The smooth-voiced r&b crooner, who won the music world’s attention and respect with his 1978 smash single, “What you won’t do for love,” has died at the age of 71.
His wife, Mary Caldwell, confirmed that he died at his residence in Great Meadows, New Jersey, on March 14th. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Born in Manhattan, New York, and raised in Miami, Florida, Caldwell’s life and career was a mixture of one part providence, two parts talent, and ambition. His first professional break came when he landed the gig as Little Richard’s rhythm guitarist at the age of 17, along with his working band, Katmandu. Growing weary of the touring circuit and believing the band could strike out on its own, Caldwell and Katmandu left the Little Richard gig.
However, belief and youth proved not enough to break the band into stardom. Caldwell eventually split from the band and tried to play into the disco sound that had a monopoly on the industry at the time, but much to no avail.
In an interview with Red Bull Academy, Caldwell spoke of this period in his life: “I just could not make it happen. I basically ended up going back home with my tail between my legs to Miami, feeling pretty despondent.”
Faced with the prospect of never seeing his dreams realized, Caldwell’s mother noticed a story in the Miami Herald about KC & the sunshine band, a band with a white singer but very much influenced by funk and soul. She advised her son to visit the label behind KC’s meteoric rise: TK Records.
This proved to be the perfect fit for Caldwell after signing a deal within days of meeting with the label, and after the release of his single, “What you won’t do for love,” the rest was history.
Bobby Caldwell is survived by his wife, two daughters, and a stepdaughter.