Singer, songwriter and guitarist with Fleetwood Mac in the late 1960s and early 70s who brought great creativity to the band
Although he was only 18 when he joined Fleetwood Mac in 1968, Danny Kirwan, who has died aged 68, rapidly became a significant creative force within the group in their early years. It was the guitarist Peter Green who achieved enduring “guitar hero” status with the band, but Kirwan was also a fluent and accomplished player with a delicate touch, his playing particularly recognisable for its use of vibrato.
He was also a prolific songwriter whose compositions would help to move Fleetwood Mac away from their strictly blues roots towards the more melodic soft-rock that turned them into one of the world’s most successful acts.
Kirwan had been in the group for two months when he made his first recording with them, playing on their Green-composed single Albatross, a lilting instrumental assembled from contrasting guitar parts. It was an auspicious beginning, since this would be the band’s only UK No 1 hit. His first album with them, Then Play On (1969), contained seven of his songs, including the string-accompanied ballad When You Say among more conventionally bluesy material.
He had more writing credits on Kiln House (1970) – the group’s first album after the departure of Green – including the bouncy rocker Tell Me All the Things You Do, and he wrote the single Dragonfly (1970), with lyrics from a poem by WH Davies. Green considered Dragonfly to be the best song Kirwan ever wrote.Advertisement
Future Games (1971) included the Kirwan-penned opening track Woman of 1000 Years, a piece of dreamy California-style psychedelia, and his proto-country rock effort Sometimes. Bare Trees (1972), the last Mac album Kirwan appeared on, featured five more of his songs, including the almost Eagles-like Child of Mine and the poignant soft-rock of Dust (the latter taking its lyrics from Rupert Brooke’s poem of the same name).