January, “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.”
Peter Frampton tweeted Saturday, “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.”
Green’s death comes just days after Fleetwood Mac announced plans to revisit the band’s early years with a massive boxset that includes the guitarist’s tenure.
Green, to some listeners, was the best of the British blues guitarists of the 1960s. B.B. King once said Green “has the sweetest tone I ever heard. He was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.”
Green also made a mark as a composer with “Albatross,” and as a songwriter with “Oh Well” and “Black Magic Woman.”
He crashed out of the band in 1971. Even so, Mick Fleetwood said in an interview with The Associated Press in 2017 that Green deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the band’s success.
“Peter was asked why did he call the band Fleetwood Mac. He said, ‘Well, you know I thought maybe I’d move on at some point and I wanted Mick and John (McVie) to have a band.’ End of story, explaining how generous he was,” said Fleetwood, who described Green as a standout in an era of great guitar work.
Indeed, Green was so fundamental to the band that in its early days it was called Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
Peter Allen Greenbaum was born on Oct. 29, 1946, in London. The gift of a cheap guitar put the 10-year-old Green on a musical path.
He was barely out of his teens when he got his first big break in 1966, replacing Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers — initially for just a week in 1965 after Clapton abruptly took off for a Greek holiday. Clapton quit for good soon after and Green was in.
In the Bluesbreakers he was reunited with Mick Fleetwood, a former colleague in Peter B’s Looners. Mayall added bass player McVie soon after.
The three departed the next year, forming the core of the band initially billed as “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac featuring (guitarist) Jeremy Spencer.”
Fleetwood Mac made its debut at the British Blues and Jazz festival in the summer of 1967, which led to a recording contract, then an eponymous first album in February 1968. The album, which included “Long Grey Mare” and three other songs by Green, stayed on the British charts for 13 months.
The band’s early albums were heavy blues-rock affairs marked by Green’s fluid, evocative guitar style and gravelly vocals. Notable singles included “Oh Well” and the Latin-flavored “Black Magic Woman,” later a hit for Carlos Santana.
But as the band flourished, Green became increasingly erratic, even paranoid. Drugs played a part in his unraveling.
On a tour in California, Green became acquainted with Augustus Owsley Stanley III, notorious supplier of powerful LSD to the The Grateful Dead and Ken Kesey, the anti-hero of Tom Wolfe’s book “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”
“He was taking a lot of acid and mescaline around the same time his illness began manifesting itself more and more,” Fleetwood said in 2015. “We were oblivious as to what schizophrenia was back in those days but we knew something was amiss.”
“Green Manalishi,” Green’s last single for the band, reflected his distress.
In an interview with Johnny Black for Mojo magazine, Green said: “I was dreaming I was dead and I couldn’t move, so I fought my way back into my body. I woke up and looked around. It was very dark and I found myself writing a song. It was about money; ‘The Green Manalishi’ is money.”
In some of his last appearances with the band, he wore a monk’s robe and a crucifix. Fearing that he had too much money, he tried to persuade other band members to give their earnings to charities.
Green left Fleetwood Mac for good in 1971.
In his absence, the band’s new line-up, including Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, gained enormous success with a more pop-tinged sound.
Green was confined in a mental hospital in 1977 after an incident with his manager. Testimony in court said Green had asked for money and then threatened to shoot out the windows of the manager’s office.
Green was released later in the year, and married Jane Samuels, a Canadian, in 1978. They had a daughter, Rosebud, and divorced the following year. Green also has a son, Liam Firlej.
Green returned to performing in the 1990s with the Peter Green Splinter Group.
In 1998, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with other past and present members of Fleetwood Mac.
Peter Green, the English guitarist and singer who founded Fleetwood Mac, died on Saturday. He was 73.
He died in his sleep, according to a statement from his family’s solicitors, Swan Turton. The statement did not say where he died or what the cause was.
