British musician Danny Kirwan, who served as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter during Fleetwood Mac’s early years, passed away on June 8, 2018. Fleetwood Mac confirmed his death in a Facebook post, saying in part, “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 50 years. Thank you, Danny Kirwan. You will forever be missed!” He was 68 years old. The cause of death is unknown at this time.
Daniel David Kirwan was born on May 13, 1950 in Brixton, London. When he was just 17, Kirwan’s guitar skills attracted the attention of established British blues band Fleetwood Mac. While playing a gig with his first band, Boilerhouse, Fleetwood Mac’s producer Mike Vernon was impressed by Kirwan and informed the band’s founder and lead guitarist Peter Green of his discovery. Shortly thereafter, Boilerhouse began playing support slots for Fleetwood Mac at London venues including John Gee’s Marquee Club. Although Fleetwood Mac had originally been constituted as a quartet, Green as well as guitarist Jeremy Spencer, bassist John McVie, and drummer Mick Fleetwood could clearly see the potential in Kirwan. He officially joined Fleetwood Mac in August 1968, playing his first gig with the band at the Nag’s Head Blue Horizon Club.
Kirwan played on five of the bands albums, beginning in 1969 with Then Play On, followed by Blues Jam at Chess, Kiln House, and Future Games. His final album work was on 1972’s Bare Trees, for which he wrote half of the tracks. Kirwan was praised for his guitar vibrato, with Fleetwood once remarking that “Danny had pure, resonant note comprehension. Many guitarists make the vibrato sound like a dying cow or a mosquito in heat. Danny had an unbelievable touch.”
After four years with the band, Kirwan was fired in 1972, reportedly after an incident that saw Kirwan refuse to go on stage and smash his Gibson Les Paul. As Fleetwood Mac transitioned from bluesy rock to California pop-rock, Kirwan ventured out with keyboardist Paul Raymond, bassist Andy Silvester, and drummer Mac Poole to form the band Hungry Fighter. This short-lived band played only one gig. Later on, Kirwan released recorded three solo albums for DJM Records – Second Chapter, Midnight in San Juan, and Hello There Big Boy!. Unfortunately, none of Kirwan’s solo releases were commercially successful. This eventually led to the deterioration of his mental health, a period of homelessness, and playing no further part in the music industry.
In 1998, for his work as part of Fleetwood Mac, Kirwan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although he did not attend the ceremony.