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Who Is Bobby Caldwell? (What You Won't Do for Love)

Blue-eyed soul singer, Bobby Caldwell

Blue-eyed soul singer, Bobby Caldwell

Bobby Caldwell is most widely known for his 1978 classic Soul/R&B hit, "What You Won't Do For Love." If you are over 40 and you like R&B and Soul music, you will know the tune... "In my world, only you...made me do for love what I would not do..."

Back in the day - and perhaps maybe even today...many people were/are surprised to learn that Caldwell is white - this was by design, because music executives purposefully concealed his identity.

Identity Concealment

"What You Won't Do For Love" was released under the record label TK Records in Hialeah, Florida. TK Records was a label closely associated with the early rise of disco music and they were initially known for being associated with R&B acts more popular with African American audiences, ie: The Hues Corporation, George McRae, Betty Wright, etc.

When executives at TK Records heard "What You Won't Do For Love" they knew it would be a hit, but they didn't know how their mostly black audiences would react, so they hid his face from the album cover.

After the song began to rise in popularity, Bobby Caldwell began touring with Natalie Cole and most of the audience members were indeed surprised that Caldwell was white - but that did not stop them from vibbing with his tunes.

Today, Caldwell's most well-known song is a bona-fide R&B/Soul classic and no one really cares about the color of his skin...as it should be.

Early Life & Rise to Success

Bobby Caldwell was born in New York City on August 15, 1951, but grew up in Miami. His mother sold real estate and one of her clients was none other than Bob Marley; she and Marley became friends.

Along with having a mother who was friends with a legendary singer, Bobby Caldwell was exposed to all different genres of music growing up in Miami - from Reggae & Latin to R&B and Soul.

When he was a preteen Caldwell started playing the guitar and piano. The singer cites Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald as some of his musical inspirations.

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Later in his teen years, whilst still living in Miami, Caldwell joined a band called Katmandu, where he played multiple instruments and wrote many of their songs.

Eventually, he headed West - initially hitting the Vegas scene with his band and then making his way to Los Angeles.

When he approached TK Records in 1978, he had already completed an album catalog of music, but executives weren't ready to release his album - but then, Caldwell spent two days writing "What You Won't Do For Love" and the deal was sealed.

The song was a hit on Billboard's Pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary charts and, as mentioned earlier, it has become a Soul and R&B staple and it has been covered and sampled by singers from Phyliss Hyman, Common and Tupac Shakur to Boyz II Men, Go West and American Idol's Elliot Yamin.

A Singer, Songwriter & Actor

In addition to singing, Caldwell has written songs for Natalie Cole, Roberta Flack, Neil Diamond, Al Jarreau, Chicago, Boz Scaggs, Roy Ayers...one of the most popular songs he co-wrote is "The Next Time I Fall," which was a hit for Peter Cetera (Chicago) and Amy Grant in 1986.

Bobby Caldwell has released three albums to date: Cat in the Hat (1980); Carry On (1982) and August Moon (1983), but most of his fame...outside of his mega-hit, has been found in Japan. In Japan, he is referred to as "Mister AOR," which is an acronym for "Adult Oriented Rock."

Caldwell has also written and performed songs from film soundtracks like Back to School (1986), Mac and Me (1988) and Night of the Comet (1984).

He has also tried his hand at acting, appearing in a minor role in the 1988 Puerto Rican film, Salsa. In the late 1990s, Caldwell also got the chance to portray crooner Frank Sinatra in the Las Vegas musical, The Rat Pack is Back.

For his turn at playing Sinatra, Bobby Caldwell stated that it was his highest compliment to be chosen to play that role.

Robert "Bobby" Caldwell

Robert "Bobby" Caldwell

2021 Health Scare

Late last year (2021), family members posted a request for prayers as Caldwell had been injured in an accident, although some of his fans assumed the worst - Bobby Caldwell is alive and kicking at 70 years old...

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