Mr. Green drew deeply on American blues to build a style that could be menacingly propulsive or darkly melancholy. His voice, and the songs he wrote, often spoke of troubled thoughts, and his guitar solos relied on expressive, long-lined melody rather than speed. “I like to play slowly and feel every note,” he once said.
Mr. Green led Fleetwood Mac for less than three years, from 1967 to 1970, and left the group before it became one of the world’s best-selling pop hitmakers in the late 1970s. But during the band’s first years it grew hugely popular in Britain; it had a No. 1 single in 1968 with the instrumental “Albatross,” written by Mr. Green.
Peter Green was born Peter Allen Greenbaum on Oct. 29, 1946, in London, the son of Joe and Anne Greenbaum, and grew up in the Whitechapel neighborhood. He started playing guitar in elementary school.
In his teens, he was in bands including Shotgun Express, a Motown-style soul band featuring a young Rod Stewart. Mr. Green joined John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers as Eric Clapton’s successor on lead guitar, appearing on the band’s 1967 album “A Hard Road.”
Mr. Mayall gave Mr. Green some recording-studio time as a birthday present in 1966, and Mr. Green set up a session with the Bluesbreakers’ rhythm section: Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass. The recordings included an instrumental named “Fleetwood Mac.”
Mr. Green left the Bluesbreakers to start his own blues band in 1967, with Mr. Fleetwood, the guitarist Jeremy Spencer and, joining soon afterward, Mr. McVie. The group’s 1968 debut album — titled “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac” in Britain and “Fleetwood Mac” in the United States — vigorously emulated American blues.
In January 1969, the band visited the famed Chess Records studios in Chicago to record with the blues musicians Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy and others for an album released under the titles “Fleetwood Mac in Chicago” and “Blues Jam at Chess.” They also made a full album with Mr. Spann, “The Biggest Thing Since Colossus,” in New York City.
But Mr. Green was moving the band away from narrowly defined blues in instrumental ballads like “Albatross” and “Oh Well (Part 2),” introspective pop like “Man of the World” and the hard rock of “The Green Manalishi.” He constructed much of “Then Play On,” his last album with Fleetwood Mac, on his own instead of cooperatively with the band.
“A blues doesn’t have to be a 12-bar progression,” he said in 1968. “It can cover any musical chord sequence. To me, the blues is an emotional thing. If a song has the right emotion and feel, I accept it as a blues.”
Touring America, Fleetwood Mac shared bills with the Grateful Dead and tried LSD from the Dead’s sound engineer and psychedelic chemist, Owsley Stanley. Mr. Green continued to take LSD and mescaline, and he grew increasingly erratic. On tour in Munich in early 1970, he visited a hippie commune and disappeared for three days when, he later said, he “went on a trip, and never came back.”
In his final concerts with Fleetwood Mac, he sometimes performed in a monk’s robe with a large crucifix around his neck; he also urged the other members of the band to donate Fleetwood Mac’s profits to charity. His last song with the group, “The Green Manalishi,” denounced the nightmarish power of money.
In 1970, he left Fleetwood Mac. “I want to change my whole life, really, because I don’t want to be at all a part of the conditioned world, and as much as possible, I am getting out of it,” he told New Musical Express. In 1970 he released a solo album, “The End of the Game,” edited from free-form jazz-rock jam sessions. “I was trying to reach things that I couldn’t before but I had experienced through LSD and mescaline,” he told Mojo magazine.
In 1971 — when Jeremy Spencer suddenly left Fleetwood Mac to join a religious cult — Mr. Green briefly rejoined the band to fulfill its remaining American tour dates. But then he withdrew from performing.
Mr. Green’s main instrument in Fleetwood Mac was a 1959 Les Paul Standard, known as Greeny, that had one pickup installed in reverse, creating a distinctive tone because it put the instrument’s two pickups magnetically out of phase. After leaving Fleetwood Mac, he sold the guitar to the Irish rocker Gary Moore; in 1995, Mr. Moore made an album of Mr. Green’s songs called “Blues for Greeny.” The guitar is now owned by Kirk Hammett of Metallica.
