Original Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green kept an extremely low profile since leaving the band in 1970, and had been a virtual ghost during the past decade. For a February 25th tribute at the London Palladium, Mick Fleetwood assembled an incredible roster of talent to honor Green, including David Gilmour, Christine McVie, Steven Tyler, Bill Wyman, Billy Gibbons, John Mayall, and many others. His death was announced on July 25th at the age of 73.
In a January interview with Rolling Stone, Fleetwood said that his motivation for putting together the show to honor Peter Green was rather simple. “I wanted people to know that I did not form this band — Peter Green did,” he said. “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.”
He also said that he’s kept in touch with Green. “He’s not the Peter that I knew, clearly,” Fleetwood said, alluding to the guitarist’s mental-health issues in the intervening years. “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.”
The Green that Fleetwood knew in the late Sixties was an incredibly gifted guitarist and songwriter who composed many of the band’s greatest early tunes, including “Black Magic Woman,” “Rattlesnake Shake,” and “Stop Messin’ Round.” But his most beautiful song might be “Man of the World,” which also happened to be one of the last pieces he wrote for the band before departing.
“It’s a very prophetic song,” said Fleetwood. “When he made those songs, we had no idea that he was suffering internally as much as he was. But if you listen to the words, it’s crucifyingly obvious what was going on. But a beautiful song. A poignant song.”
Here’s video of Fleetwood Mac playing “Man of the World” on German television in the summer of 1969. The song fell out of their repertoire when Green left the band the following year, but they revived it last year, with Neil Finn handling the vocals.