Thursday, November 4, 2010
Teddy Pendergrass - Do Me
Theodore DeReese "Teddy" Pendergrass (March 26, 1950 – January 13, 2010 was an American R&B/soul singer and songwriter. Pendergrass first rose to fame as lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes in the 1970s before a successful solo career at the end of the decade. In 1982, he was severely injured in an auto accident in Philadelphia, resulting in his being paralyzed from the waist down. After his injury, the affable entertainer founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, a foundation that helps those with spinal cord injuries. Pendergrass commemorated 25 years of living after his spinal cord injury with star filled event, Teddy 25 - A Celebration of Life at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center. His last performance was on a PBS special at Atlantic City's Borgata Casino in November 2008.
Pendergrass was born Theodore DeReese Pendergrass at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the only child of Jesse Pendergrass and Ida Geraldine Epps. Pendergrass' father left Teddy at an early age and later was murdered when Pendergrass was 12. Pendergrass grew up in a local Philadelphia slum and sung often at church. Pendergrass once dreamed of being a pastor and got his wish when at ten he was ordained as a minister according to author Robert Ewell Greene. He also took up drums during this time and was a junior deacon of his church. Pendergrass attended Thomas Edison High School for Boys (now closed). He sang with the Edison Mastersingers. Subsequently, he dropped out in the eleventh grade to enter the music business. Pendergrass' early career was as a drummer for local Philadelphia groups. Eventually he landed a drumming gig for the group, The Cadillacs. In 1970, the singer was spotted by Blue Notes founder Harold Melvin (1939–1997) and immediately convinced Pendergrass to play drums in his group. However, during a performance, Pendergrass began singing along after coming from the back of the stage jumping off its rear and Melvin immediately changed his mind on Pendergrass making him the lead singer of the group. By the time Pendergrass had joined the group, the Blue Notes had struggled to find success. That all changed when after a successful audition, they landed a recording deal with Philadelphia International Records, in 1971, thus beginning Pendergrass' successful collaboration with label founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes: 1972-1977
In 1972, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes released their first single, a slow, solemn ballad titled "I Miss You". The song was originally written for The Dells but the group passed on the song and noting how Pendergrass sounded like Dells lead singer Marvin Junior, Kenny Gamble decided to build the song with Pendergrass, then only 21 at the time of the recording of the song, singing much of the song in a raspy baritone wail that became his trademark. The song also featured Bluenotes member Lloyd Parks singing falsetto in the background and spotlighted Harold Melvin adding in a rap near the end of the song as Pendergrass kept singing, feigning tears. The song, one of Gamble and Huff's most creative productions, became a major rhythm and blues hit and put the Blue Notes on the map.
The group's follow-up single, "If You Don't Know Me by Now", brought the group to the mainstream with the song reaching the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 while also reaching number-one on the soul singles chart. Like "I Miss You" before it, the song was originally intended for a different artist, fellow Philadelphian native Patti LaBelle and her group Labelle but the group couldn't record it due to scheduling conflicts. Pendergrass and LaBelle developed a close friendship that would last until Pendergrass' death.
The group rode to fame with several more releases over the years including "The Love I Lost", a song which predated the upcoming disco music scene; the ballad "Hope That We Can Be Together Soon", and socially conscious singles "Wake Up Everybody" and "Bad Luck", the latter song about the Watergate scandal. One of the group's important singles was their original version of the Philly soul classic, "Don't Leave Me This Way", which turned into a disco smash when Motown artist Thelma Houston released her version in 1976. By 1975, Pendergrass and Harold Melvin were at odds, mainly over monetary issues and personality conflicts. Despite the fact that Pendergrass sung all of the group's songs, Melvin was controlling the group's finances. Pendergrass discovered this while attending a party with Melvin. At one point, Pendergrass wanted the group to be renamed "Teddy Pendergrass and the Blue Notes" because fans kept mistaking him as Melvin. Pendergrass left the group in 1977 and the Blue Notes struggled with his replacements. They eventually left Philadelphia International and by the early 1980s had disbanded for good.
