Peter Green, the English guitarist and singer who founded Fleetwood Mac, died on Saturday. He was 73.
He died in his sleep, according to a statement from his family’s solicitors, Swan Turton. The statement did not say where he died or what the cause was.
Mr. Green drew deeply on American blues to build a style that could be menacingly propulsive or darkly melancholy. His voice, and the songs he wrote, often spoke of troubled thoughts, and his guitar solos relied on expressive, long-lined melody rather than speed. “I like to play slowly and feel every note,” he once said.
Mr. Green led Fleetwood Mac for less than three years, from 1967 to 1970, and left the group before it became one of the world’s best-selling pop hitmakers in the late 1970s. But during the band’s first years it grew hugely popular in Britain; it had a No. 1 single in 1968 with the instrumental “Albatross,” written by Mr. Green.
Peter Green was born Peter Allen Greenbaum on Oct. 29, 1946, in London, the son of Joe and Anne Greenbaum, and grew up in the Whitechapel neighborhood. He started playing guitar in elementary school.
In his teens, he was in bands including Shotgun Express, a Motown-style soul band featuring a young Rod Stewart. Mr. Green joined John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers as Eric Clapton’s successor on lead guitar, appearing on the band’s 1967 album “A Hard Road.”
Mr. Mayall gave Mr. Green some recording-studio time as a birthday present in 1966, and Mr. Green set up a session with the Bluesbreakers’ rhythm section: Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass. The recordings included an instrumental named “Fleetwood Mac.”
Mr. Green left the Bluesbreakers to start his own blues band in 1967, with Mr. Fleetwood, the guitarist Jeremy Spencer and, joining soon afterward, Mr. McVie. The group’s 1968 debut album — titled “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac” in Britain and “Fleetwood Mac” in the United States — vigorously emulated American blues.
In January 1969, the band visited the famed Chess Records studios in Chicago to record with the blues musicians Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy and others for an album released under the titles “Fleetwood Mac in Chicago” and “Blues Jam at Chess.” They also made a full album with Mr. Spann, “The Biggest Thing Since Colossus,” in New York City.
But Mr. Green was moving the band away from narrowly defined blues in instrumental ballads like “Albatross” and “Oh Well (Part 2),” introspective pop like “Man of the World” and the hard rock of “The Green Manalishi.” He constructed much of “Then Play On,” his last album with Fleetwood Mac, on his own instead of cooperatively with the band.
“A blues doesn’t have to be a 12-bar progression,” he said in 1968. “It can cover any musical chord sequence. To me, the blues is an emotional thing. If a song has the right emotion and feel, I accept it as a blues.”
Touring America, Fleetwood Mac shared bills with the Grateful Dead and tried LSD from the Dead’s sound engineer and psychedelic chemist, Owsley Stanley. Mr. Green continued to take LSD and mescaline, and he grew increasingly erratic. On tour in Munich in early 1970, he visited a hippie commune and disappeared for three days when, he later said, he “went on a trip, and never came back.”
In his final concerts with Fleetwood Mac, he sometimes performed in a monk’s robe with a large crucifix around his neck; he also urged the other members of the band to donate Fleetwood Mac’s profits to charity. His last song with the group, “The Green Manalishi,” denounced the nightmarish power of money.
In 1970, he left Fleetwood Mac. “I want to change my whole life, really, because I don’t want to be at all a part of the conditioned world, and as much as possible, I am getting out of it,” he told New Musical Express. In 1970 he released a solo album, “The End of the Game,” edited from free-form jazz-rock jam sessions. “I was trying to reach things that I couldn’t before but I had experienced through LSD and mescaline,” he told Mojo magazine.
In 1971 — when Jeremy Spencer suddenly left Fleetwood Mac to join a religious cult — Mr. Green briefly rejoined the band to fulfill its remaining American tour dates. But then he withdrew from performing.
Mr. Green’s main instrument in Fleetwood Mac was a 1959 Les Paul Standard, known as Greeny, that had one pickup installed in reverse, creating a distinctive tone because it put the instrument’s two pickups magnetically out of phase. After leaving Fleetwood Mac, he sold the guitar to the Irish rocker Gary Moore; in 1995, Mr. Moore made an album of Mr. Green’s songs called “Blues for Greeny.” The guitar is now owned by Kirk Hammett of Metallica.
Mr. Green was found to have schizophrenia in the 1970s. He underwent electroconvulsive therapy and was in and out of mental hospitals.
In 1978 he married a Canadian fiddle player, Jane Samuels; they divorced in 1979. He is survived by their daughter, Rosebud Samuels-Greenbaum.
He sat in with Fleetwood Mac during studio sessions for the band’s 1979 album, “Tusk,” appearing on the song “Brown Eyes.” He returned to making music in public in 1979 with the solo album “In the Skies,” followed by an album a year into the mid-1980s — often working with his brother Michael Greenbaum, also known as Mike Green, who wrote songs for him.
But his medications left him increasingly sluggish and unable to make music until he weaned himself from prescription tranquilizers in the 1990s.
He re-emerged in 1996 with the Peter Green Splinter Group, which mostly played old blues and songs written by its other guitarist, Nigel Watson; the group released eight albums before disbanding in 2004. In 2009, Mr. Green toured Europe with a band called Peter Green and Friends.
In 1998, Mr. Green was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac. Santana was also inducted in 1998, and Mr. Green jammed with the group on “Black Magic Woman.”
On Feb. 25, 2020, Mick Fleetwood organized a tribute concert to Mr. Green at the London Palladium that brought together some of Mr. Green’s admirers, including Pete Townshend, Billy Gibbons, Steven Tyler, David Gilmour, Bill Wyman, Noel Gallagher and Mr. Hammett, who was playing Mr. Green’s celebrated guitar, Greeny.