Mr. Green was found to have schizophrenia in the 1970s. He underwent electroconvulsive therapy and was in and out of mental hospitals.
In 1978 he married a Canadian fiddle player, Jane Samuels; they divorced in 1979. He is survived by their daughter, Rosebud Samuels-Greenbaum.
He sat in with Fleetwood Mac during studio sessions for the band’s 1979 album, “Tusk,” appearing on the song “Brown Eyes.” He returned to making music in public in 1979 with the solo album “In the Skies,” followed by an album a year into the mid-1980s — often working with his brother Michael Greenbaum, also known as Mike Green, who wrote songs for him.
But his medications left him increasingly sluggish and unable to make music until he weaned himself from prescription tranquilizers in the 1990s.
He re-emerged in 1996 with the Peter Green Splinter Group, which mostly played old blues and songs written by its other guitarist, Nigel Watson; the group released eight albums before disbanding in 2004. In 2009, Mr. Green toured Europe with a band called Peter Green and Friends.
In 1998, Mr. Green was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac. Santana was also inducted in 1998, and Mr. Green jammed with the group on “Black Magic Woman.”
On Feb. 25, 2020, Mick Fleetwood organized a tribute concert to Mr. Green at the London Palladium that brought together some of Mr. Green’s admirers, including Pete Townshend, Billy Gibbons, Steven Tyler, David Gilmour, Bill Wyman, Noel Gallagher and Mr. Hammett, who was playing Mr. Green’s celebrated guitar, Greeny.
If there’s one song that sums up the stoic guitar genius of Peter Green, it’s “Jumping at Shadows,” recorded live in February 1970, at the Boston Tea Party. Green was on top of the world; a 23-year-old rock star leading the London band he founded, Fleetwood Mac. They were the toast of Britain, riding their Number One hit “Albatross.” But “Jumping at Shadows” is a doomy blues ballad, his voice full of wistful dread, his guitar full of delicate pain. “I’m going downhill and I blame myself,” he sings. So much sadness in his fingers; so much tender fury. Peter Green’s serene, unhysterical sense of calm just makes the song scarier. He never lets his voice or guitar rise above a whisper, but you can hear the hellhounds on his trail.
“Jumping at Shadows” tells the whole Peter Green story in five minutes. He takes the song from U.K. bluesman Duster Bennett, but turns it into his own haunted autobiography. There’s no other rock & roll sound quite like the ache of Peter Green’s guitar. That’s why he’ll alway be remembered, and that’s why the music world is mourning his death at 73. Fifty years after he left Fleetwood Mac, his classics — “Love That Burns,” “Before the Beginning,” “Black Magic Woman” — still sting. The Mac hit Number One with his blissed-out space-surf instrumental “Albatross,” so great the Beatles copped it for Abbey Road, turning it into “Sun King.” He sang their 1969 ballad “Man of the World,” murmuring, “Shall I tell you about my life?”
But at his peak, he suddenly turned his back on music and vanished. He became one of rock & roll’s all-time mystery men. He had a tragic LSD-related mental breakdown, dropped out, ended up digging ditches or sleeping on the streets. By the time the Mac became Seventies superstars with Rumours, he was the forgotten man in their story, like Syd Barrett in Pink Floyd. When Stevie Nicks joined the band, she’d never heard of him. “I’ve cried myself to sleep many a night listening to early Fleetwood Mac and going, ‘What happened to this guy?” Mick Fleetwood said in 1997. “I’d always get people up in the hotel room on tour and say, ‘Now I want you to hear Peter Green.’ I’d put on a record and I would always end up in tears.”
Green eventually began playing again, touring with his Splinter Group. But there was always that fragility. “The guitar used to speak for me, but I can’t let it do that for me anymore,” he said in the documentary Man of the World. “I can’t let it break my heart again.”
