The Lineup


Guitarist - - Contents -

“I cared for Danny a lot and I care for his legacy. He is the lost com­po­nent. In many ways, Danny is a for­got­ten hero”

Gui­tarist was deeply sad­dened to hear of the pass­ing of for­mer Fleet­wood Mac gui­tarist, singer and song­writer Danny Kir­wan, who died in his home city of Lon­don on 8 June at the age of 68. The English mu­si­cian en­joyed suc­cess with the band be­tween 1968 and 1972, ex­pand­ing the band’s gui­tar-lineup to three when he joined, along­side Pe­ter Green and Jeremy Spencer.

The late 60s was one of the sem­i­nal pe­ri­ods for the blues, and for the first time in the genre’s his­tory it was young Bri­tish mu­si­cians who played a cen­tral role in its creative evo­lu­tion. And Kir­wan’s work with Mac was cru­cial to that. But like Spencer and Green, his ini­tial glory and later trou­bles would be rooted in his time with the band.

It was an 18-year-old Kir­wan’s pas­sion for the blues that brought him to the at­ten­tion of Mick Fleet­wood, who saw the teenager fronting his band Boil­er­house in a Brix­ton pub. Soon the drum­mer mooted the teen as the fi­nal piece to cre­ate a three-gui­tar dy­namic fol­low­ing the re­lease of their sec­ond al­bum Mr Won­der­ful l in the sum­mer of 1968. With Spencer’s stu­dio con­tri­bu­tions to the band re­ced­ing, Kir­wan joined in time for his first recorded ap­pear­ance with Fleet­wood along­side Green on the in­stru­men­tal num­ber one hit Al­ba­tross in Novem­ber of that year.

Kir­wan would record four al­bums with the band, in­clud­ing 1969’s fi­nal record with Pe­ter Green, Then Play On, but would be the first mem­ber to ever be dis­missed from Mac’s ranks when the fall­out from his al­co­holism be­came un­ten­able dur­ing the 1972 tour in support of the Bare Trees record. For the next two decades Kir­wan would go through a pe­riod of strug­gle, re­port­edly in­clud­ing stays in hostels for the home­less in Lon­don and men­tal health prob­lems be­fore mov­ing into the rel­a­tive sta­bil­ity of res­i­den­tial care.

He re­mains Mac’s most un­der­rated gui­tarist, shin­ing brightly in the shadow of Pe­ter Green and cru­cial to the band’s evo­lu­tion from blues and be­yond. It’s Kir­wan that takes the main solo on Oh Well, be­fore he came into his own with con­tri­bu­tions to unsung fourth al­bum Kiln House fol­low­ing Green’s exit from the group.

Early Mac and Blues­break­ers pro­ducer Mike Ver­non re­called the sen­si­tive and in­tense Kir­wan’s vi­brato as es­pe­cially strong. “He had a gui­tar style that wasn’t like any­one else I’d heard in Eng­land,” said Ver­non. “There was a cer­tain vi­brato in the fin­ger­work that was quite un­usual. And he had a re­ally nice, melo­di­ous voice.”

Kir­wan was one of the eight con­tribut­ing mem­bers to Fleet­wood Mac’s sto­ried record­ing his­tory who was in­vited to at­tend the band’s in­duc­tion to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998. But he didn’t at­tend. Nev­er­the­less, a few years later ru­mours be­gan to cir­cu­late of a po­ten­tial reunion in­volv­ing the early lineup’s mem­bers. But by April 2006, dur­ing a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion on The Pen­guin Fleet­wood Mac fan web­site, bassist John McVie made it clear Kir­wan’s life far away from the mu­sic in­dus­try in rel­a­tive iso­la­tion was a deal­breaker.

“If we could get Pe­ter and Jeremy to do it, I’d prob­a­bly, maybe, do it,” re­vealed the bassist. “I know Mick would do it in a flash. Un­for­tu­nately, I don’t think there’s much chance of Danny do­ing it. Bless his heart.”

But in re­flect­ing on the band he co­founded, Mick Fleet­wood ul­ti­mately sees Kir­wan’s legacy as deeply valu­able be­yond the ob­vi­ous sad­ness that fol­lowed his mu­si­cal ca­reer. “I cared for Danny a lot and I care for his legacy a lot,” he said. “Lind­sey Buck­ing­ham also has a huge re­gard for Danny. He is the lost com­po­nent. In many ways, Danny is a for­got­ten hero.”

Danny Kir­wan per­form­ing on­stage at Sun­down, Mile End on 23 Novem­ber 1973

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