The sad news came down Saturday that Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green died at age 73. “It is with great sadness that the family of Peter Green announce his death this weekend, peacefully in his sleep,” his family said in a statement. “A further statement will be provided in the coming days.”
Green’s tenure in Fleetwood Mac lasted a mere three years, but during that time he wrote many of their greatest songs, including “Man of the World,” “Stop Messin’ Round,” “Oh Well” and “Black Magic Woman.” The band carried on in his absence and found tremendous success when Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined their fans in 1975, but many Mac purists think they never managed to top the material produced in the Green era.
Addiction issues and mental health problems kept Green out of the public eye for much of the past few decades, though he did form the Peter Green Splinter Group in the late Nineties; they gigged for a few years before disbanding in 2004. Their show was heavy on blues standards like “Little Red Rooster” and “I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man,” but they did break out a handful of Fleetwood Mac classics like “I Believe My Time Ain’t Long” and “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown).”
He was also on hand when Fleetwood Mac were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. “Before I make too long of a speech, I would like to thank Mr. Peter Green for forming Fleetwood Mac way back in 1967,” Mick Fleetwood said that evening when he spoke on behalf of the entire band. “Thank you, Peter. He left us with a stage that was to continue until today.”
It would have made little sense for Green to join the band onstage that night to play “Landslide,” Big Love” and “Say You Love Me,” since they were recorded years after he left. But by happy coincidence, Santana were inducted that same night. Their cover of Green’s “Black Magic Woman” is one of the group’s most famous songs, and he finally got to play it with them that evening.
That Hall of Fame ceremony was one of the last high-profile events to feature Green in the flesh. Earlier this year, Mick Fleetwood organized a tribute show to him at the London Palladium featuring David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Bill Wyman, Kirk Hammett, Noel Gallagher, John Mayall and many others. It was an emotional evening even though Green himself didn’t appear.
“[I last saw him] about a year and a half ago,” Fleetwood told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “I went out with my girlfriend, and spent the day with him. He’s not the Peter that I knew, clearly. But he plays acoustic guitar. 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.”