Fleetwood Mac pays tribute after death of Danny Kirwan

Guitarist played key role in band’s original blues success alongside Peter Green

Fleetwood Mac at the BBC in 1969. Danny Kirwan (left) died on Friday. Photograph: Ivan Keeman/Redferns/Getty

Fleetwood Mac at the BBC in 1969. Danny Kirwan (left) died on Friday. Photograph: Ivan Keeman/Redferns/Getty

 

Danny Kirwan, a guitarist, singer and songwriter for Fleetwood Mac whose work fuelled the band’s rise during its early years, died on Friday in London. He was 68.

Fleetwood Mac announced the death in a Facebook post on Friday without specifying a cause.

“Danny’s true legacy, in my mind, will forever live on in the music he wrote and played so beautifully as a part of the foundation of Fleetwood Mac, that has now endured for over 50 years,” said a statement attributed to the band and its co-founder Mick Fleetwood.

Kirwan was only a teenager when he joined the British-American rock band in 1968, but his talent was apparent to the band’s guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, bassist John McVie and drummer Fleetwood. His played on five albums beginning with Then Play On, a bluesy 1969 record, on which he shared writing and lead guitarist duties with Green. He wrote half of the tracks on the band’s 1972 album, Bare Trees. During four years with the band, Kirwan composed thoughtful instrumentals and performed inventive harmonies, playing on tracks such as Oh Well and Man of the World. Onstage, he was known for his vibrato. “Danny had pure, resonant note comprehension,” Fleetwood said in an interview last year. “Many guitarists make the vibrato sound like a dying cow or a mosquito in heat. Danny had an unbelievable touch.”

In 1972, Kirwan was fired from the band. (This reportedly followed a tantrum on tour during which he smashed his Gibson Les Paul guitar.) His departure came as Fleetwood Mac was transitioning from its foundation in bluesy rock to the more melodic, California pop-rock the band came to epitomise in the 1970s. Kirwan played a role in that transition but had left the band before Stevie Nicks joined it; before the release of hit albums such as the chart-topping Rumours and the experimental Tusk; and before the debut of singles like Go Your Own Way, Rhiannon and Don’t Stop.

While Fleetwood Mac evolved without him, Kirwan set out alone. He released a few solo albums that failed to make waves, and then faded almost entirely from public view. He surfaced briefly in 1993 when, in an interview with The Independent, Kirwan said he had been homeless. “I’ve been through a bit of a rough patch but I’m not too bad,” he told The Independent. “I get by and I suppose I am homeless, but then I’ve never really had a home since our early days on tour.” When Kirwan was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 along with seven other past and present members of Fleetwood Mac, he did not attend the ceremony, Rolling Stone reported. Information about survivors was not immediately available. – New York Times