Fleetwood Mac have been through a quite a few guitarists over the years, most have left under some sort of strange cloud. Danny Kirwan was no different.
Not much is known of his early years, other than he was born in 1950 and by the time he was 17 he was an accomplished guitarist in the band Boilerhouse, which came to the attention of Fleetwood Mac through their producer Mike Vernon. Originally seen as a band to manage, things didn’t quite work out and eventually Kirwan was asked to become the third guitarist in the classic – real – Fleetwood Mac lineup.
The soulful blues of Peter Green, the Elmore James of Jeremy Spencer was added to with the more eclectic taste of Kirwan. From old time tracks to more rock and roll. Kirwan also took on vocal duties.
Mac had two albums out, their self title debut and “Mr. Wonderful” before he joined, Kirwan appeared on a couple of compilation albums, one released in the UK one in the US. Included in both was his reworking of “Jigsaw Puzzle Blues” along with “Something Inside of Me” on the US “English Rose”. Kirwan had also complimented Green’s playing on their hit single “Albatross”.
But it was will Mac’s third album and Kirwan’s first “Then Play On”, that he came to the fore, writing seven of the fourteen tracks. Including the opener on both sides, “Coming Your Way” and “Although the Sun Is Shining”.
After Green’s departure in 1970, Kirwan and Spencer had a joint leadership role, with both guitar, voice along with writing, on the album “Kiln House”. The band’s first post Green single was the Kirwan penned “Dragonfly”, which is one of the best post Green tracks, one that Green approved of stating
The best thing he ever wrote… that should have been a hit.
After Spencer’s departure on the US tour, where he went out to a book shop for a magazine and ended up in the Children of God, Kirwan was now the leader and over the next two albums “Future Games” and “Bare Trees” would again write half the tracks on each album.
Before departing himself in ’72, after an argument with new guitarist Bob Welch, where he smashed up his Les Paul, stormed out and refused to perform with the band that night. Heckling from the audience as they struggled, he was apparently surprised when Mick Fleetwood – the only member of the band that was really talking to him – fired him.
Fleetwood Mac guitarists don’t just leave.
From there, there was some solo stuff but as with Peter Green’s departure, Kirwan just disappeared, with mental health issues, ending up in a homeless shelter in the 1990s.
Today was greeted by the sad news of the passing of Danny Kirwan in London, England. Danny was a huge force in our early years. His love for the Blues led him to being asked to join Fleetwood Mac in 1968, where he made his musical home for many years.
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 fifty years.
Thank you, Danny Kirwan. You will forever be missed! Mick Fleetwood
Slim, blond, hunched over his three pickup Gibson Les Paul Custom “Black Beauty”, matching Peter Green, lick for lick.