Thursday, January 14, 2010

Soul Legend Teddy Pendergrass Dies At 59

Teddy Pendergrass, who was one of the biggest stars in music before a car accident temporarily derailed his career, has died after a battle with colon cancer. He was 59.

As lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy's powerful vocals fronted such Philly Soul classics as If You Don't Know Me By Now, Bad Luck, Where Are All My Friends, and Wake Up Everybody.

Due to the fact that some people weren't aware that Teddy was the lead singer, friction developed between him and Harold Melvin, causing Teddy to go solo in 1976. Out on his own, Teddy didn't miss a beat, scoring such hits as I Don't Love You Anymore, Close the Door, Turn Off the Lights, and Love T.K.O. Teddy's budding reputation as a sex symbol reached new heights and led to him having several "ladies only" concerts starting in 1978.

In March of 1982, the brakes on Teddy's Rolls Royce failed, causing it to first hit a guard rail and then two trees. Teddy and Tenika Watson, a transsexual performer who was a casual acquaintance of Teddy's, were trapped in the wreck for almost an hour. While Tenika had only minor injuries, Teddy suffered a spinal cord injury which left him paralyzed from the waist down.

After completing physical therapy, Teddy resumed his recording career in 1984. His comeback album (Love Language) included the hit Hold Me, a duet with a pre-stardom Whitney Houston. One of my favorite memories of Teddy was his emotional appearance in front of his hometown of Philly at Live Aid in 1985 with Ashford & Simpson. It was Teddy's first live performance since his 1982 car accident. The three of them performed Reach Out & Touch (Somebody's Hand).

Teddy had his 3rd and final #1 R&B hit in 1991 with It Should've Been You. Although he kept a lower profile during the latter part of his career, Teddy did star in the stage production of the gospel musical Your Arms Too Short To Box with God in 1996 and two years later released his autobiography Truly Blessed. After retiring in 2006, Teddy made his final appearance the following year to take part in Teddy 25: A Celebration of Life, Hope & Possibilities, a 25th anniversary awards ceremony. He is survived by his wife, his son, two daughters, his mother and nine grandchildren.


pjazzypar said...

I am a Teddy fan, since the Harold Melvin and the Blue Note days when I was in high school. Teddy was Harold Melvin's drummer and on a fateful day the lead singer was not available and up steps Teddy, much like Jeffrey Osborne, with LTD. I remember once the group was schedule to do the Dinah Shore show and Harold Melvin was ill and could not make the show. Dinah was flustered because she assumed that Harold Melvin was the lead singer. Teddy assured her that he "had it covered" and the show went off without a hitch.

I caught Teddy's show back in 1979 prior to his accident and the show was beyond awesome (back in the day entertainers knew how to put on a show). I also caught him and Stephanie Mill in the stage play "Your Arms to Short to Box with God" at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. I love the Teddy Bear and I am sure he will be missed by his fellow Philadelphians and of course those who like to "Close The Door And Turn Off The Light". RIP Teddy! I Love You!

pjazzypar said...

I forgot to mention, but you have a nice selections a videos here :-)

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

It seems that Teddy was never made bitter by his paralysis, and became a source of inspiration to those in a similar situation.

A career that was big but could have been incredible, and a life that was well spent, cut short at 59.

We lost one of the good guys.

Candy Minx said...

Lovely tribute and I forgot about the Live Aid concert. Excellent, thanks!

Pjazzypar...loved your comments here about your memories of seeing him in concert. Must have been an amazing experience!

pjazzypar said...

Hey Candy, I have been very fortunate because I have seen most of the major R&B entertainers of my era. I do have one regret, I never saw The Four Tops with Levi Stubbs. Regrettably I never will :-(

Jessica said...

Sad-he was young a very talented.

pjazzypar said...

What's funny Malcolm is that I am actually a friend of Harold Melvin's younger brother Calvin. We met on either Bearshare or Kazaa a few years before I moved from California. He was instrumental in finding and introducing me to some Blue Note music. He informed me then and now that he did not particularly care for Teddy. He has told me so many celebrity stories :-)

That Teowonna! said...

Thank you the memories of my first boyfriend, Teddy Pendergrass... and the wonderful video that I'd never seen!

Malcolm said...

Pjazzy: I remember that "Dinah Shore" story from the "Behind the Music" episode on Teddy. By the way, where did you see Teddy back in 1979?

I'm glad you enjoyed the videos. I originally planned to include just one, but the ones I found help tell Teddy's story better.

Wow, so Harold Melvin's brother is named Calvin Melvin! I'll bet his stories are quite interesting.

Hugh: I didn't get the impression that Teddy was bitter about his paralysis either. Besides the obvious reason, I am glad that Teddy survived because he proved that paralysis didn't spell the end of his career and this was inspirational like you said.

Candy: Thanks! It was perfect that Live Aid was held in Teddy's hometown of Philly.

Jessica: Indeed he was.

That Teowonna: I'm glad I was able to provide you with some never before seen by you footage of your first boyfriend. :-)

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