A WORLD WITHOUT BOB: This is going to take some getting used to.
Others were hit hard by the deaths of John Lennon or Jerry Garcia. For me, this is every bit as significant. While others grooved to "Imagine" or spaced out on the Dead, my head swam with singular Bob compositions like "Bright Fire" and "Miles Away" and "Religion."
It didn't help to know that Bob chose to end his own life following a bad outcome to recent spinal surgery. A friend of mine right here in this town committed suicide rather than keep on dealing with incapacitating back pain, and I myself could have wound up in the same shoes after playing fast and loose with the painkillers before my miraculously successful back surgery in 2000. Friends, you don't know what pain is until your L5-S1 vertebra turns to goo and starts pressing on your sciatic nerve... like walking through fire, all day, every day.
I know that Bob did the best he could. He always did. No one seems to remember it anymore, but Bob kept Fleetwood Mac afloat between the mega-stardom of their Peter Green and Buckingham-Nicks eras. Bluesy if not a blues purist like Green, he pointed the Mac in a jazzier, more radio-friendly direction (most everyone over 40 can recall Bob's classic Mac hit, "Hypnotized"). The result was an absoutely seamless transition between hardcore Chicago blues and the bright pop confections of B/N. Not many people could have pulled that off; Bob made it seem effortless.
After Bob left the Mac, he briefly fronted a group called Paris. Their two albums formed the soundtrack of my salad years in Spokane, Washington, contemporaneous with the debut album of local legends Heart. My friends and I used to say how much we'd like to hear Bob sing with Ann Wilson; years later, a co-worker in New York City gave me a tape of Wilson dropping in at a Bob Welch concert in LA. Wilson was completely wasted and could do nothing but wail (mostly out-of-tune); Bob, being Bob, just laughed it off.
And that's what I'll always remember about Bob. I saw him onstage once in Seattle and found his good-natured direction of his band infectuous. Bob was a happy guy, and that came through in his performances. Which only made it hurt worse that he felt that he had no recourse but to take his own life.