Bob Welch, guitarist for classic rock band Fleetwood Mac during one of their pre-superstardom incarnations and successful solo singer-songwriter of the late ’70s, died earlier today from what is said to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The AP reports that Welch was found dead by his wife at their Nashville home around noon today, with a suicide note left at the scene. He was 65 years old.
A struggling guitarist moving in and out of the lineups for many bands in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Welch first came to musical prominence when he was asked to join the band Fleetwood Mac in 1971. This was after Peter Green, who was the anchor behind the band’s blues-rock phase in which they scored numerous UK hits but achieved little stateside success, left the band, and Welch took over guitar and songwriting duties in his stead. The group enjoyed minor success with Welch in the lineup, with 1973′s “Hypnotized” becoming an FM radio recurrent.
Unfortunately for Welch, it was not until after he left the band in 1974 and was replaced by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks that the band would take off commercially, selling a combined 24 million copies of their next two albums (Fleetwood Mac and Rumors) in the States alone, while only one of the four Welch-era Mac albums even went platinum. Welch would continue to fight the band in legal disputes over royalties owed throughout the ensuing decades, and never rejoined the band.
However, Welch did go on to greater commercial success as a solo artist, with 1977′s French Kiss going platinum and spawning a trio of Top 40 hits for Welch—the rocking, disco-tinged “Ebony Eyes” and “Hot Love, Cold Love,” and the smash top ten ballad “Sentimental Lady.” (Several Fleetwood Mac members appeared on the singles as instrumentalists and backing vocalists). The hits dried up for Welch quickly afterwards, however, and after 1979′s “Precious Time,” he never had another crossover hit.
Welch’s music continues to live on in classic rock and adult contemporary radio, where his late ’70s hits still have a home. “Sentimental Lady” in particular still appears on ’70s compilations and the like, and was recently featured in a nostalgic scene in the Adam Sandler comedy Grown-Ups, during a scene where the principal characters all slow dance with their significant others to the song (which Chris Rock’s character labels the “whitest song ever,” perhaps not totally inaccurately). Unfortunately, Welch was denied entry with the rest of Fleetwood Mac when the group was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. “They want to write me out of the history of the group. It hurts.”
Enjoy Welch’s most notable Mac contribution, as well as a couple of his solo hits below: