Bobby Caldwell, the influential singer and songwriter behind such R&B hits as Open Your Eyes and What You Won’t Do for Love, has died at the age of 71.
The singer had endured a long illness, according to a statement posted by his wife, Mary Caldwell. “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 on his verified Twitter account.
Caldwell was known for his soulful voice and ability to perform across many genres, which he credited to the diversity of his hometown of Miami, Florida. His signature song, What You Won’t Do for Love, hit the Billboard charts soon after its release in 1978, and was sampled by Tupac Shakur in his posthumous 1998 hit Do For Love. Other artists including Common, The Notorious BIG and John Legend have sampled his music.
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who collaborated with Common on The Light, sampling Caldwell’s Open Your Eyes, posted a tribute on Instagram with a lengthy caption 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.
Caldwell was born in Manhattan in 1951 and raised in Miami, where he was exposed to the city’s Latin, Haitian, reggae and R&B music. 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.
Outside of his solo career, Caldwell penned music for other artists, including The Next Time I Fall for Amy Grant and Peter Cetera.
“Most of the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know in the radio business, they all say the same thing,” Caldwell said of music in an interview with NPR in 2005. “It’s like a universal language, and should have no barriers.”
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