Peter Green, the dexterous blues guitarist who led the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac in a career shortened by psychedelic drugs and mental illness, has died aged 73.
He died “peacefully in his sleep this weekend,” a statement issued on behalf of his family said.
Green, to some listeners, was the best of the British blues guitarists of the 1960s.
BB King once said Green “has the sweetest tone I ever heard. He was the only one who gave me the cold sweats”.
Peter Allen Greenbaum was born on October 29, 1946, in London.
He was barely out of his teens when he got his first big break in 1966, replacing Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
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.
In some of his last appearances with the band, he wore a monk’s robe and a crucifix.
Fearing he had too much money, he tried to persuade other band members to give their earnings to charities.
He crashed out of Fleetwood Mac 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 sound.
In 1998, Green was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with other past and present members of Fleetwood Mac.
Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac
Mick Fleetwood said in an interview in 2017 that Green deserved the lion’s share of the credit for the band’s success.
He described Green as a standout in an era of great guitar work.
“Peter was asked why did he call the band Fleetwood Mac,” Fleetwood said.
“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.”
Green was so fundamental to the band that in its early days it was called Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
Fleetwood Mac’s first 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 Black Magic Woman.
But as the band flourished, Green became increasingly erratic, even paranoid.
Drugs played a part in his unravelling.
“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.”