Bobby Caldwell, who famously sang R&B hits including “What You Won’t Do For Love” and “Open Your Eyes,” has died. He was 71.
The soulful singer-songwriter’s wife, Mary Caldwell, announced his death on his official Twitter account Wednesday, saying he died at home.
“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,” she wrote.
She said her husband had been struggling with health issues for the past six years after being “floxed,” a condition that arises after an adverse effect from consuming a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, according to treatment center Regenerative Medicine LA.
USA TODAY has reached out to Caldwell’s reps for more information.
Caldwell’s signature voice transcended genres of jazz, R&B and rock as his soulful hit song “What You Won’t Do For Love” ascended the Billboard 100 charts after its 1978 release on the debut album of the same name.
“What You Won’t Do For Love” became a multi-generational hit, in part because of its wide appeal as a sample and cover song. Tupac Shakur sampled the track on his 1998 “Do for Love,” and Boyz II Men, Snoh Aalegra, Michael Bolton and more have re-recorded it as a cover.
Other Caldwell songs were sampled by hip-hop artists including The Notorious B.I.G., Common, Lil Nas X and Chance the Rapper.
Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes,” off his sophomore 1980 “Cat in the Hat” album, for example, became a sample for the chorus on Common’s hit song “The Light,” off his 2000 album “Like Water for Chocolate.” John Legend also covered the song on his 2013 album “Love in the Future.”
Many fans and artists Caldwell influenced took to social media platforms including Instagram and Twitter to pay their respects.
Chance the Rapper shared on Instagram a screenshot of a Twitter conversation with Caldwell who thanked the artist in 2022 for sampling one of his songs on a record that hadn’t yet been released, which “never happens.”
“I was so excited to meet you, I have not felt broken like this at a strangers passing in so long. You are a true legend and incredible person who I know I will see one day 🕊️ RIP THE GREAT BOBBY CALDWELL 💔,” Chance The Rapper wrote in the caption.
Questlove shared clips of Caldwell’s music with a long message on Instagram noting he played phone tag with Caldwell, he said, but never had the chance to meet him.
“Man such a missed opportunity to meet a legend. Thank you for your voice and gift,” Questlove wrote.
Common, too, posted on Instagram, thanking Caldwell. “I can’t thank you enough! May God bless the soul of Bobby Caldwell!”
And John Legend shared his cover of Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes” on Instagram. “RIP Bobby Caldwell. He made some beautiful music and it was an honor to cover this classic,” Legend wrote.
Caldwell was born in New York in 1951 and was raised in Miami. According to his website, he grew up listening to famed musicians including Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and The Beatles.
He was the son of singers who hosted a musical variety TV show called “Suppertime.” A multi-instrumentalist, he began performing professionally at 17, and got his break playing guitar in Little Richard’s band in the early 1970s. In the mid ’70s, Caldwell played in various bar bands in Los Angeles before landing a solo record deal.
His debut album cover featured a silhouette of a man observing a sunset, not revealing his face. In a 2005 interview with NPR, the “blue-eyed soul” singer said the cover was the label’s choice so that his race wasn’t identified in the R&B market.
“I was on a label that was located in Miami, Florida. It was TK Records. And their base to launch their product was basically an R&B format,” Caldwell said. “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.”
He told the national public radio station that the label’s efforts to hide his identity quickly faded when he went on tour with Natalie Cole, Nat King Cole’s daughter.
Caldwell’s released his latest album, “Cool Uncle,” in collaboration with Jack Splash in 2015.
Beyond making his own music, Caldwell wrote songs for other artists, including Amy Grant and Peter Cetera’s Grammy-nominated 1986 duet “The Next Time I Fall.”
In addition to Mary, his wife of 19 years, Caldwell is survived by daughters Lauren and Tessa and stepdaughter Katie.
Contributing: Morgan Hines, USA TODAY; Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bobby Caldwell dead: ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’ singer was 71
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