Bobby Caldwell, Singer of ‘What You Won’t Do For Love,’ Passes Away Aged 71

bobby caldwell passes away
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bobby caldwell passes away
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Photo Credit: Tom Collins / CC by 2.0

Bobby Caldwell, singer-songwriter of the 1978 hit “What You Won’t Do For Love,” has passed away at age 71.

The soulful Bobby Caldwell, singer and songwriter behind the 1978 hit “What You Won’t Do For Love,” has died after a long battle with illness. He was 71. His wife, Mary Caldwell, announced the news on Bobby’s Twitter.

“Bobby passed away here at home. I held him tight in my arms as he left us,” tweeted his wife. “I am forever heartbroken. Thanks to all of you for your many prayers over the years. He had been “floxed,” (and) it took his health over the last six years and two months. Rest with God, my Love.”

Floxing occurs when the body experiences mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress caused by an adverse side effect of a fluoroquinolone antibiotic.

“What You Won’t Do For Love,” released in September 1978, was Bobby Caldwell’s debut single after signing to Miami label TK Records. TK Records initially made efforts to conceal Caldwell’s racial identity to compete with the likes of Smokey Robinson, Teddy Pendergrass, and the many talented Black artists of the “quiet storm” radio format. 

But the song’s popularity increased once he began performing it live, eventually reaching Number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and Number 6 on the R&B chart. His self-titled debut album, which featured him only in silhouette, achieved double platinum.

TK Records went bankrupt in 1981, and Caldwell continued recording albums under his own name while writing songs for other artists at the suggestion of singer Boz Scaggs. Caldwell co-wrote “The Next Time I Fall” with Paul Gordon for a 1986 duet by Peter Cetera and Amy Grant for Cetera’s Solitude/Solitaire album. The track not only reached the top of the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts but received a Grammy nomination for best vocal pop performance by a duo or group.

Bobby Caldwell’s music has been sampled hundreds of times by artists that include Aaliyah, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Common, and Lil Nas X. Though he never returned to the heights of success he achieved with his debut album, he enjoyed a brief late-career resurgence in R&B after collaborating with producer Jack Splash. Caldwell’s later work retains the soulfulness that made his early work so successful in the smooth jazz movement.