Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Great Peter Green

Peter Green, co-founder of Fleetwood Mac and legendary guitarist and songwriter, died today, July 25 2020, at the age of 73.

Peter Green was born Peter Allen Greenbaum in Bethel Green, London on October 29 1946. By the time Peter Green was eleven, his older brother Mike had taught him some guitar chords. Peter Green progressed so quickly that he was able to teach himself guitar. By age fifteen he was playing professionally. He played bass guitar for a band called Bobby Dennis and the Dominoes and then a rhythm and blues band called The Muskrats and another band called The Tridents. In October 1965 Peter Green substituted for Eric Clapton John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers for four performance dates. In late 1965 the joined Peter Bardens's band Peter B's Looners, where he met drummer Mick Fleetwood. It was while Peter Green was with Peter B's Looners that he first appeared on a recording, Peter B's Looners' instumental cover of the Jimmy Soul song "If You Wanna Be Happy." The single was released in 1966.

It was in July 1966 that Peter Green permanently took Eric Clapton's place as lead guitarist in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. He appeared on the John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers album  A Hard Road (1967), which featured two of his original compositions: "The Same Way" and "The Supernatural." He also appeared on their albums Crusade (1967) and Bare Wires (1968). It was in 1967 that he left John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers to form his own band.

In July 1967 Peter Green founded Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac featuring Jeremy Spencer with Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Jeremy Spencer. The name was soon shortened to Fleetwood Mac. Their self-titled, debut album was released on February 24 1968. While none of their initial singles charted, their first album, Fleetwood Mac, went to no. 4 on the UK album chart. With Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green soon established himself as a songwriter as well as a guitarist. His song "Black Magic Woman" went to no. 37 on the UK singles chart and was later covered by Santana. The instrumental "Albatross" went to no. 1 on the UK singles chart and charted in other countries as well. His song "Man of the World" went to no. 2 on the UK singles chart and also charted in other countries. The single "Green Manalishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown)" went to no. 10 on the UK singles chart and went to no. 16 in Germany, no 14 in Ireland, and no. 6 in the Netherlands. It would later be covered by Judas Priest.

Fleetwood Mac's albums with Peter Green also did very well. Mr. Wonderful went to no. 10 on the UK album chart. English Rose was a compilation album released only in the United States and became the first to chart in the US, peaking at no. 184 on the Billboard pop album chart. Then Play On went to no. 6 on the UK album chart and no. 109 on the Billboard album chart.

Unfortunately, while Fleetwood Mac was experiencing a good deal of success, Peter Green's mental state began to degenerate. He ultimately left the band after one last performance on May 20 1970. His first solo album, The End of the Game, was released in December 1970. He would fill in for Jeremy Spencer with Fleetwood Mac after the had left the band, performing under the name "Peter Blue" and allowing them to complete a 1971 tour of the US. Unfortunately, Peter Green's mental health also continued to decline. Eventually he was diagnosed as having schizophrenia and spent time in various mental hospitals. It was not until the end of the decade that Peter Green would begin to re-emerge professionally.

His second solo album, In the Skies, was released in May 1979. It would be followed by the solo albums Little Dreamer (1980), Whatcha Gonna Do? (1981), White Sky (1982), and Kolors (1983). He contributed to Katmandu's album A Case for the Blues (1984). In the mid to late Eighties Peter Green once more faded back into semi-obscurity.

He re-emerged in the late Nineties when he formed The Peter Green Splinter Group. Their first, self-titled album was released in 1997. It would be followed by seven more albums from 1998 to 2003. He took another break, but resumed touring in 2009, performing as Peter Green and Friends.

Although he might not be as well known as some of his contemporaries today, Peter Green ranks among the greatest guitarists of all time. His style was informed by such blues legends as Robert Johnson and Elmore James. He often used minor chords, that not only gave his music an ominous sound, but also set him apart from such guitarist as Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. Peter Green was also known for his use of vibrato and string bending. B. B. King himself once said of Mr. Green, "He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats."

Of course, beyond being a virtuoso at guitar, Peter Green was also an incredible songwriter. His songs would be covered multiple times by other artists. "Black Magic Woman" was covered by Santana. "The Green Manalishi (with a Two-Pronged Crown)" was covered by Judas Priest. Both Justin Hayward and Ian Anderson would later cover "Man of the World." His song "Oh Well" would be covered multiple times, by artists ranging from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to Ratt. Peter Green's songs were always distinctive, featuring not only sophisticated music, but sophisticated lyrics as well. He would have a lasting impact on rock music, and there is every reason he should be better known.

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