Early solo success
In 1977, Pendergrass released his self-titled album, which went platinum on the strength of the disco hit, "I Don't Love You Anymore". Its follow-up single, "The Whole Town's Laughing At Me", became a top 20 R&B hit. It was quickly followed by Life Is a Song Worth Singing, in 1978. That album was even more successful with its singles including "Only You" and "Close the Door". The disco single, "Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose" was popular in dance clubs. 1979 brought two successes, Teddy and the live release, Live Coast to Coast. Hits off Teddy included "Come and Go With Me" and "Turn Off the Lights". His 1980 album, TP, included his signature song, "Love TKO" and the Ashford & Simpson composition, "Is It Still Good to You". Between 1977 and 1981, Pendergrass landed five consecutive platinum albums, which was a then-record setting number for a rhythm and blues artist.
Pendergrass' popularity became massive at the end of 1977. With sold-out audiences packing his audiences, Pendergrass' manager soon noticed that a huge number of his audience consisted of women of all races. They made up a plan for Pendergrass' next tour to have it with just female audiences only, starting a trend that continues today called "women's only concerts". With five platinum albums and two gold albums, Pendergrass was on his way to be what the media was calling him, "the black Elvis", not only in terms of his crossover popularity but also due to him buying a mansion akin to Elvis' Graceland, located just outside of his hometown of Philadelphia. By early 1982, Pendergrass was the leading R&B male artist of his day usurping competition including closest rivals Marvin Gaye and Barry White. In 1980, the Isley Brothers released "Don't Say Goodnight (It's Time for Love)" to compete with Pendergrass' "Turn Off the Lights", which sensed Pendergrass' influence on the quiet storm format of black music.
On March 18, 1982, in the Germantown section of Philadelphia on Lincoln Drive, Pendergrass was involved in an automobile accident. The brakes failed on his 1981 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, causing the car to hit a guard rail, cross into the opposite traffic lane, and hit two trees. Pendergrass and his passenger, Tenika Watson, a transsexual woman, whose birth name was Johnnie Watson, who was a nightclub performer with whom Pendergrass was acquainted, were trapped in the wreckage for 45 minutes. While Watson walked away from the accident with minor injuries, Pendergrass suffered a spinal cord injury, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
 Later solo career
 Personal life
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Pendergrass had three children, Tisha, LaDonna and Teddy II. In 1987, he married a former Philadanco dancer named Karen Still, who had also danced in his shows. Karen was Pendergrass' primary caregiver. The couple amicably divorced in 2003. Pendergrass met Joan Williams in the spring of 2006. Pendergrass proposed to Joan after four months and they married in a private ceremony officiated by Teddy's Pastor Allyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church on March 23, 2008. A formal wedding was celebrated at The Ocean Cliff Resort in Newport, Rhode Island on September 6, 2008.
As members of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, Joan Pendergrass set up The Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church Youth Fund in the name of Teddy Pendergrass to provide assistance and a center for Philadelphia's inner city youth.
He published his autobiography, Truly Blessed, in 1992. There are plans to make a feature film biopic of Teddy's life. Tyrese Gibson is set to star as the late singer.
On June 5, 2009, Pendergrass underwent successful surgery for colon cancer and recovered to return home. A few weeks later he returned to the hospital with respiratory issues. After seven months, he died of respiratory failure on January 13, 2010, at age 59 with wife Joan by his side, while hospitalized at Bryn Mawr Hospital in suburban Philadelphia. Teddy is survived by his mother Ida, wife Joan, three children; Tisha, Teddy II, LaDonna, stepdaughters Sherilla Leftrade, Jessica Avila and four grandchildren and three stepgrandchildren.
Joan Pendergrass is the executrix of The Theodore Dereese Pendergrass Estate.
Main article: Teddy Pendergrass discography
Grammy Award nominations
Pendergrass received the following five nominations for Grammy Awards.
Award Year Result Category Song
Grammy Award 1979 Nomination Best Male R&B Vocal Performance "Close the Door"
1982 Nomination Best Male R&B Vocal Performance "I Can't Live Without Your Love"
1989 Nomination Best Male R&B Vocal Performance "Joy"
1992 Nomination Best Male R&B Vocal Performance "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"
1994 Nomination Best Male R&B Vocal Performance "Voodoo"
 In popular culture
In Eddie Murphy's standup comedy, Delirious, Murphy does an imitation of Pendergrass singing "Only You", saying Pendergrass' masculine voice "scares the bitches into liking him".
Latin Legend India, also known as The Princess of Salsa Music, recorded a cover of Teddy's song "Turn off the lights" on her 2010 album, Unica. India explained in an interview that she had grown up listening to some of this music and she had decided to do a cover to this song with a more tropical/Salsa feel to it.