Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Passings: Nicholas Caldwell of the Whispers (1944-2016)

Nicholas Caldwell, a founding member of The Whispers, has died from complications of heart disease at the age of 71.

While a number of reports circulated around the internet most of the day, an announcement on the group's website confirmed his passing on Wednesday afternoon:

We are deeply saddened to announce that our dearly beloved Nicholas Caldwell passed away last night after years of complications with his heart. We will keep everyone informed with updates. Here is the last letter that he wrote to our fans:

To all the Whispers Fans and Friends, it is with great enthusiasm that I am posting a love letter from Nicholas Caldwell providing an update and overview of his current status. Here it is in his own words (WC Ballard):

"It has been my experience that speculation can be far worse than the truth. So I thought it was important to write you (My Family of Fans) an explanation as to why I have not been able to join the Whispers on stage over the past months.

In January of this year my cardiology team at Stanford University Hospital were all in agreement that my congestive heart failure had deteriorated to the point that they thought I had 3 to 6 months to live.

So, my family and I decided it best that I take advantage of a relatively new technology called an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device), which if successful could extend my life expectancy by years.

So, thanks to God and all of you beloved prayer warriors out there I'm on a wonderful journey to recovery. Hope to see you soon.

"May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live." (As quoted by Archie Dennis)

God Speed, Love Nick"
The Whispers were formed in 1963 in the Watts area of Los Angeles by twin brothers Wallace (Scotty) and Walter Scott, Gordy Harmon, Marcus Hutson and Caldwell. They first signed with the Dore label, where they recorded nine singles while building their reputation in the San Francisco area performing in battle of the bands. In 1969, they moved to Soul Clock where they had their first hit, Seems Like I Got to Do Wrong (1970 / #50 Pop / #6 R&B).

The next year, the group moved to Janus Records and, in 1971, Harmon left the group, replaced by Leaveil Degree of the Friends of Distinction.

Unlike many R&B artists who burned bright for a year or two before falling onto the oldies circuit, The Whispers ran a slow and steady race for over two decades on the charts including fifteen top ten R&B hits, two of which went to number 1, And the Beat Goes On (1980 / #19 Pop / #1 R&B) and Rock Steady (1987 / #7 Pop / #1 R&B). The latter was written by a then relatively unknown Kenneth "Babyface" Edmunds to form a relationship that would last for many years.

Even though the group had their last charting record in 1997, they continued to perform live and record new albums including Songbook, Volume 1: The Songs of Babyface (1997), For Your Ears Only (2006) and Thankful (2009).

Caldwell and the Whispers are members of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Soul Music Hall of Fame along with receiving the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award in 2008.