Bobby Caldwell

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Bobby Caldwell
Bobby Caldwell, 2009
Bobby Caldwell, 2009
Background information
Birth nameRobert Hunter Caldwell
Born (1951-08-15) August 15, 1951 (age 70)
New York City, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • piano
Years active1968–present

Robert Hunter Caldwell (born August 15, 1951) is an American singer and songwriter who recorded the hit single "What You Won't Do for Love" in 1978. After several R&B and smooth jazz albums, Caldwell turned to singing standards from the Great American Songbook.


Bobby Caldwell was born in Manhattan,[1] but grew up in Miami. His mother sold real estate and one of her clients was reggae singer Bob Marley; Caldwell and Marley became friends. Growing up in Miami exposed Caldwell to a variety of music such as Haitian, Latin, reggae and R&B.[2] He grew up listening to the music of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.[3] When he was 12, Caldwell started playing piano and guitar. He was drawn to rock and roll, jazz and rhythm and blues. At 17, he worked with his band in Las Vegas, then moved to Los Angeles.[1] He was a member of a Miami band called Katmandu who wrote much of their material while also performing traditional standards. Caldwell played multiple instruments and sang.

He signed with TK Records in Miami. In 1978, after songs for his first album were recorded, executives told Caldwell they enjoyed the album, but thought it was lacking a hit. Caldwell returned to the studio for two days and wrote "What You Won't Do for Love". TK was mainly an R&B label popular among African American listeners. Executives at the label wanted to conceal the fact that Caldwell was white, so they kept his face off the album cover. When he toured with Natalie Cole to support the album, most of the audience was black and many were surprised that Caldwell was white.[2][3]

"What You Won't Do for Love" reached the top ten on the Billboard magazine Pop (No. 9)[4] R&B (No. 6), and Adult Contemporary (No. 10) charts. The song has been covered, remade and sampled many times. Caldwell remade it in 1998. It was covered by Go West, Phyllis Hyman, and Boyz II Men and was sampled by Tupac Shakur. It was covered by Elliott Yamin during the fifth season of American Idol in 2006. The 1980 track "Open Your Eyes" was sampled by J Dilla on Common's "The Light" from his 2000 album "Like Water For Chocolate".[5]

Caldwell's debut album was followed by Cat in the Hat (1980) and Carry On (1982). For the latter album, Caldwell played all the instruments, was the producer and helped with arranging and mixing.[6] In 1983, Caldwell released August Moon only in Japan. It was released in the United States in the 1990s.

Singer Boz Scaggs advised Caldwell to write songs for other musicians after TK Records shut down. Caldwell wrote "The Next Time I Fall", which became a hit for Amy Grant and Peter Cetera,[7] and songs for Roy Ayers, Chicago, Natalie Cole, Neil Diamond, Roberta Flack, Al Jarreau and Boz Scaggs.[8]

On Blue Condition (1996), Caldwell turned from R&B to recording big band arrangements of songs from the Great American Songbook, particularly those sung by Frank Sinatra. He also portrayed Sinatra in tributes to the Rat Pack in Las Vegas.[3][9][10] He continued to sing standards on Come Rain or Come Shine (1999), The Consummate Bobby Caldwell (2010) and After Dark (2014). In 2015, he collaborated with record producer Jack Splash on the album Cool Uncle.[8]

Film soundtracks[edit]

Caldwell wrote and performed songs for the movies Back to School ("Educated Girl"), Mac and Me ("Take Me, I'll Follow You"), Salsa ("Puerto Rico") and its sequel ("Every Teardrop"). He also recorded a song for the 1984 film Night of the Comet ("Never Give Up"). Due to what he has cited in interviews as a lower cost of use than the original recordings, his versions of big band standards have appeared in several films. Examples include Simone (2001) and Lake Boat (2002).

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

Japanese audience[edit]

Caldwell is popular in Japan, where he was nicknamed "Mister AOR". In Japan, the acronym "AOR" (AOR short for "Adult Oriented Rock") is used to describe the style commonly called Adult Contemporary in the United States. In 1992, he received the award for Best Foreign Artist at the 34th Japan Record Awards.



Year Title Billboard chart peak Certification
1978 Bobby Caldwell No. 21 Albums, No. 7 R&B US: Double Platinum, Japan: Platinum
1980 Cat in the Hat No. 113 Albums, No. 46 R&B US: Gold, Japan: Platinum
1982 Carry On No. 133 Albums, No. 41 R&B Japan: Gold
1983 August Moon Japan: Gold
1989 Heart of Mine
1992 Stuck on You No. 65 R&B
1993 Where Is Love
1995 Soul Survivor No. 6 Jazz Albums, No. 23 R&B
1996 Blue Condition No. 18 Jazz Albums
1999 Come Rain or Shine
2005 Perfect Island Nights No. 5 Jazz Albums
2007 Live at the Blue Note Tokyo
2010 The Consummate Caldwell
2012 House of Cards
2014 After Dark
2015 Cool Uncle No. 18 Jazz Albums


Compilation albums[edit]

Year Title Notes
1998 Timeline: The Anthology No. 8 US Jazz Albums
2001 Time and Again: The Anthology Part 2
2020 The Time Has Come - Ultimate Anthology Same songs as Anthology, Pt.1 + Anthology, Pt.2, different order.


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
1976 "The House is Rockin'" Non-album single
1978 "What You Won't Do for Love" 9 6 10 Bobby Caldwell
1979 "My Flame" 40
"Can't Say Goodbye" 103 36
"Down for the Third Time"
1980 "Coming Down from Love" 42 28 Cat in the Hat
1981 "Alfie" Non-album single
1982 "Jamaica" 105 54 Carry On
"All of My Love" 77 67
1984 "Don't Quit" (12") 53 Non-album single from Body by Jake soundtrack
1987 "What You Won't Do for Love" (reissue) Bobby Caldwell
1988 "Take Me, I'll Follow You" Mac and Me soundtrack
1991 "Real Thing" 41 Heart of Mine
"Janet" 88 Stuck on You
1996 "I Give In" 125 53 Soul Survivor
2015 "Miami Nights" Cool Uncle
"—" denotes single did not chart or was not released


  1. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "Bobby Caldwell". AllMusic. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Gordon, Ed (May 19, 2005). "Bobby Caldwell: 'Perfect Island Nights'". Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "Singer/Songwriter Bobby Caldwell". PBS. Archived from the original on June 23, 2015.
  4. ^ "What You Won't Do For Love Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  5. ^ "Tawiah Covers Bobby Caldwell's "Open Your Eyes"".
  6. ^ Wynn, Ron. "Carry On". AllMusic. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  7. ^ Appleford, Steve (October 6, 1991). "Writing Hits Not Enough for Singer Caldwell". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Leight, Elias (November 18, 2015). "Cool Uncle: Inside 2015's Smartest Retro-Soul Revival". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  9. ^ Kohlhaase, Bill (August 2, 1999). "Caldwell Goes Back a Bit and Does It Frank's Way". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  10. ^ Rizik, Chris (December 9, 2014). "Bobby Caldwell – After Dark (2014) (Review)". SoulTracks. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  11. ^ "Discography". Bobby Caldwell. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  12. ^ "Bobby Caldwell | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  13. ^ "Bobby Caldwell Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved November 13, 2017.

External links[edit]