In 1969, I was driving along a highway toward a small town in southern Germany. I was going to a discotheque so I could dance and shed the cares of the week. I had great friends that I met there every week. I used to take the train, but I saved up enough money to buy an old Volkswagen Beetle. It also gave me more flexibility with time.
There was an adequate radio in the VW so my half-hour journey was filled with the sounds of the times. My favorite radio station was Radio Luxembourg. They always played the best music, and I could hear the station well on my AM, monaural radio.
One evening as I drove along merrily, a song came on the radio that changed my view of music and captured my consciousness. Peter Green was one of the founding members of Fleetwood Mac. He was the lead guitar player, but I knew very little about him. A very quiet guitar introduction began to play. It was not characteristic of much the music of the day. I turned the volume up and listened intently. The voice on the radio began to tell a tale of distress:
I could tell you about my life
and keep you amused I’m sure
about all the times I’ve cried
and how I don’t want to be sad anymore
and how I wish I was in love
This was such a sad refrain.
The song was emotional to me because several months earlier I received orders for Vietnam. While I was home on leave, I sat at the table with my grandmother who raised me. We were laughing and joking about my experiences in the army. During our conversation, she fell from her chair. She had a brain aneurysm. I was the the last person to speak to her and to see her alive. I will never forget the sounds and sights of that day. Upon hearing the lyrics of that song, I went back to those last moments with Grandma.
Peter Green appeared to be a very sad man. I didn’t want that for my life. I found his song compelling. I listened closely to his song. It rings in my head til this day. Maybe it was something I needed to hear then, but it is not my life now. I continue to be a fan of his music. His life was difficult. He dealt with schizophrenia and drug usage for 30 years. The quality of his music is obvious and so is the pain of his life.
Many have heard the song “Black Magic Woman” by Santana. That was written by Peter Green. He was not only an incredible composer and musician, but he was also an expressive poet. He wrote and played a song called Albatross. His reputation was, he conveyed his feelings through his music. The story told about the song Albatross, is he wanted to musically portray the grace of a flying bird.
I occasionally thought about him and his music over the years, but that, like many other things, faded into memory. Last summer, I was reminded of him and the music that I once listened too. In July 2020, Peter Green died. He was living with family members in England.
Many of our memories of life are bittersweet. We remember happy times that sadness could not overtake. There are sad times redeemed by good memories. We all need to be able to see that in our lives. Peter Green is gone but his music remains. He was a man of the world.
Before being drafted in 1967, I was a professional musician. I always seem to hear music the way others do. Being a poet, music is a message to me.
Life is full of troubles. There are more for some than others. Peter Green had many difficulties. In a small way his music and story had an impact on my life.
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