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Let’s get sentimental: An appreciation of the late Bob Welch

 

I’m playing “Sentimental Lady” as I write these words. That song, with its cascading melody, flowing chorus and fluid guitar riffs, will always define Bob Welch for me. It is his signature tune, a 1977 hit responsible for my daydreams of breezy California while I was stuck in humid Miami where I grew up.

Welch, a member of Fleetwood Mac from 1971 to 1974, died Thursday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. His wife found him at their Nashville home. He left behind a suicide note. He reportedly suffered from undisclosed health issues. The singer, songwriter and guitarist was 65.

For the masses, Welch was best known for “Sentimental Lady” and his three other Top 40 solo hits – “Hot Love, Cold World,” “Ebony Eyes” and “Precious Love.” Although early fans of Fleetwood Mac, particularly during the band’s nascent switch from blues to pop-rock, know Welch as an important contributor to five FM studio albums – 1971′s Future Games, 1972′s Bare Trees, 1973′s Penguin andMystery to Me (which includes the enchanting “Hypnotized”), and 1974′s Heroes Are Hard to Find.

In fact, the original version of “Sentimental Lady” sits on Bare Trees. When Welch embarked on a solo career, after a post-FM stint as the founder of a hard rock band dubbed Paris, a group that recorded two albums, he re-recorded “Sentimental Lady” with then FM stars Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood playing and singing on the new version.

“Sentimental Lady” peaked at No. 8, taking his solo LP French Kiss to million-selling status. Welch’s solo reign on the charts was short-lived, however. His follow-up effort, 1979′s gold-selling Three Hearts, contained his final radio staple, the Top 20 “Precious Love.”

From then on Welch would try for pop dominance with four more solo albums, but to no avail. He battled heroin addiction in the ’80s. For collectors, reissue label Wounded Bird Records is about to release two of Welch’s ’80s efforts on CD – 1981′s Bob Welch and 1983′s Eye Contact.

Welch recorded sporadically in the ’90s and ’00s, releasing only two studio projects – 1999′s experimental jazz album Bob Welch Looks at Bop, and 2003′s Bob Welch: His Fleetwood Mac Years and Beyond, which featured re-recordings of songs he original wrote and recorded for FM and solo.

But I always go back to “Sentimental Lady.” It’s such a beguiling song. It’s a key part of the soundtrack of an era.