Danny Kirwan: A Look Back at the Life of the Fleetwood Mac Guitarist

by Hannah Green // image by Steffane Lui via Flickr, Jun 12, 2018

On Friday, June 8th, we learned of the sad passing of Danny Kirwan, Fleetwood Mac guitarist during the 60s and 70s.

Though he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his contribution to the band, later in life Kirwan struggled with mental health issues and poverty, including periods of homelessness. Here, Native looks back over an extraordinary life marred by alcoholism and the pressures of fame.

Danny Kirwan was born in Brixton in 1950, and first came to Fleetwood Mac’s attention aged only 17. His blues-driven sound and precocious talent earned him a place in the band, who were then just beginning to hit the big-time. His first appearance with Fleetwood Mac was on their number one instrumental 'Albatross', which was released in 1968.

Despite his differences with other band members (most notably Peter Green, the man behind Albatross), Kirwan remained with the band until 1974, working on five albums with them.

The guitarist was fired due to his problems with alcoholism before Fleetwood Mac shot to superstardom with the release of landmark album Rumors in 1977. Kirwan released several other albums and worked with a handful of other artists, but soon dropped off the musical radar.

Kirwan made it clear that the lifestyle wasn’t for him in an interview with the Independent in 1993
stating "I couldn’t handle it mentally and had to get out". He expanded: ‘I couldn’t handle the lifestyle and the money and the travelling."

Tracked down by his former bandmates though a missing persons agency, Kirwan was found to be living rough in London during the 80s and 90s. Kirwan preferred to remain on the fringes, and was not in attendance when he, along with other Fleetwood Mac members, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

The news of his death was shared by Fleetwood Mac on Facebook, with Mick Fleetwood writing ‘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.’

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