April 21, 2024

Bobby Caldwell, The “Cool Uncle” of Blue-Eyed Soul, has Died



Zo is a staff writer at Okayplayer where he covers…

Press photo of Bobby Caldwell.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images.

The wife of Bobby Caldwell confirmed the singer’s death Wednesday morning following years of battling a progressively degenerative condition.

Beloved singer, songwriter, and musician, Bobby Caldwell, has died. He was 71-years-old.

Caldwell, who had been dealing with painful bouts of neuropathy for years, passed in his sleep at his New Jersey home Tuesday night, according to a statement from 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 the singer’s Twitter account. Caldwell’s wife described the singer as “floxed” in the statement, which refers to a progressively degenerative set of symptoms from an adverse reaction to a type of antibiotic. The singer went public with his condition several years ago and had repeatedly called for prayers as he fought to recover.

Caldwell was born in NYC in 1951, but raised in South Florida, where he was exposed to a broad and dynamic range of music. At the age of 12, he began learning guitar and piano. And at 17, the singer relocated to Los Angeles, gigging around the city and in Las Vegas with his own band. In the early 70s, Caldwell was still relatively unknown, but picked up a short-lived slot playing guitar in Little Richard’s band before commencing a career as a solo act, which was slow to start. But by 1977, Caldwell signed a deal with Henry Stone’s famed Miami-based disco and r&b label, TK Records. The singer’s self-titled double-platinum debut album was released the following year, anchored by a smash single in “What You Won’t Do For Love,” which peaked at No. 9 and No. 6 on the US Pop and R&B Charts, respectively, and remains arguably the most enduring song in his catalog.

“What You Won’t Do For Love” alone has been sampled on dozens of rap and r&b classics of the 1990s, including Tupac’s “Do For Love” and “Heaven Ain’t Hard 2 Find,” along with Aaliyah’s “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” and Guru’s “Something In The Past.” Other Caldwell songs like “Open Your Eyes,” “My Flame,” and “Coming Down For Love,” have enjoyed a similar sample legacy amongst legendary hip-hop producers, providing J Dilla, 9th Wonder, Knxwledge, and Clark Kent, with shots of sophisticated and sweet soul to dice and repurpose.

Bobby Caldwell went on to record more than a dozen studio albums. But his first four — Bobby Caldwell, Cat In The Hat, Carry On, and August Moon —  are often credited with pioneering what would later be referred to as “AOR” or “Adult-Oriented Rock,” which can be thought of as the beta form of adult contemporary. And though he never scored a No. 1 of his own, Caldwell penned a chart-topping single for Amy Grant and Peter Cetera with “The Next Time I Fall” in 1986.

In the hours since his death was announced, Caldwell’s peers, friends, and prestigious fans, have sent up tributes and memorials. You can read through some of them below.

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