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Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac co-founder and British blues icon, dies aged 73

Guitarist Peter Green (right) and bassist John McVie, of British rock group Fleetwood Mac, rehearsing at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 22nd April 1969.
(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Hugely influential British blues guitarist and Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green has died aged 73.

The news was confirmed by a statement from Green family solicitors Swan Turton, which reads, “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.”

Born in London, 1946, Green began playing professionally at the age of 15. Before long, he found himself filling in for Eric Clapton in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers at the tail-end of 1965, and joined full-time the following year.

In 1967, Green formed Fleetwood Mac with fellow former Bluesbreaker Mick Fleetwood on drums. While Green’s guitar skills were already fully developed, leading his own group developed his fresh take on blues songwriting.

Many of Green’s compositions became staples in the blues-rock ouvre, including Black Magic Woman (which itself was covered by Santana), wistful instrumental Albatross, introspective ballad Man of the World, plus rockier offerings Oh Well, and The Green Manalishi.

“To my mind, a blues doesn’t have to be a 12-bar progression,” Green once said. “It can cover any musical chord sequence. To me, the blues is an emotional thing. If a song has the right emotion then I accept it as a blues.”

The guitarist’s vocal bends and supernatural sustain - often with the aid of feedback - quickly became the stuff of legend, as did his 1959 Gibson Les Paul, affectionately known as Greeny, which was later purchased by Gary Moore then, more recently, Kirk Hammett of Metallica.

Green’s proclivity for LSD began to take its toll on his mental health as the ’60s drew to a close, and in March 1970, a drug-related incident at a commune in Munich had a devastating impact upon his psyche. He quit the band soon after and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.

In the late-’70s and early-’80s, Green released a string of solo albums, and recorded and toured with friends including Nigel Watson and Cozy Powell, billed as the Peter Green Splinter Group, from 1997 until 2004.

Green was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame among seven other members of Fleetwood Mac in 1998.

In February this year, an all-star cast including David Gilmour, Kirk Hammett, Billy Gibbons, Pete Townshend and many more paid tribute to Green at the London Palladium, celebrating the life and legacy of a guitarist whose playing and songwriting continue to shape blues and rock music to this day.