Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Danny Kirwan has died of unknown causes at the age of 68, according to an announcement from band leader Mick Fleetwood.

"Today was greeted by the sad news of the passing of Danny Kirwan in London, England," Fleetwood revealed in a post on the band's official Facebook page. "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."

Kirwan was a member of the group between 1968 and 1972, and made major songwriting and performance contributions to four of their studio albums: 1969's Then Play On, 1970's Kiln House, 1971's Future Games and 1972's Bare Trees.

Already a highly respected guitarist in his teens, the Peter Green-worshiping Kirwan pretty much willed his way into Fleetwood Mac. "He used to come hang at the Nags Head in Battersea, which is where we played a lot," Fleetwood explained to Music Aficionado. "He would always be sitting in the front row, staring."

After Green and Fleetwood convinced Kirwan to ditch his existing band and unsuccessfully attempted to assemble him a new group, the decision was made to incorporate the young prodigy into a three-guitar Fleetwood Mac lineup.

"Danny was a quantum leap ahead of us creatively," Fleetwood told Music Aficionado. "He was a hugely important part of the band." For a time, Kirwan became the group's de facto frontman, and the diverse influences featured in his songwriting helped push the band past their original blues roots and closer to the sound with which they'd find the greatest commercial success after his departure.

However it wouldn't be long before the combination of substance abuse and a highly intense personality would spell the end of his time in Fleetwood Mac, as the group fired him during a tour in the fall of 1972.

"Danny was the definition of 'deadly serious,'" former Fleetwood Mac bandmate Bob Welch told Penguin in 2003. "I would try to have rational conversations with him, but he always seemed to respond with some kind of suspicion, as if there was a subtext to what I was saying. He was always very intense about his work, as I was, but he didn't seem to ever be able to distance himself from it ... and laugh about it."

A few years after his dismissal, Kirwan attempted to launch a solo career. But over the next half-decade his three albums failed to make any significant waves, and he vanished from the public eye. In a 1993 Independent interview, Kirwan revealed that he had been living in a hostel for homeless people for several years, and offered his own perspective on why his time in the band came to an end.

"I've been through a bit of a rough patch but I'm not too bad. I get by and I suppose I am homeless, but then I've never really had a home since our early days on tour," Kirwan said. "I couldn't handle it all mentally and I had to get out. I can't settle. I couldn't handle the lifestyle and the women and the traveling."

His former bandmate Mick Fleetwood summed things up: "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 50 years. Thank you, Danny Kirwan. You will forever be missed!"

 

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