Renowned singer and songwriter Bobby Caldwell, best known for his R&B hits “Open Your Eyes” and “What You Won’t Do for Love,” has passed away at the age of 71. Caldwell had been battling a long illness, as confirmed in a statement by his wife, Mary Caldwell, who wrote on his verified Twitter account: “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.”
Caldwell’s soulful voice and ability to perform across multiple genres were well-known, and he credited the diversity of his hometown, Miami, Florida, for his musical talents. “What You Won’t Do for Love,” his signature song, became a hit soon after its release in 1978 and was later sampled by artists such as Tupac Shakur, Common, The Notorious BIG, and John Legend.
Musicians and fans alike have taken to social media to pay tribute to Caldwell. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who collaborated with Common on “The Light,” which sampled Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes,” shared a touching tribute on Instagram, describing a years-long game of telephone with the late singer. “Man, such a missed opportunity to meet a legend. Thank you for your voice and gift,” he wrote.
Born in Manhattan in 1951 and raised in Miami, Caldwell was exposed to a diverse range of music, including Latin, Haitian, reggae, and R&B. He received his big break as a rhythm guitarist for Little Richard in the early 1970s and signed with TK Records, a label primarily known for Black artists, in 1978. In addition to his solo career, Caldwell also wrote music for other artists, including “The Next Time I Fall” for Amy Grant and Peter Cetera.
Reflecting on the universal appeal of music in a 2005 interview with NPR, Caldwell said, “Most of the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know in the radio business, they all say the same thing. It’s like a universal language, and should have no barriers.” Caldwell’s legacy in the music industry is sure to live on, as his music continues to inspire and influence generations of artists and music lovers.