Some Sunday Love: “Hypnotized,” from Fleetwood Mac’s “Mystery to Me,” 1973, Featuring The Late Bob Welch
Former Fleetwood Mac songwriter, guitarist and singer Bob Welch took his own life last week at his home near Nashville, TN. But not before he left us with this, along with “Sentimental Lady,” and “Ebony Eyes.” This is my favorite of his songs: jazzy, contemplative, cool and dreamy. Love, love it.
Welch was 66 and had been in failing health recently. His wife Wendy and friends believe that Welch chose suicide because he was not going to recover from his spinal surgery, and that he would eventually become an invalid like his father. Additionally, he refused to burden his wife with thousands of dollars of health care costs. I’d say relative quality of life was more of a factor than the costs. When that is present, cost doesn’t mean a thing.
Family friend Bart Herbison, executive director of the National Songwriters Association, which includes the California Songwriters Association, the Nashville Songwriters Association International and the Texas Songwriters Association, said the musician had been through spinal surgery about three months ago.
“It had become apparent to Bob that he was not going to recover, that he was going to become an invalid,” Herbison said. “He had seen his father become an invalid and watched his mother care for him for many years. In the letter he left, he told (his wife) Wendy, ‘I’m not going to do this to you.’ ”
Herbison went on to say he’d never seen a couple more in love than Bob and Wendy Welch. He’d known them for about 15 years, he said.
Welch, from his photos, was a funny-looking guy, but looks don’t augur talent. The son of Hollywood producer Robert Welch who ran the Paleface movie franchise starring Bob Hope, Welch grew up on Los Angeles in a show-biz environment, but his interest was in the guitar, not in films. After high school and a few false starts, Welch went to live in Paris and to play his music. In 1971, when he was 24 years old, Mick Fleetwood called Welch to London to play for Fleetwood Mac during that time before the advent of Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in the mid-Seventies, when the band gradually turned away from its roots as a blues rock group and toward the commercial, mainstream supergroup it later became. For three years, until 1974, he helped to bolster the group torn from creative infighting and betrayals (one band member was shagging Fleetwood’s wife at the time), and even a fake Fleetwood Mac group.
“My era was the bridge era,” Welch told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1998, after he was excluded from the Fleetwood Mac line-up inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “It was a transition. But it was an important period in the history of the band. Mick Fleetwood dedicated a whole chapter of his biography to my era of the band and credited me with ‘saving Fleetwood Mac.’ Now they want to write me out of the history of the group.”
Welch went solo and scored a top 20 hit in 1977 with “Ebony Eyes.” The album from which it was culled, “French Kiss,” featured a number of former Fleetwood Mac members, as well as a rendition of “Sentimental Lady,” a song originally recorded with Fleetwood Mac but reworked by Welch.
Over the next six years Welch released five more studio albums, but none was as successful as his debut. He continued to record music for the next two decades; his final album, “His Fleetwood Mac Years and Beyond, Vol. 2,” was the second volume of a series of reworkings of his earlier output.
Bob Welch also released a CD, Bob Welch Looks at Bop, in 1999. Fans are warned on Amazon.com that it has explicit lyrics, and it appears to have been predominantly recorded live as a salute to Forties be-bop music. Altogether, it is not one of his better works. It may be proof, not necessarily just of his waning powers, but of the lack of money and a good music producer (I’m thinking a Rick Rubin) that would brush up and burnish the nuggets.
“I just wanted to play guitar in a good band,” he said. “I wanted to make the music I love. I wanted to travel the world and have adventures.”
Mr. Welch also said “music is disposable now. It doesn’t have the emotional impact anymore. That’s sad.”
Welch will be treated a bit better in death than he was in life. Isn’t that always the case, especially when some people don’t have to look at you in the face any more and have to apologize? Rest in peace, Bob Welch, and come back to us again.
- Bob Welch paved the way for Fleetwood Mac’s signature sound (vancouversun.com)
- Former Fleetwood Mac member Bob Welch found dead (miamiherald.com)
- Former Fleetwood Mac member Bob Welch found dead (sfgate.com)