Bob Welch — largely responsible for prepping a young Fleetwood Mac for the success the band would enjoy without him in the late ’70s — committed suicide in his Nashville home yesterday, June 6. He was 66.
Welch joined the band in 1971 while he was living in Paris, just in time to observe and have a hand in transitioning Fleetwood Mac from a blues British band to a pop-rock American radio band. When he resigned in 1974, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were the ones to replace him. As the story goes, Lindsey was the only one they needed but in a pretty moving gesture of loyalty to Stevie, he told the band that they were a package deal. They accepted Lindsey's wishes, and the band started to get their footing by way of recording Fleetwood Mac in 1975. They brought it on home with Rumours in 1977, which has played on the radio endlessly ever since. It ended up becoming the seventh best selling studio album of all time.
None of that well earned success could've happened without Welch, however. Nicks and Fleetwood have both already spoken out about the recent loss to Reuters:
"He was a very, very profoundly intelligent human being and always in good humor, which is why this is so unbelievably shocking. He was a huge part of our history which sometimes gets forgotten... (sic) mostly his legacy would be his songwriting abilities that he brought to Fleetwood Mac, which will survive all of us. If you look into our musical history, you'll see a huge period that was completely ensconced in Bob's work," Fleetwood stated.
Welch confirmed Fleetwood's statement years earlier when speaking to the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1998 (per the L.A. Times):
"My era was the bridge era, it was a transition. But it was an important period in the history of the band. Mick Fleetwood [co-founder and drummer] dedicated a whole chapter of his biography to my era of the band and credited me with 'saving Fleetwood Mac.'" Sadly legal issues and an estrangement with Fleetwood led him to being snubbed from the the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that year. "Now they want to write me out of the history of the group," he later commented.
"I just wanted to play guitar in a good band," he told the Nashville Tennessean in 2003: "I wanted to make the music I love. I wanted to travel the world and have adventures." It looks like he did just that.
Welch is survived by his wife, Wendy.
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