Bob Welch, a former member of Fleetwood Mac who went on to write songs and record several hits during a solo career, committed suicide at his Tennessee home, police said.
Police spokesman Don Aaron said Welch's wife Wendy found him with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest at their south Nashville home yesterday.
Mr Aaron said Welch, 65, apparently had recent health issues. He said a suicide note was left.
Bart Herbison, executive director of the Nashville Songwriters Association, quoted Wendy Welch as saying Welch had spinal surgery three months ago, doctors told him he would not get better and he did not want her to have to care for an invalid.
The couple had no children.
Welch was a guitarist and vocalist for Fleetwood Mac from 1971 to 1974.
He formed the British rock group Paris in 1976 and had hits including Sentimental Lady in 1977 and Ebony Eyes in 1978. Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham did back-up vocals on Sentimental Lady.
Fleetwood Mac's career took off in the mid-1970s after Welch left the band. Dreams was a No 1 hit in 1977 and Don't Stop the same year, which later became the anthem for Bill Clinton's 2002 presidential campaign. Hold Me was a hit in 1982 and Little Lies in 1987.
Welch, a native of Los Angeles, scored his biggest hit with Sentimental Lady, which reached No 8 on the Billboard chart. His other singles included Precious Love in 1979 and Hot Love, Cold World in 1978.
When Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, Welch was not included in the group.
"It basically comes down to the fact that they don't like me anymore," he told The Plain Dealer of Cleveland at the time.
"I guess they can do what they want. I could understand it if I had been a sideman for a year. But I was an integral part of that band ... I put more of myself into that band than anything else I've ever done."
Long-time Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks said Welch's death hit her hard.
"The death of Bob Welch is devastating ... I had many great times with him after Lindsey and I joined Fleetwood Mac. He was an amazing guitar player - he was funny, sweet - and he was smart. I am so very sorry for his family and for the family of Fleetwood Mac - so, so sad," she said.
Founding member Mick Fleetwood did not immediately respond to emails for comment.
Fleetwood Mac, started in 1967 by two former members of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, became an enormously popular pop-oriented group in the late 1970s. Nicks' haunting vocals and Buckingham's distinctive guitar work helped propel the band's 1976 album Rumours to multi-platinum status.
Problems with alcohol and drugs, as well as well-publicised fights between band members, led to their break-up. But money and nostalgia helped bring the band back together, leading to successful reunion tours.
As a songwriter, Welch had his songs recorded by Kenny Rogers, Sammy Hagar, the Pointer Sisters and others.
In 1999 he released a CD, Bob Welch Looks At Bop, a salute to bebop music in the 1940s.
In an interview with The Tennessean in 2003, Welch said he never dreamed he would be remembered for much.
"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."
Welch also said "music is disposable now. It doesn't have the emotional impact anymore. That's sad".