What You Won't Do for Love (song)

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"What You Won't Do for Love"
U.S. red heart-shaped vinyl limited edition
Single by Bobby Caldwell
from the album Bobby Caldwell
B-side"Love Won't Wait"
ReleasedSeptember 1978
Length4:45 (album version)
3:30 (single version)
LabelClouds (U.S.)
TK (international)
  • Bobby Caldwell
  • Alfons Kettner
Producer(s)Ann Holloway
Bobby Caldwell singles chronology
"What You Won't Do for Love"
"My Flame"

"What You Won't Do for Love" is a song by American singer-songwriter Bobby Caldwell. It was released in September 1978 as the lead single from his eponymous debut album. It was written by Caldwell and Alfons Kettner, and produced by Ann Holloway. The song has been covered and sampled numerous times, including by Tupac Shakur in the posthumous 1998 hit "Do for Love".

Background and release[edit]

After gaining a reputation in Miami clubs as a talented musician, Caldwell was signed to an exclusive contract with TK Records in 1978 by TK Records president Henry Stone. Heading to the studio, Caldwell recorded his first album, which was given a redo after Stone felt the album was good but "didn't have a hit". Caldwell returned to the studio and came up with the final product, which included "What You Won't Do for Love". The song's horn arrangement was written and recorded by Miami arranger Mike Lewis. The song is in the key of F-sharp minor (although the pitch of the commercial track is slightly flat – i.e., below concert pitch – perhaps due to tape machine speed variation).

Caldwell wanted the song to be the sixth track on the album since he figured his debut album's second track, "My Flame", which featured him playing guitar, would be the hit. However, TK Records felt confident that "What You Won't Do for Love" would be the breakout hit. When it was released to R&B radio, TK Records did their best to hide Caldwell's racial identity, hoping not to alienate their predominantly African American audience. However, when Caldwell began making performances live onstage, demand only increased.

Chart performance[edit]

The song would become Caldwell's most successful single and also his signature song, reaching number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 6 on the Hot Selling Soul Singles chart, and number 10 on the Easy Listening chart.[1] In Canada the song reached number 16 on the pop charts,[2] and number 24 on the AOR charts.[3]

According to the broadcast of American Top 40 for the week ending February 3, 1979, the week in which the song debuted at No. 38 on the Top 40, a heart-shaped pressing of the single was the most expensive single up to that point. The heart-shaped single was originally released as a promotional item only, but public demand led to 50,000 copies being pressed in time for Valentine's Day 1979 with a retail price of $7.98—about the price of a full LP album at the time.[4]

After Caldwell's death on March 14, 2023, "What You Won't Do for Love" saw an increase in popularity. In the United Kingdom, the song charted at number 86 on the Singles Downloads Chart Top 100 on March 17, 2023.[5]


  • Bobby Caldwell – lead and backing vocals, keyboards, bass guitar
  • Benny Latimore – keyboards
  • Alfons Kettner – guitar
  • Harold Seay - drums
  • Steve Mele – guitar

Chart history[edit]

Covers and samples[edit]

Natalie Cole/Peabo Bryson[edit]

Performed as a duet on their 1979 album We're the Best of Friends.

Michael Boothman[edit]

The track was covered by Trinidadian soca music artist Michael Boothman in 1984, with vocals by Charmaine Forde.[14]

Roy Ayers[edit]

American jazz-funk composer and producer released a version on his 1979 album No Stranger to Love.

Phyllis Hyman[edit]

Phyllis Hyman, American singer, songwriter, and actress released her version on her 1986 album "Living All Alone".

Dorothy Moore[edit]

Dorothy Moore American Blues,R&B,And Gospel Singer released a version of "What You Won't Do For Love" on her 1992 album, "Stay Close To Home" on Malaco Records


Chart (1980) Peak
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[15] 73

Go West[edit]

English pop duo Go West recorded a version on their third studio album, Indian Summer (1992), and released it as a single on January 4, 1993.[16]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1993) Peak
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[17] 12
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[18] 1
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[19] 54
Germany (Official German Charts)[20] 52
Iceland (Íslenski Listinn Topp 40)[21] 31
UK Singles (OCC)[22] 15
US Billboard Hot 100[23] 55
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[24] 3

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1993) Rank
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[25] 100
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[26] 36
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[27] 27

Kool G Rap[edit]

Kool G Rap sampled the song on his 1995 album 4,5,6, on the song "Blowin' Up In the World", produced by Buckwild.

Tupac Shakur[edit]

Sampled "What You Won't Do for Love" on his track "Do for Love" in 1994; the single was released in 1998.

Victor Wooten[edit]

Bassist Victor Wooten recorded an instrumental version on his 1997 studio album What Did He Say?.

Michael Bolton[edit]

Michael Bolton recorded a version on his 1999 covers album Timeless: The Classics Vol. 2.[28]

Boyz II Men[edit]

The vocal group Boyz II Men released a cover of the song on their 2004 album Throwback, Vol. 1, featuring rapper MC Lyte.


Chart (2004) Peak
US Hot R&B Singles (Billboard)[29] 60

Jessie Ware[edit]

Jessie Ware covered the song on her iTunes Gold Special Edition release 2013 album “Devotion.”

Snoh Aalegra[edit]

Snoh Aalegra released a cover of the song under the title "DO 4 LOVE" as a Spotify Single in October 2019.

In Popular Culture[edit]

The song plays over the ending of the Black-ish episode "Love, Boat" to both punctuate a romantic scene as well as make reference to an earlier line in the episode where Dre recalls the time he comforted his mother after she learned Bobby Caldwell was white.


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 97.
  2. ^ "RPM Magazine - March 31, 1979 - page 7" (PDF).
  3. ^ "RPM Magazine - April 28, 1979 - page 23" (PDF).
  4. ^ "American Top 40," Week Ending February 3, 1979, replayed February 8, 2014, SiriusXM Radio
  5. ^ "Official Singles Downloads Chart Top 100 17 March 2023 - 23 March 2023". Official Charts. 17 March 2023. Retrieved 19 March 2023.
  6. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 7 April 1979. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 4 May 1979. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  8. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  9. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, March 24, 1979
  10. ^ "Official Singles Downloads Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 March 2023.
  11. ^ "Top 100 Singles (1979)". RPM. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
  12. ^ Musicoutfitters.com
  13. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 29, 1979
  14. ^ "Musical reunion with Charmaine Forde". Trinidad and Tobago Newsday. 17 March 2018. Retrieved May 18, 2023.
  15. ^ "Roy Ayers Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  16. ^ "New Releases: Singles". Music Week. December 26, 1992. p. 23.
  17. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 1780." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  18. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 0973." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  19. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 10, no. 6. February 6, 1993. p. 15. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  20. ^ "Go West – What You Won't Do for Love" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  21. ^ "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 (19.–25. febrúar)". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). February 18, 1993. p. 29. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  22. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  23. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  24. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 100.
  25. ^ "The RPM Top 100 Hit Tracks of 1993". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. 17 July 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  26. ^ "The RPM Top 100 A\C Tracks of 1993". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. 17 July 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  27. ^ "The Year in Music 1993" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 105, no. 52. December 25, 1993. p. YE-46. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 27, 2021. Retrieved August 17, 2021.
  28. ^ Dombal, Ryan (October 20, 2015). "Listen to "Break Away" [ft. Jessie Ware] by Cool Uncle". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  29. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 100.