Listen Live

On Air Now

Current Weather

Bobby Caldwell

Bobby Caldwell (August 15, 1951 – March 14, 2023) was an American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who, despite a prolific musical output over his 30-year career, was still best known for his 1978 hit single "What You Won't Do for Love." While he has always maintained a devoted fan base in the United States, a more legendary status has been bestowed upon him in Japan.

Early life

Bobby Caldwell was born in Manhattan to Bob and Carolyn Franklin, the hosts of Suppertime, an early television variety show. Living in Memphis and, chiefly, Miami (which he has called an influential "dumping ground" for all kinds of music), he took up piano and guitar as a preteen. Forming his own band at 17, he took the group on the road, later recording an album entitled Kathmandu.

Caldwell's first performances were more rock-oriented than the bulk of his career would indicate; early dates had him playing Jimi Hendrix and Cream covers in small clubs.

[edit] Recording career

[edit] Bobby Caldwell (What You Won't Do for Love)

Bobby Caldwell was signed to legendary Miami label TK Records, home to many different kinds of musical acts: the pop-disco of KC & The Sunshine Band, the Latin-flavoured funk of Foxy, the down-home soul of George McCrae and his wife Gwen McCrae, and the futuristic, jazzy disco of Peter Brown and T-Connection.

For this very hot label, Bobby recorded his double platinum-attaining self-titled solo album, scoring hits with the singles "What You Won't Do for Love", "My Flame" and, in Britain, "Down for the Third Time." In order to ensure significant airplay on the African American-dominated R&B radio format of the time, Caldwell's management took certain steps — such as portraying the artist only in silhouette on the cover and in advertisements — to hide the fact that he was white. The secret was, for obvious reasons, shattered by his first live appearances.

After the tracks were first recorded and the record was considered "complete," TK owner Henry Stone said that he enjoyed the album but couldn't hear a hit. Attempting to address this issue, Caldwell and his band re-entered the studio, laying down the song's now-familiar rhythm tracks. After he quickly penned a set of lyrics, "What You Won't Do for Love" was born.
"What You Won't Do for Love" in its novelty vinyl incarnation

Reaching the top ten on both the pop (#9) and R&B (#6) charts, the song proved to be a success, though a bit of a surprise one due both to the haste with which it was written and the fact that Caldwell assumed "My Flame", the LP's second track ("What You Won't Do for Love" is the sixth), would wind up as the standout single. The album which contained it was later re-released under the song's title. The single was also marketed in the form of a distinctive red heart-shaped 45-RPM vinyl record (advertised as "the single that gets to the heart of the matter"), now a collector's item frequently seen on eBay. Although the record is heart-shaped, the grooves on the vinyl, of course, are round, even though the sleeve would lead one to think otherwise. (The What You Won't Do for Love album also received a novelty release on yellow vinyl.)

While the original song still receives frequent airplay today, it has been covered, re-made (once, in 1998, by Caldwell himself) and sampled many times since 1978. Phyllis Hyman for her Living All Alone album, Go West's version rose high in the adult contemporary charts, and Boyz II Men's version in 2004, Tupac Shakur's "Do for Love," which samples the lyric, also attained a good deal of popularity. Goldie covered it on his 1998 EP Ring of Saturn (the lyrics were sung by Diane Charlemagne), In 2007 it was given a funky house makeover by Central Avenue featuring Simon Green. In addition, "My Flame" was covered by actress/singer Vanessa Williams for her 1999 Greatest Hits CD and also sampled by Bad-Boy recording artist The Notorious B.I.G. and integrated into the song Sky's the Limit; which was also another major Rap/Hip-Hop hit.Another version is to notice from Ricky Peterson in the 90's.

