Bobby Caldwell, the singer-songwriter who scored a top 10 hit with “What You Won’t Do for Love” and wrote “The Next Time I Fall,” a No. 1 hit for Amy Grant and Peter Cetera, died today at his home in New York City after a long illness. He was 71.
His wife, Mary Caldwell, announced the news on social media, saying: “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 added that his health had deteriorated for more than six years since suffering an allergic reaction to an antibiotic.
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Bornon August 15, 1951, in Manhattan and raised in Miami, Caldwell’s parents were singers who hosted a musical/variety TV Show called Suppertime. He was a multi-instrumentalist whose teenage band gigged in Las Vegas before he relocated to Los Angeles, where he became a rhythm guitarist for rock pioneer Little Richard in the early ’70s. After more than a half-decade of working to score a record deal, he returned to Miami.
Back in the Sunshine State, he was signed to Clouds Records, a unit of Henry Stone’s TK Records that was having huge success with KC and the Sunshine Band. In 1978, Caldwell recorded one of his self-penned songs, “What You Won’t Do for Love,” a smooth, sophisticated ballad punctuated by horns. Released as a red, heart-shaped 45, the song took off and landed in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. His self-titled debut album just missed the Top 20.
The song since has been covered by scores of artists — Tupac Shakur famously sampled it in his posthumously released 1998 hit “Do for Love” — and appeared in films and TV series including About Last Night and Mindhunter.
But TK Records would fold in the early ’80s, and the singer was unable to replicate that U.S. success with his follow-up singles and albums, though he remained popular in Japan. He dabbled in writing commercial jingles and penned some songs for The New Mickey Mouse Club, and around that time — at the behest of his friend Boz Scaggs — Caldwell began peddling his songs to other artists.
Moving back to L.A., Caldwell contributed tracks to the likes of Neil Diamond, Roberta Flack, Al Jarreau and Scaggs. In 1986, ex-Chicago singer Peter Cetera released the solo album Solitude/Solitaire, whose lead single was the chart-topping “Glory of Love.” The follow-up track pitched to radio was “The Next Time I Fall,” a Caldwell-penned track recorded as a duet with Grant. It also went to No. 1, and Caldwell’s career was back on track.
“I had never before looked at myself as a songwriter for other people,” he told interviewer Steve Appleford in 1991. “It’s a whole different head space, writing for somebody else’s style. But I had a lot of fun doing it.”
The mid-’80s would see Caldwell writing songs for films and TV shows including Simone and The Perfect Man along with other acts recording his tunes.
“I had never before looked at myself as a songwriter for other people,” he said in a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times. It’s a whole different head space, writing for somebody else’s style. But I had a lot of fun doing it.”
Caldwell would continue to write, record and tour into the 2010s and remained big in Japan.
Survivors his wife and daughters.
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