Bobby Caldwell Dies: Fans Pay Tribute to Beloved Singer

Singer Bobby Caldwell in a hat
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for BET
Singer Bobby Caldwell attends the Soul Train Awards 2013

After battling a long illness, Bobby Caldwell, an R&B musician most well-known for his 1978 hit “What You Won’t Do for Love,” died on Tuesday, March 14, leaving behind his wife, Mary, and three daughters. According to his wife, he passed away at their home in New Jersey. Fans and friends have flocked to Twitter and Instagram to share condolences.

Caldwell was the son of two singers who hosted a musical variety show called Suppertime. He grew up listening to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, playing several instruments starting at a young age, and was friends with Bob Marley, who Caldwell met after his mother, a real estate agent, sold him a house (Marley also inspired his 1980s reggae-style album, Jamaica). At 17, Caldwell got his break after joining Little Richard’s band. Not long after, he went solo. His first album, Bobby Caldwell, went double platinum in 1978, and though he would end up releasing 16 albums total, none of them were quite as successful as the album with “What You Won’t Do for Love,” a song that has been sampled and covered by many artists, including Boyz II Men and Michael Bolton. “Open Your Eyes,” a song from his second album, Cat in the Hat, was covered by John Legend and sampled by Common in his Grammy-nominated 2000 single The Light. Other songs of Caldwell’s were sampled by The Notorious B.I.G., Common, Lil Nas X and Chance the Rapper.


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While he was making albums, Caldwell also wrote songs for several films released in the 1980s, such as Back to School, Mac and Me and Salsa. During the late 1990s, he portrayed Frank Sinatra in the Las Vegas musical The Rat Pack Is Back.