Danny Kirwan, former Fleetwood Mac guitarist, dies aged 68

Fleetwood Mac in the late 1960s, with Danny Kirwan, right.
Fleetwood Mac in the late 1960s, with Danny Kirwan, right. Photograph: Alan Messer/Rex/Shutterstock

Danny Kirwan, who played guitar in Fleetwood Mac from 1968 to 1972, has died aged 68.

“Danny was a huge force in our early years,” said Mick Fleetwood from the band in a tribute on Facebook. “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!”

At 18, Kirwan joined the band in their blues-rock era shortly after the release of second album Mr Wonderful. He became the band’s third guitarist alongside Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, and performed on their next five albums.

It was a period of flux for the band – Green left in 1970, followed in 1971 by Spencer, who joined the Children of God cult, while Christine McVie joined the band in 1969. Kirwan developed an alcohol problem, and was eventually fired from the band in 1972, ushering in an even more unstable period before the arrival of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, which led to their period of greatest success.

After leaving the band, Kirwan went solo and released four albums in the 70s, featuring self-penned originals and idiosyncratic covers such as his reggae take on the Beatles’ Let It Be. His studio band once included Kirby Gregory from the bogus version of Fleetwood Mac, who briefly formed amid a battle over the rights to the band name in 1974.

But Kirwan became homeless, and in 1993 Fleetwood used the Missing Persons Bureau to trace him. Kirwan said he had been living a hermitic existence in a Brixton basement flat for years, followed by four years at a St Mungo’s shelter in central London, living off social security and small royalty payments. “I’ve been through a bit of a rough patch but I’m not too bad,” he told the Independent at the time. “I get by and I suppose I am homeless, but then I’ve never really had a home since our early days on tour. I couldn’t handle it all mentally and I had to get out. I can’t settle.”

No cause of death has been given.