Danny Kirwan (13 May 1950 – 8 June 2018)

When most people talk about the blues era of Fleetwood Mac, they’ll inevitably talk about Peter Green.  When most people talk about Fleetwood’s first excursions away from blues and into pop-rock, they’ll mention Christine McVie joining the band and/or guitarist Bob Welch.

There was one man who helped steer the band from 1969 through to 1972, through their most tricky times: their third guitarist Danny Kirwan.

As a musician, Kirwan was far more adaptable than Jeremy Spencer; as a songwriter, his sometimes low-key material was pivotal to those early changes. Without his willingness to offer an introspective slant, Fleetwood Mac would never have grown from the blues in the same way. When Peter Green departed in 1970 and Spencer was left in creative control of a floundering band, with his broad range of talents, it’s Kirwan whom should have taken the helm. His approach might not have been as direct as Peter Green’s; he was never critically lauded in quite the same way other guitarists of the late 60s, but he was a true talent who gave Fleetwood Mac’s albums of the era stand-out moments.

Away from Fleetwood Mac, Kirwan contributed to two albums by British blues band Tramp, which are notoriously hard to find in their original vinyl pressings.  On the best of their material, the subtleties in Kirwan’s playing were a fantastic contrast to Jo Ann Kelly’s gravelly vocal style.  An on/off solo career followed, but Kirwan would never reach the same heights as he had at the turn of the 1970s.

Real Gone takes a look at some of Danny Kirwan’s highlights  below.

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