Whispers Co-Founder Nicholas Caldwell Dies At 71

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Nicholas Caldwell of The Whispers photographed in 1976.

Nicholas Caldwell, a founding member of ‘80s R&B group The Whispers, has died. According to The Associated Press, the 71-year-old died of congestive heart failure on Tuesday at his home in San Francisco.

A popular concert draw for more than 50 years thanks to such hits as “And the Beat Goes On” and “Rock Steady,” the Whispers most recently played in Los Angeles -- its hometown -- at the Microsoft Theater on Dec. 19, 2015, with Stephanie Mills and The Temptations Review, featuring Dennis Edwards. Caldwell, along with twin brothers Wallace and Walter Scott, Gordy Harmon and Marcus Hutson, established the group in the early ‘60s. Harmon was later replaced by Leavil Degree; Hutson died in 2000.

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In addition to contributing vocals, Caldwell—described by friends and fans as a “gentle giant”— doubled as the group’s choreographer and penned songs as well. Known for its trademark silky smooth harmonies, the Whispers scored its first R&B hit in 1970 with the No. 6-charting “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong.”

Several more R&B top 10s followed, including “One for the Money” and “(Let’s Go) All the Way.” Then The Whispers hit their stride in 1980 with their first R&B No. 1 (and No. 19 pop) single “And the Beat Goes On.” Featured on the group’s self-titled first platinum album, the song -- later sampled on the Will Smith single “Miami” -- ushered in a subsequent string of R&B classics on then-manager Dick Griffey’s label SOLAR (Sound of Los Angeles Records). That list includes the Caldwell-written “Lady,” “It’s a Love Thing,” “Keep on Lovin’ Me” and the group’s second R&B No. 1 in 1987 “Rock Steady.” Co-written and co-produced by Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, the song peaked at No. 7 on the pop chart. During a stint with Capitol Records in the ‘90s, the Whispers charted three more R&B hits: “Innocent,” “My Heart Your Heart” and “Is It Good to You.”