The frontman's brother Gary McNeish announced the news on Facebook, telling fans: "This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, is tell you my brother Pete Shelley had a heart attack this morning and passed away."
The band's official Twitter account followed it with a statement reading: "It's with great sadness that we confirm the death of Pete Shelley, one of the UK's most influential and prolific songwriters and co-founder of the seminal original punk band Buzzcocks."
It continued: "Pete's music has inspired generations of musicians over a career that spanned five decades and with his band and as a solo artist, he was held in the highest regard by the music industry and by his fans around the world. A more detailed statement will follow."
Buzzcocks' first gig came as support to the Sex Pistols in 1976, and the latter band's ex-bassist Glen Matlock expressed his shock on Twitter.
He wrote: "I am totally shocked and saddened to just hear of the untimely death of Pete Shelley. A superb songwriter, artist and a totally sweet hearted guy who was one of the very few originals of punk and even a one off within that. My deepest condolences to his family and friends."
Tributes for the iconic punk frontman have been pouring in on social media.
The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess wrote: "Farewell Pete Shelley. The first album I ever owned was Love Bites By Buzzcocks. This is my favourite song by them."
Fans shared their heartache, writing: "RIP Pete Shelley. Buzzcocks were one of the first indie bands to exist, the world has lost a legend.
"Awful news about Pete Shelley. The Buzzcocks were the best punk band.
"RIP Pete Shelly (Buzzcocks) another legend gone. ??.
"R.I.P. Pete Shelley, Manchester legend. The Buzzcocks were truly one of the finest bands to come from the punk era.."
Shooting to fame in the late seventies, the Manchester band are best known for tracks Ever Fallen in Love and What Do I Get?.
After a run of three albums, the band split in 1981 but reformed eight years later and went on to release six more albums, the most recent being 2014's The Way.
They were due to perform in Amsterdam on December 14 and have dates booked for the UK next June including at the Royal Albert Hall.
Shelley also enjoyed solo success, releasing the albums Sky Yen, XL1, Homosapien, and Heaven & the Sea, and the hit singles Telephone Operator and Homosapien, which was initially banned by the BBC for "explicit reference to gay sex".
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