The Cat in the Hat through August Moon

Caldwell's sophomore period involved the considerable task of following up such a staggering success as What You Won't Do for Love; during this time, his Japanese audience steadily eclipsed his American one. The Cat in the Hat (1980) and Carry On (1982), were artistic improvements upon the first album, but did not match its commercial success. They were, however, bestsellers in Japan -- The Cat went platinum and Carry On gold—and sealed Bobby's reputation as a superstar in that country.

1983 saw Bobby Caldwell put out August Moon, a project bearing a much more rock- than soul-oriented sound, in Japan only; it was released in the United States in the 1990s.
Heart of Mine through Where is Love

Though August Moon went gold, Caldwell subsequently took a hiatus from recording, instead directing his efforts toward composing songs for other performers (and make his own version of this song), most notably "Heart of Mine" for Boz Scaggs, "The Next Time I Fall" for Amy Grant and Peter Cetera, "Janet" for the Commodores, "Niagara Falls" for Chicago, "The Real Thing" for Kalapana and "All or Nothing at All" for Al Jarreau.

Caldwell sold albums at a steady pace throughout the 1990s, producing 1991's Stuck on You, recorded with a sixty-piece orchestra, and 1993's Where is Love, the latter having been recorded with musicians who had previously played with Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett along with a twenty-four piece orchestra.

During this period, the airplay of his music shifted from the declining R&B radio format to the then-nascent smooth jazz stations. Caldwell is frequently cited as a staple of the genre, with "What You Won't Do for Love" as well as lesser-known singles such as "Real Thing", "All or Nothing at All" (both from Heart of Mine) still featuring prominently on programmers' playlists.

[edit] Soul Survivor through Come Rain or Come Shine

1995 saw the release of Soul Survivor, marking a turn toward coverage of others' songs. Though a handful of originals were present, the album was for the most part focused on, appropriately, soul standards such as "Walk on By" and "Your Precious Love".

He later turned to singing nothing but big band standards and original, yet big band standard-like songs (such as the much-promoted "Tomorrow") on 1996's Blue Condition and 1999's Come Rain or Come Shine. Blue Condition was recorded in real-time, live with a sixty-piece string section and twenty-piece jazz band in the same Capitol Records studios used by such icons as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Bobby Darin.

[edit] Perfect Island Nights

In 2005, Caldwell released Perfect Island Nights, his first album of mostly original studio material since 1993. The record features a new version "Rain", a track which made its debut on his second anthology release, Time and Again, as well as versions of Phil Perry's "Perfect Island Night", "Where is the Love" (rendered as a duet with Deniece Williams) and "Our Day Will Come". Guest players include saxophonist George Shelby and percussionist Russ Miller.

Film soundtracks

Caldwell has contributed music to a number of movies. He has both written and performed original songs for 1986's Back to School ("Educated Girl"), 1988's Mac & Me ("Take Me, I'll Follow You"), 1988's Salsa ("Puerto Rico") and its sequel ("Every Teardrop").

Songs penned by Caldwell but performed by others have appeared in films such as 1989's Ghostbusters 2 ("The Promised Land," performed by James "J.T." Taylor, the lead singer of Kool & the Gang) and 1987's Princess from the Moon ("Stay With Me," performed by Peter Cetera).

Due to what Caldwell has cited in interviews a lower cost of use than the original recordings, his versions of big band standards have appeared in several films. Examples include 2002's LakeBoat and 2001's Simone.

Caldwell also composed and performed "Don't Quit," the theme song for Body by Jake's workout video of the same name. He also appears in the associated music video, musically urging an actor portraying a weak young man to engage in weight training in order to defeat the bully of a local beach.

