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Remembering when a member of Fleetwood Mac left the band to join a cult

Over the years, the beloved band Fleetwood Mac has been no stranger to internal controversy and unexpected exits by members— recently in 2017, the band seemed to be at it again with the firing of Lindsey Buckingham. But when looking back at all the drama, founding member Jeremy Spencer’s departure in 1971 might be the most bizarre one the band has ever experienced to date. 

In 1967, after Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood left their band The Bluesbreakers, they teamed up with slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer and bassist Bob Brunning to form Fleetwood Mac. Spencer brought his classic blues influences into the mix, and early on, the band vowed to stay true to the classic forms of Chicago blues.

By 1970, Fleetwood Mac had released three decently received albums, and it was when they finally started gaining mainstream success, that things began to fall apart. Green, whose mental state was declining supposedly due to a bad acid trip at a hippie commune in Munich, was the first to go. They quickly found a replacement with Christine McVie, but meanwhile, Spencer was slowly becoming independent of the band himself after being the first member to release a self-titled solo album in 1970. In February of 1971, while on tour with Fleetwood Mac, things were seemingly going well until one day, Spencer claimed he was going out “get a magazine” and never returned. 

Distraught after several days of searching for Spencer, the band was shocked to discover that he had been dabbling in a new religious group called the Children of God and decided to join them full time in the middle of the tour. Although Spencer claims that there wasn’t a particular incident that sparked the departure, he attributed his own growing feelings of disillusionment as the primary cause. 

“I was sad, uninspired musically, I had questions about life, death, love, my future, God – everything,” claimed Spencer. “I couldn’t go on with it. Bottom line, I had to leave in order to step back from the picture and get my life sorted out. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t and they would not have gone on to be one of the biggest bands in history! I don’t say that in a self-demeaning way, because I knew when I heard the first album with the Buckingham-Nicks line up, that they had hit on something good with an enormously catchy appeal,” shared Spencer.

“Besides that, after I left them, I prayed for God to reward them with success beyond their dreams. He answered that prayer.”

Founded in 1968 in California, The Children of God (now known as a religious cult, The Family International) initially spread the message of love, happiness, and salvation from the impending apocalypse — something which was later contradicted by numerous reports of sexual abuse and misconduct. By the time Spencer joined full time, the group had over 130 communities worldwide.

Along with his new band Jeremy Spencer and the Children made up of only Children of God members, Spencer continued to release music, but this time with overwhelming religious messages and a West Coast psychedelic flare. 

Spencer is still involved with the Children of God to this day, and when speaking on it in recent years, he revealed that he couldn’t find a balance between the crazy demands of being a famous touring musician and a full-time devotee. Even when asked about the enormous success of the band after his departure, Spencer still stands wholeheartedly by his decision. 

He recalled in a 2015 interview, “I know many Christian musicians who are working in rock bands, but I am sure there are times when they have to refrain from some things or stand up for their principles regarding performing certain numbers, etc. It takes a lot of self-determination!

“The choice for me, however, was to drop out.”