Teddy Pendergrass, 1950-2010
Teddy Pendergrass, truly one of the most powerful and charismatic singers of the Philadelphia soul scene in the 1970s, died yesterday following a difficult battle with colon cancer. He was 59.
Pendergrass was originally the drummer for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, joining that longtime Philly band in 1970, but later that year, when lead singer John Atkins left, Pendergrass took over lead vocals. It was his voice that powered such classics as “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” the original (arguably better) version of “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and the great protest song “Wake Up Everybody.” At the Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff-led Philadelphia International label, which provided some of the most distinct soul music of the ’70s Pendergrass was one of the most recognizable voices.
Pendergrass went on to a successful solo career in 1976, but in 1982 he was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed. He managed to come back and record some strong mid-’80s albums for Elektra, but the quality and frequency of his output tapered off in the 1990s. His last studio release was You and I in 1997.
In his prime, Teddy Pendergrass got more panties thrown at him on stage than Tom Jones. Here’s some classic bedroom music, “Close the Door,” from a 1979 performance. You can hear the women in the audience losing their minds.
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