[edit] Sampling

Caldwell's music has been a popular source material for other artists, sometimes of differing genres, to sample. Of the many releases that make use of pieces of Caldwell's work, the following are some of the most prominent:

* Aaliyah's "Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number" (samples "What You Won't Do for Love")
* Da Brat and Mariah Carey's "Gotta Thing 4 You" (samples the chorus of "What You Won't Do for Love")
* 2Pac's "Can I Get Your Number", "What I Won't Do For Love (Unreleased)" "Do for Love"(Posthumous) and "Heaven Ain't Hard 2 Find" (sample "What You Won't Do for Love")
* Tatyana Ali's "Boy You Knock Me Out" (samples "What You Won't Do for Love") On Kiss The Sky (1998)
* Common's "The Light" (samples "Open Your Eyes")
* Notorious B.I.G.'s "Sky the Limit" (samples "My Flame")
* Portrait's "heartstrings" (samples "My Flame")
* The Luniz's "Playa Hata" (samples "What You Wont' Do for Love")
* Guru (rapper)'s "Something in the Past" (samples "What You Wont' Do for Love")
* Esham's "24/7" (samples "What You Wont' Do for Love")
* Raheem DeVaughn and DJ Jazzy Jeff's "My Soul Ain't for Sale" (samples "What You Won't Do for Love")
* Goldie's "What You Won't Do for Love" is a drum & bass re-working of "What you Won't Do for Love"
* Mona Lisa's "Jus Wanna Please U" (samples "What You Won't Do For Love")
* Medaphoar's "Can't Hold On" (samples "Carry On")
* Gym Class Heroes "Viva La White Girl" (references "What You Won't Do For Love")
* Kool G Rap "Blowin' Up in the World" (samples "What You Won't Do For Love")
* Master P featuring Steady Mobb'n's "If I Could Change" (samples "what you won't do for love") in 1997.

* On The New York Undercover episode Singer Montell Jordan cover the song.

[edit] Acting

Aside from a minor role in 1988's Salsa, Caldwell portrayed Frank Sinatra from October 1999 to January 2000 in the Las Vegas stage musical The Rat Pack is Back, garnering positive reviews.

[edit] Personal life

Caldwell resides on a horse farm in NJ with his wife, Mary, and their children.

[edit] Current activity

Bobby Caldwell is presently devoting his time to live performances.

[edit] Japanese audience

Like several other singers (such as Boz Scaggs, Peter Cetera, and Daryl Hall), Caldwell has attained a great deal of popularity in Japan. In 1992, he received the nation's equivalent of a Grammy as the "best international artist."

His current career reflects his fame in that country. His albums tend to be released in that country before his own, his tours typically include many prestigious well-attended dates at such venues as the Nagoya Blue Note and, in the early 1990s, he married (and fathered twin daughters with) a woman from Japan.

The Japanese soul/jazz group Skoop on Somebody covered What You Won't Do for Love in their album,「undressed~club SOS~」.


* In one episode of "New York Undercover" Montell Jordan performs "What You Won't Do for Love".



* What You Won't Do for Love (1978) Initially released as Bobby Caldwell. Reached double platinum status in the United States and gold status in Japan.
* Cat in the Hat (1980) Reached gold status in the United States and platinum in Japan.
* Carry On (1982) Reached gold status in Japan.
* August Moon (1984) Initially a Japan-only release, where it reached gold status.
* Heart of Mine (1988) Reached double platinum status in Japan and received Ad Lib magazine's Best Record of the Year 1989 award.
* Stuck on You (1991) Released in Japan as Solid Ground
* Where is Love (1993)
* Soul Survivor (1995)
* Blue Condition (1996)
* Timeline: The Anthology (1998)
* Come Rain or Come Shine (1999)
* Time and Again: The Anthology Part 2 (2001)
* Perfect Island Nights (2005)


* "What You Won't Do for Love" (1978)
* "Coming Down from Love" (1980)
* "Jamaica" (1982)
* "All of My Love" (1982)


* "It got to where I could just send the hat to the show and stay home!" - on why he no longer wears his former trademark fedora during live performances
* "The record label went to great lengths to hide the fact that I was white, and I just deferred to what I didn't understand." - on his career immediately post-"What You Won't Do for Love"

"Bobby Caldwell Lounges Hard" - Louis Boston User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.