What You Won't Do for Love (song)

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"What You Won't Do for Love"
What You Won't Do for Love by Bobby Caldwell heart-shaped US vinyl.jpg
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
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 Black audience. However, when Caldwell began making performances live on stage, 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]

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.[2]


Smash Hits called it, "Mellow sophisticated soul with a subtle Latin beat from a white American who obviously admires Stevie Wonder. Sounds as if it should be in a Campari commercial or the like."[3]


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

Chart history[edit]


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".


Chart (1980) Peak
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[11] 73

Go West[edit]

English pop duo Go West recorded a version on their 1992 album Indian Summer that was released as a single.

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1993) Peak
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[12] 12
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[13] 1
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[14] 54
Germany (Official German Charts)[15] 52
Iceland (Íslenski Listinn Topp 40)[16] 31
UK Singles (OCC)[17] 15
US Billboard Hot 100[18] 55
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[19] 3

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1993) Rank
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[20] 100
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[21] 36
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[22] 27

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.[23]

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)[24] 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.

Commercial use[edit]


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 97.
  2. ^ "American Top 40," Week Ending February 3, 1979, replayed February 8, 2014, SiriusXM Radio
  3. ^ White, Cliff (5 April 1979). "Singles". Smash Hits. No. 9.
  4. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 7 April 1979. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  5. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 4 May 1979. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  6. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  7. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, March 24, 1979
  8. ^ "Top 100 Singles (1979)". RPM. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
  9. ^ Musicoutfitters.com
  10. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 29, 1979
  11. ^ "Roy Ayers Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  12. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 1780." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  13. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 0973." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  14. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 10, no. 6. February 6, 1993. p. 15. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  15. ^ "Go West – What You Won't Do for Love" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  16. ^ "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 (19.–25. febrúar)". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). February 18, 1993. p. 29. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  17. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  18. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  19. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 100.
  20. ^ "The RPM Top 100 Hit Tracks of 1993". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  21. ^ "The RPM Top 100 A\C Tracks of 1993". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ Dombal, Ryan (October 20, 2015). "Listen to "Break Away" [ft. Jessie Ware] by Cool Uncle". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  24. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 100.
  25. ^ "2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport TV Spot, 'New Beauty' Song Bobby Caldwell". iSpot.tv. Retrieved 26 October 2013.