R.I.P. Fleetwood Mac guitarist and '70s soft-rock star Bob Welch

R.I.P. Fleetwood Mac guitarist and '70s soft-rock star Bob Welch

Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist and late '70s soft-rock mainstay Bob Welch was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound today at his home in Nashville. He was 65. Police say the body was found by Welch's wife at about 12:15 p.m., and that a suicide note was left behind.

Welch was a member of Fleetwood Mac from 1971 to '74, a "bridge" period between the band's early blues-rock days with Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer and the incredible success of 1975's Fleetwood Mac and 1977's Rumours. Welch replaced Green and was replaced by Lindsey Buckingham, a distinction that unfortunately relegated him to the back pages of the band's history. When Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998, Welch wasn't invited to attend, a snub that stung for years afterward. (He later blamed it on a lawsuit—filed against Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie, and Warner Bros. records, among others—for underpayment of royalties, which was settled in 1996.)

Welch's tenure in Fleetwood Mac was tumultuous even by the band's lofty standards, as it struggled to stay afloat while issuing a series of poor-selling but well-regarded albums like 1971's Future Games and 1972's Bare Trees. The latter album included Welch's song "Sentimental Lady," which became his first solo hit when he re-recorded it five years later. In 1974, Welch convinced the band to move from England to Los Angeles, where it would quickly conform to the city's slick folk-pop sound and subsequently make tens of millions of dollars. But Welch exited after the release of 1974's Heroes Are Hard To Find, clearing the way for Fleetwood Mac's most popular line-up.

Along with "Sentimental Lady," Welch scored hits with "Ebony Eyes" and "Hot Love, Cold World," all of which came from his 1978 solo debut, French Kiss. His next album, 1979's Three Hearts, spun off hits with "Precious Love" and "Church," but Welch's career hit the skids in the '80s, and he battled heroin addiction. He eventually cleaned himself up, and continued writing songs (for himself and other artists) and repping for the role he played during one of the less successful times in the career of an otherwise wildly popular band.

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