Bobby Caldwell, 'What You Won't Do for Love' Crooner, Dead at 71

Bobby Caldwell, the smooth jazz and R&B singer known for his 1978 hit "What You Won't Do For Love," has died. He was 71. Caldwell's smooth vocals and arrangements made "What You Won't Do For Love" a major hit that has been frequently sampled by various artists across multiple genres. Tupac Shakur sampled the song in "Do For Love."

Caldwell's wife, Mary Caldwell, shared the sad news on Twitter Wednesday morning. She said the singer was suffering from a condition called "floxed" for the past six years. This condition comes from an adverse reaction to consuming fluoroquinolone antibiotics, according to the treatment center Regenerative Medicine LA.

"Bobby passed away here at home," Mary tweeted. "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. He had been 'FLOXED,' it took his health over the last 6 years and 2 months. Rest with God, my Love."

Caldwell was born on Aug. 15, 1951, in New York City and grew up in Miami, where he was exposed to a wide variety of music genres that would later influence his work. He got his big break in the early 1970s when he was a rhythm guitarist for Little Richard. In 1977, he started his solo career and landed a record deal with the Miami-based TK Records the following year.

After hearing the first songs Caldwell was recording for his debut album, TK executives were afraid the album would lack a big hit. He then wrote, "What You Won't Do For Love." TK was impressed with the track, but they worried Black audiences wouldn't listen to a white singer, so they kept Caldwell's face off the album cover.

"I was on a label that was located in Miami, Florida. It was TK Records," Caldwell told NPR in 2005. "And their base to launch their product was basically an R&B format. 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."

"What You Won't Do For Love" became an instant hit on the Billboard charts. While his subsequent singles weren't as big, he continued writing songs for artists after TK shuttered. He wrote "The Next Time I Fall," which became a big hit for Amy Grant and Peter Cetera. His songs have been recorded by Natalie Cole, Roberta Flack, Al Jarreau, Boz Scaggs, Chicago, and many more. Caldwell released his final album, Cool Uncle, in 2015.

"It's always a work in progress, man. It never stops. That's how I've approached my career," Caldwell told Richmond Magazine in 2019. "I was R&B first. The No. 1 influence for me was Earth, Wind & Fire. But in the household I grew up in, it was Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. I was bludgeoned with those songs my entire youth. It made an impression."