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Thursday, 16 March 2023 12:20

Bobby Caldwell, What You Won't Do for Love singer, dies aged 71.

By Chelsea Bailey.


Music legends are mourning one of their own: R&B singer Bobby Caldwell died at his home on Tuesday night.

Caldwell's hit single, What You Won't Do For Love, shot to the top 10 on Billboard Hot 100 in 1978 and broke barriers in the R&B genre.

Caldwell had been battling a long illness, his wife, Mary Caldwell, said. He was 71.

His songs have since been sampled across genres by artists ranging from Tupac Shakur and Common to Ella Mai.

He would later transition to song-writing, penning tunes for Neil Diamond and Roberta Flack.

Questlove sampled Caldwell's Open Your Eyes for a collaboration with Common to produce the song, The Light. Questlove led tributes to Caldwell on Instagram, lamenting the fact that he never got to meet Caldwell in person.

"Caldwell was the closing chapter in a generation in which record execs wanted to hide faces on album covers so perhaps maybe their artist could have a chance," he wrote. "Man such a missed opportunity to meet a legend. Thank you for your voice and gift."

Born Robert Hunter Caldwell on August 15, 1951, Bobby knew he was destined for a career in music by the time he was a teenager, according to his website. In the early 1970s he began playing as a guitarist for Little Richard. By 1978, he had launched a solo career and released the hit single that propelled him to fame.

As Questlove's post recalled, Caldwell's record label initially took care to keep his face off his first album. R&B was traditionally dominated by African-American singers. The decision led to years of continuing shock as new fans discovered the singer was white.

But new fans still kept coming for Caldwell's sultry ballads punctuated by horns - especially in Japan and across Asia, where Caldwell remained popular well into the 1990s.