Bobby Caldwell was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist of R&B, soul, jazz, and adult contemporary music who was perhaps best known for “What You Won’t Do for Love.”

In 2017, Caldwell was prescribed a fluoroquinolone antibiotic and suffered rupture of both Achilles tendons, followed by extensive nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy. He continued to perform, even though he had to do it in a wheelchair, with a cane, and with people to help him. In spite of the best medical treatment available, his condition continued to worsen. He lost much of his ability to control his muscles and was in great pain.
His health problems forced him to cancel his concerts after 2020, and on March 14, 2023 he died from complications of the antibiotic he received six years earlier.

Career in Singing and Songwriting
Caldwell was born in Manhattan and grew up in Miami, where his parents hosted a local variety television show called Suppertime. His mother was a real estate salesperson and one of her clients was reggae singer Bob Marley. Caldwell and Marley became friends.

Caldwell started playing piano, guitar and many other instruments at age 12. Later he joined a Miami band called Katmandu and wrote many new songs for them. At 17, he joined a band in Las Vegas and then moved to Los Angeles. In the 1970’s, he was a rhythm guitarist for Little Richard. In 1978, at age 27, he recorded with TK Records in Miami and wrote and sang “What You Won’t Do for Love” which reached top ten on the Billboard magazine Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts.

Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics and Ruptured Tendons
Fluoroquinolones include ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, lomefloxacin, moxifloxacin, norfloxacin, ofloxacin, pefloxacin, prulifloxacin and rufloxacin. Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin (Levaquin), and moxifloxacin (Avelox) are still among the most widely prescribed antibiotic drugs in the U.S. to treat sinusitis, bronchitis, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, gastrointestinal infections like gastritis and diverticulitis and can save lives. These antibiotics are very effective in killing invading bacteria by damaging their DNA. However, they can also damage human DNA, potentially anywhere in the body (Consultant, 2017;57(9):541-542). They can cause long-lasting, disabling and potentially permanent damage involving tendons, muscles, joints, nerves, arteries and the heart.

They have been reported to cause pain and swelling of tendons that can lead to rupture (Int J Antimicrob Agents, 2009;33(3):194-200). Other side effects include headaches, rashes, aortic aneurysms, nerve damage, high blood sugar, and anxiety. The incidence of tendon ruptures after taking fluoroquinolones is 0.14-0.4 percent (Ann Pharmacother, 2007;41(11):1859-1866).

Overuse of Fluoroquinolones
Fluoroquinolones were first introduced in the 1970s and many of these antibiotics are still on the market today. Like many antibiotics, fluoroquinolones seem to be over prescribed. A study conducted by the CDC and published in 2018 found that 5.1 percent of outpatient fluoroquinolone prescriptions for adults were for conditions that didn’t need antibiotics at all, while almost 20 percent were for conditions that should have been treated with another antibiotic (Antimicrob Agents Chemother, Jul 2021;65(7):e00151-21).

Cautions About Fluoroquinolones
Bobby Caldwell died on March 14, 2023, apparently from heart failure caused by damage to his heart muscle from the fluoroquinolone antibiotic. Many of this class of antibiotics have been removed from the market, and warning labels are required on those that are still available.

If you take a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, realize that they can cause damage and pain in muscles, bones, joints, brain, peripheral nerves, skin, heart, blood vessels, and other tissues and damage thinking, vision, hearing, feeling, and muscle movement. They can damage your heart to cause irregular heartbeats, chest pain, or bursting of blood vessels called aortic aneurysms. Call your doctor immediately if you are taking a fluoroquinolone and you suffer tendon or muscle pain or weakness, joint pain or swelling, walking difficulty, feeling pins and needles, burning pain, tiredness, depression, problems with memory, sleeping, or any other unexpected effects. Cell damage can be permanent.

Fluoroquinolones are effective in curing very serious infections (even anthrax), and are cheap to manufacture. I think that fluoroquinolones should be used only in very sick patients in hospitals or for infections that have no other available treatment.

Robert Hunter Caldwell
Aug 15. 1951 to March 14, 2023