Robert Hunter "Bobby" Caldwell (born August 15, 1951) is an American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who, despite a prolific musical output over his 30-year career, is still best known for his 1978 hit single "What You Won't Do for Love".
Bobby Caldwell was born in Manhattan to Bob and Carolyn Caldwell, 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.
Bobby Caldwell (What You Won't Do for Love)
Bobby Caldwell was signed to 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.
For this label, Bobby recorded his self-titled solo album, scoring hits with the singles "What You Won't Do for Love", "My Flame", "Can't Say Goodbye" 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.
Reaching the top ten on both the pop (#9) R&B (#6) AC (#10) 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, 2Pac'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 1990s. The song was also heavily sampled on Oakland rap group The Luniz "Playa Hata" single. Also sampled by Kool G Rap, in the song "Blowin Up in the World". More recently John Legend's "Open Your Eyes" contains an interplotation of Caldwell's song. Renowned hip-hop producer Jay Dilla sampled Open Your Eyes for the popular Common song The Light released in 2000.
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. 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" and "What Kind Of Man Would I Be?" for Chicago, "The Real Thing" for Kalapana and "All or Nothing at All" for Al Jarreau.
In 1989 he contributed lead vocals to and co-produced "In the Name of Love," a track on saxophonist Richard Elliot's album "Take to the Skies."
Caldwell sold albums at a steady pace throughout the 1990s, producing 1991's Stuck on You, recorded with a 60-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 24-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.
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. At this time, his "I Get a Kick Out of You" was played on adult contemporary radio stations, across the country, and was heard on national TV commercials.
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.
Bobby Caldwell Live at The Blue Note Tokyo
Caldwell's 2007 release of live standards on his own label, Starmine Records.
House of Cards
Released on August 23, 2012 House of Cards, on Caldwell's Starmine Records label is an eclectic mix of all new Caldwell originals. The first single, "What About Me" features classic Bobby Caldwell vocals. Tracks on House of Cards feature Dave Koz, Andrew Neu and David Horgan. Caldwell also played a lot of guitar and bass on this album. It shows the many musical facets of this long-time singer/songwriter.
Released in 2014 - Bobby Caldwell is back with a brand new album of big band standards, which includes a new rendition of his own classic "What You Won't Do For Love." "After Dark" features a 17 piece big band. With a roster of notable sax band members over the years, namely Dave Koz, Richard Elliot and Boney James, Bobby's current sax sensation, Andrew Neu, delivers an incredible arrangement of "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World". Sinatra has no bigger fan than Bobby Caldwell. After Dark includes some of the lesser known songs from The Chairman of the Board, along with some notable hits like, "I Only Have Eyes For You" and "Come Fly With Me." The album also includes "In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning."
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 II ("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 S1m0ne.
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.
A clip from "What You Won't Do For Love" is heard in the movie Donnie Brasco, playing from the car radio.
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:
Sampling "What You Won't Do for Love"
Aaliyah's "Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number"
Da Brat and Mariah Carey's "Gotta Thing 4 You"
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"
Tatyana Ali's "Boy You Knock Me Out"
The Luniz's "Playa Hata"
Charles Hamilton's "Where I've Been"
Charles Hamilton's "Him"
Guru's "Something in the Past"
Raheem DeVaughn and DJ Jazzy Jeff's "My Soul Ain't for Sale"
Goldie's "What You Won't Do for Love" (drum and bass cover)
Mona Lisa's "Jus Wanna Please U"
Kool G Rap's "Blowin' Up in the World"
Master P featuring Steady Mobb'n's "If I Could Change"
Gym Class Heroes "Viva La White Girl" (references the song)
DJ Rashad's "Ghetto Tekz Runnin It"
The Candy Dealers' "Stepping Out"
Sweetback's "Love is the Word"
Goldmine's "Mic Love"
Janelle Monae's "Oh, Maker"
MC Breed & Tupac's " I Gotta Get Mine"
Sampling "My Flame"
Notorious B.I.G.'s "Sky's the Limit"
5th Ward Boyz (early 1990s rap group) "Bitch Please"
Sampling other songs
Common's "The Light" (samples "Open Your Eyes")
MED's "Can't Hold On" (samples "Carry On")
Corduroy Mavericks' "Open Your Eyes" (samples "Open Your Eyes")
Charles Hamilton's "Oversaying" (samples "Saying It's Over")
Dwele's "Open Your Eyes" (samples "Open Your Eyes")
John Legend's "Open Your Eyes" (samples "Open Your Eyes")
Murs & 9th Wonder's "Barbershop" (samples "Coming Down from Love")
Da Nappy Headz – I'm nappy (sample "Down for the third time")
As of 2015, Bobby Caldwell is currently doing live performances. His latest album, After Dark was released in 2014. Caldwell recorded a collaboration album with Jack Splash under the alias Cool Uncle. The album, which will be released on 13th November is featuring the collaborations with Jessie Ware (who previously recorded own version of Caldwell's "What You Won't Do for Love"), Mayer Hawthorne and Cee-Lo Green.
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.
Caldwell resides in New Jersey on a horse farm with his wife, Mary, and their children.
Like several other singers (such as Boz Scaggs, Peter Cetera, Janis Ian and Daryl Hall), Caldwell has attained a great deal of popularity in Japan, where he has been nicknamed "Mister AOR." (In Japan, the term "AOR", or "Adult Oriented Rock", is used to describe the style commonly called "Adult Contemporary" or "Yacht Rock" in the United States.) In 1992, he received the nation's equivalent of a Grammy as the "best international artist."
In one episode of New York Undercover, Montell Jordan performs "What You Won't Do for Love".