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Soul singer-songwriter Bobby Caldwell, best known for his 1978 hit “What You Won’t Do for Love,” has died at 71. His wife, Mary Caldwell, announced the news in a tweet on Wednesday morning, writing, “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. He had been ‘FLOXED,’ it took his health over the last 6 years and 2 months. Rest with God, my Love.”
While Mary Caldwell didn’t specify what ailment the singer suffered from, “Floxed” generally refers to a condition the Regenerative Medicine L.A. treatment center says arises from the adverse effects of consuming fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as Ciprofloxacin, Levaquin or Avelox; no additional information on the cause of Caldwell’s death was available at press time.
Robert Hunter Caldwell was born on April 15, 1951, in New York City. He got his first big break serving as the rhythm guitarist for Little Richard in the early 1970s before going solo later in the decade and scoring a hit out of the box on his TK Records debut: the No. 9 Billboard Hot 100 single “What You Won’t Do for Love.”
In a 2005 interview with NPR, Caldwell said the Miami-based label with a largely Black, R&B roster didn’t “want it to be well-known that I was white,” which explains why his picture was left off the cover of his self-titled debut. Additionally, he said the record was initially completed without the smooth, jazzy ballad “Love,” which Caldwell wrote and cut in a hurry to please TK boss Henry Stone. The song went on to cement Caldwell’s reputation as a “blue-eyed soul” star and it has been covered since by everyone from Boyz II Men to Michael Bolton, Roy Ayers and Snoh Aalegra; it was also sampled by Tupac Shakur on “Do for Love.”
He scored again in 1980 with the gentle piano pop tune “Open Your Eyes” from that year’s Cat in the Hat album, which was later sampled by producer J Dilla for the song “The Light” from Common’s Like Water for Chocolate album.
Describing his sound, which mixed pop with smooth jazz, R&B and a Brazilian/island vibe, Caldwell told NPR that his time growing up in Miami soaking up all kinds of music — “Haitian, reggae, Latin, pop, R&B” — as well as befriending his real estate agent mom’s client, reggae icon Bob Marley, helped him find his signature groove.
Caldwell continued to release albums throughout the 1980s, 1990s and into the mid-2010s, all the way through his final collection, 2015’s Cool Uncle. He also wrote the hit 1986 duet “The Next Time I Fall” for Amy Grant and Chicago’s Peter Cetera, as well as songs for Neil Diamond, Boz Scaggs, Ayers, Chicago and Natalie Cole, among others.
A version of this story first appeared on Billboard.com
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