A shroud of sorrow is cloaked over the mourning shoulders of Black Twitter, which has united in collective grief after it was reported that the soul singer Bobby Caldwell had died Tuesday night at the age of 71 after battling an illness for years.
Caldwell’s wife penned a touching tribute and posted it on Twitter.
“Bobby passed away here at home. I held him tight in my arms as he left us. I am forever heartbroken,” Mary Caldwell tweeted from her husband’s Twitter account. “Thanks to all of you for your many prayers over the years. He had been ‘FLOXED,’ it took his health over the last 6 years and 2 months.”
The singer/songwriter hadn’t been able to walk for about 5 years as he coped with painful bouts of neuropathy and a torn tendon in his ankle. Last year his team revealed Bobby had a bad reaction to a prescribed antibiotic in 2017 — they say it caused his Achilles tendon to rupture, which led to the neuropathy.
Caldwell has long been renowned in the Black community for his classic soul music that has stood the test of time in part from the way it’s been continuously sampled by artists who have flocked to his sound.
His song, “What You Won’t Do for Love,” for instance, is not only Caldwell’s most popular song, but it is also one that immediately strikes a chord in the hearts of his Black fans who have heard it played at the proverbial cookout for years now.
The song has been sampled by a diverse array of artists ranging from 2Pac to Erykah Badu to the Dave Matthews Band and plenty of others. But rappers are seemingly the ones who have incorporated Caldwell’s music into their own the most.
Another popular Caldwell song frequently played in Black circles is “Open Your Eyes,” which rapper Common drew attention to with his hit song, “The Light.”
But among pockets of his fans, the revelation that he was a white man has seemingly been a constant shock. In fact, it was nearly an internet joke that each year people learned that Caldwell was not a Black singer.
The Root covered that phenomenon back in 2017, comparing the moment that Black people learn Caldwell is white to “one of those discoveries that leave black people’s souls tattered and in search of closure with exes.”
“Quite honestly, I never thought I sounded black,” Caldwell said in an interview in 2015. “I thought I sounded like a white guy that was influenced by R&B music. But people would swear up and down I was black. Huge amounts of money were lost in bets.”
Caldwell famously described his experience opening for Natalie Cole back in the late 1970s.
“It’s the very first night in Cleveland, at an amphitheater. We’re talking about 7,000 brothers and sisters, and I was the only cracker there,” Caldwell recalled. “And everyone is coming to hear ‘soul brother’ Bobby Caldwell. I walked out on stage and you could hear a pin drop, just a total hush came over the crowd. It was like, ‘What the f–k is this!?’” Caldwell gulped and his band launched into their first song. “I stayed and delivered, after about ten minutes, I had them in my pocket. That was the night I became a man, I’ll tell ya.”
It was in the context that Black Twitter is fondly remembering the life of Bobby Caldwell and mourning his loss.
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