Born: October 29, 1946;

Died: July 25, 2020.

IT was late 1969. Fleetwood Mac, a band that had been formed just two years previously, was one of the biggest acts in the world. In Europe they outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in terms of record sales and concert tickets, and they consistently did well in readers’ polls.

Peter Green, their guitarist and co-founder, whose death at the age of 73 was reported at the weekend, had established himself as one of the most innovative and soulful guitarists of his generation. The late B.B.King once said of him that he “has the sweetest tone I ever heard. He was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.”

An instrumental single, Albatross, had reached number one in 1968. Their third album, Then Play On, with its classic song, Oh Well, had sold 100,000 copies in America alone.

Come 1969, the band finally felt they were onto something, writes drummer Mick Fleetwood in his memoirs. “All of us were ecstatic about it – all except Peter. Our popularity, our tour schedule and our record sales had the opposite effect on him; they put him into a dark, depressed cocoon of his own making”. Green had already begun talking about leaving before Oh Well became a hit.

Fleetwood relates how Green, who had been regularly taking LSD, became more disillusioned and sensitive, distressed by other people’s sufferings and poverty. At one point he gave £12,000 to charities and wanted the band to live and tour monastically and give all of their profits to charity. He took to wearing kaftans and robes, and a large wooden crucifix. Fleetwood describes Green’s personal problems in 1970 as a “complicated mental illness”.

Green’s departure that February – there was one final episode involving well-off German hippies and a large supply of LSD – meant that he was not part of the Stevie Nicks-Lindsey Buckingham incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, which achieved global success by selling in excess of 45 million copies of their 1977 album, Rumours.

Guitarist Peter Frampton tweeted at the weekend: “Most sadly [we] have lost one of the most tasteful guitar players ever. I have always been a huge admirer of the great Peter Green”.

Bernie Marsden, another noted guitarist, who tweeted a photograph of himself with Green, taken in February, said Green had touched “millions of musicians he touched”. Marsden said his friend’s “talent for guitar playing, vocals and harmonica would have been more than most people could have possibly wished for, and then you add those wonderful songs, original, vibrant, atmospheric, outright psychedelic and much fun to listen to and witness”.

The photograph was taken on the day of a huge show in Green’s honour at the London Palladium, which was hosted by Mick Fleetwood and featured such musicians as David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Bill Wyman and Noel Gallagher.

Fleetwood said in a statement before the event: “The concert is a celebration of those early blues days where we all began, and it’s important to recognize the profound impact Peter and the early Fleetwood Mac had on the world of music. Peter was my greatest mentor”.

Peter Allen Greenbaum was born into a working-class Jewish family in Bethnal Green, London, in October 1946. He did various jobs, including butcher and furniture polisher, but he was a guitar enthusiast from an early age and by the time he was 15 he was playing professionally.

In 1965 he briefly replaced Eric Clapton in a renowned group, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and the following year he became a full-time member of the band upon Clapton’s departure. In1967 he put together a band of his own, with Fleetwood, guitarist Jeremy Spencer and bassist John Brunning, who quickly gave way to John McVie (who, like Fleetwood, had also been in the Bluesbreakers). The new band was named Fleetwood Mac after the rhythm section.

Green and Fleetwood had also been part of another group, Shotgun Express, that had Rod Stewart as vocalist, and it was during that time that Green’s prodigious guitar skills led to him being christened the ‘Green God’, just as graffiti across London had referred to Clapton as ‘God’. Mick Fleetwood said Green was “the most brilliant musician I have ever played with. When he was well, he was on a par with a genius like Miles Davis”.

One of Fleetwood Mac’s early fans was the pianist and singer Christine Perfect. Recalling those days in an interview in 2017, she watched Fleetwood Mac play in “small, sweaty clubs” and was struck by what she recalls as “their phenomenal ... kick-ass chemistry”. Mick and John were a force to be reckoned with, and you had little Jeremy Spencer playing slide .... [and] Peter Green, who was like Jesus, playing out-of-this-world guitar”.

Perfect married McVie in 1968. Two years later, as Christine McVie, she became a full member of the band.

Green was confined in a mental hospital in 1977 after an incident involving his manager. He was released later that same year, and married Jane Samuels in 1978. They had a daughter, Rosebud, and divorced the following year. Green also has a son, Liam Firlej.

He had a sporadic career as a solo and session guitarist, releasing some half-dozen solo albums. He left the music scene in the mid-1980s but returned with the Peter Green Splinter Group in 1997.

The band he had formed in 1967 went on to experience many ups and downs, and several changes in personnel, before, with Fleetwood, the McVies, Buckingham and Nicks, it found commercial success in the mid-1970s.

In 1998, Green was on stage as the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fleetwood thanked Green for forming the band. He added: “He left us with a stage that was to continue until today. Lunacy, heartache, happiness, unhappiness and, thank God, a sense of healing, has come to all of us up here on the stage”.