He had a unique tone — he accidentally put the pickup on his Gibson Les Paul backwards, after taking it off to clean it, but kept it because he loved the sound. Like so many other U.K. rockers, he first got inspired by the Shadows’ master of twang, Hank Marvin. But he got hooked on the blues, going down to the corner cafe to play Howlin’ Wolf records on the jukebox and study Hubert Sumlin’s guitar. He replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1965, making his name with the dazzling vibrato freak-out, “The Supernatural.” Two years later, he took off with Bluesbreakers drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie to start their own band, named after the rhythm section. The English blues scene was fixated on technical dexterity, but Green had a deep contempt for show-offs. As he sneered, “Good luck to the Snoggley Blues Band who are growing very popular now in the white blues world with a rhythm guitarist who can play 7,541 notes a minute.”
That wasn’t his style — he was all about emotion. “Sumlin and Wolf had it,” Green told Mojo in 1996. “The guitarists who copied them old black players were doing an interpretation, but couldn’t get to the feeling behind it. It was too deep, too painful if you do it right. It got too deep for me anyway. It ended up hurting my soul so I started to make up stories instead.”
His stories took many forms. He could write melancholy ballads on par with Nick Drake or Richard Thompson, but also heavy rockers like “Oh Well,” with its taunt: “Don’t ask me what I think of you / I might not give the answer that you want me to.” (Haim do a great version live.) “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)” was his proto-prog-metal epic. With his last Mac album, Then Play On in 1970, he explored the psychedelic dream-scapes of “Before The Beginning” and “Underway.” There were still traces on his solo album The End of the Game. But he got dosed with some bad acid, and disappeared.
I first heard his music one night when I was 23 and a friend came to visit from Los Angeles; we drove around Boston all night listening to a mix tape she made for the occasion. It was loaded with moody guitar songs, but “Man of the World” threw me for a loop — he sounded so gentle, yet so intense. (At dawn, we threw the tape out of the car window.) It’s ironic that his best-known song, “Albatross,” is his most anomalously cheerful, not far from the Shadows’ proto-surf twang. Robert Christgau described his “miraculously fluent” playing perfectly: “Peter Green, who filters B. B. King through Santo & Johnny with a saxophonist’s sense of line.” He was a cult hero with a mess of a discography — if you were a Green freak, you learned to grab any record you saw with his name on it, no matter how shady it looked, because you might never spot it again.
After he left Fleetwood Mac, his shadow seemed to hang over the band. Jeremy Spencer disappeared one day in L.A. in 1971 — he didn’t show up for a gig at the Whiskey a Go-Go, because he’d just joined a religious sect. Danny Kirwan also suffered a sad breakdown. As Lindsey Buckingham put it in 2013, “Historically, the track record has not been kind to the guitar players in this band.” Since then, that tradition has continued.
If you were a Green freak, you learned to grab any record you saw with his name on it.
But Stevie Nicks felt a kinship with Green. “There’s always been a very mystical thing about Fleetwood Mac,” she said in 1980. “When I first joined Fleetwood Mac, I went out and bought all the albums — actually, I think I had asked Mick for them because I couldn’t possibly afford to buy them — and I sat in my room and listened to all of them to try to figure out if I could capture any theme or anything. What I came up with was the word ‘mystical.’” She responded to that. “There is something mystical that went all the way from Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac,” she said. “And since I have a deep love of the mystical, this appealed to me.” Last year, on the band’s 50th Anniversary tour, Stevie paid tribute to Green: she sang “Black Magic Woman” as if he wrote it for her, which in a way he did.
Like Syd Barrett, Green found some kind of peace in old age, keeping his distance from the outside world. When Mick Fleetwood did an all-star tribute in London in February, Green wasn’t there. “He’s not the Peter that I knew, clearly. But he plays acoustic guitar,” Fleetwood told Rolling Stone in January. “He loves painting, and fishing is his hobby. It’s no secret that he took a left turn and never came back, but he’s OK. He also has really little or no ego at all, which is unbelievable. You want to go, ‘Do you realize what you did?’ ‘No, no. Yeah, I suppose so.’ He has no ego about what he did.”
But the music Peter Green left behind is full of love that still burns.