Bobby Caldwell, ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’ R&B crooner, dies at 71

Bobby Caldwell, who famously sang R&B hits including “What You Won’t Do For Love” and “Open Your Eyes,” has died. He was 71.

The soulful singer-songwriter’s wife, Mary Caldwell, announced his death on his official Twitter account Wednesday, saying he died at home.

“Bobby passed away here at home. I held him tight in my arms as he left us. I am forever heartbroken. Thanks to all of you for your many prayers over the years,” she wrote. 

Singer-songwriter Bobby Caldwell performs during the Soul Train Awards 2013 at the Orleans Arena on Nov. 8, 2013, in Las Vegas.
Singer-songwriter Bobby Caldwell performs during the Soul Train Awards 2013 at the Orleans Arena on Nov. 8, 2013, in Las Vegas.

She said her husband had been struggling with health issues for the past six years after being “floxed,” a condition that arises after an adverse effect from consuming a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, according to treatment center Regenerative Medicine LA.

USA TODAY has reached out to Caldwell’s reps for more information.

Caldwell’s signature voice transcended genres of jazz, R&B and rock as his soulful hit song “What You Won’t Do For Love” ascended the Billboard 100 charts after its 1978 release on the debut album of the same name.

“What You Won’t Do For Love” became a multi-generational hit, in part because of its wide appeal as a sample and cover song. Tupac Shakur sampled the track on his 1998 “Do for Love,” and Boyz II Men, Snoh Aalegra, Michael Bolton and more have re-recorded it as a cover.

Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes,” off his sophomore 1980 “Cat in the Hat” album, also became a sample for the chorus on Common’s hit song “The Light,” off his 2000 album “Like Water for Chocolate.” John Legend also covered the song on his 2013 album “Love in the Future.”

Caldwell was born in New York in 1951 and was raised in Miami. According to his website, he grew up listening to famed musicians including Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and The Beatles.

He began his career playing rhythm guitar for Little Richard before launching his solo career in the late 1970s.

His debut album cover featured a silhouette of a man observing a sunset, not revealing his face. In a 2005 interview with NPR, the “blue-eyed soul” singer said the cover was the label’s choice so that his race wasn’t identified in the R&B market.

“I was on a label that was located in Miami, Florida. It was TK Records. And their base to launch their product was basically an R&B format,” Caldwell said. “So they really didn’t want it to be well-known that I was white. Today, as we speak, there are still a few holdovers that don’t know that.”

He told the national public radio station that the label’s efforts to hide his identity quickly faded when he went on tour with Natalie Cole, Nat King Cole’s daughter.

He released his latest album, “Cool Uncle,” in collaboration with Jack Splash in 2015.

Beyond making his own music, Caldwell wrote songs for other artists, including Amy Grant and Peter Cetera’s Grammy-nominated 1986 duet “The Next Time I Fall.”

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