Thursday, January 14, 2010

Teddy Pendergrass Dies at 59

Multiple news sources, including The Root, report that R&B legend Teddy Pendergrass died yesterday of colon cancer at age 59. The Philadelphia, Penn., native passed away in a Philadelphia hospital.

Dan DeLuca, the Philadelphia Inquirer's music critic opens his piece on Pendergrass, saying:

... the gruff-voiced Philadelphia soul powerhouse who belted out hits like "The Love I Lost" and "If You Don't Know Me By Now" as lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes in the 1970s for Philadelphia International Records and went on to forge an influential solo career as a seductive bedroom balladeer, has died. (PI)

MTV has a write-up of the singer's life, which includes how he influenced the work of other performers such as Kanye West and Jaz-Z. It also quotes a tweet from singer Tyrese, "who showed a twitpic of him with the soul legend at Pendergrass' wedding (and) wrote a series of messages."

"I'M SAD," he said. "I was just informed from Teddy Pendergrass' wife that Teddy is no longer us with us ... Rest in heaven." (MTV story quoting Tyrese on Twitter)

CNN reports on the singer's death as well. However, its story posted at 1:32 a.m. today makes no mention of cancer:

His family did not reveal details about his illness, but said it was related to complications from a 1982 car accident, Barbaris said.

"His beloved family surrounded him. The world has lost one of its greatest voices and performers," a statement from Barbaris said.

"His family is devastated. He has three children and, even though it was expected, it still hurts," she said. (See photo gallery at Essence Magazine's site, The amazing Teddy Pendergrass.)

The crooner, who many affectionately knew as just "Teddy," started in music with a group called the Cadillacs in the late 1960s and was still with the group when it merged with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, according to his official Web site. (Read more at CNN)

Like Essence, the Washington Post has a photo slideshow of Teddy P. The paper also reports the same news from The Root via the Associated Press:

Pendergrass was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009 and had undergone surgery in June of last year. According to son Teddy Pendergrass II, the R&B legend had a difficult recovery. "He will live on through his music," Pendergrass said of his father in a statement. (AP)

I am saddened and also surprised because I didn't know he was struggling with cancer. A fan of Teddy P., I added his hits to my MP3 player in November, seeing that I hadn't moved his work from CD to digital in my collection. I realized it while listening to "It Don't Hurt Now" on Blip.FM, after which I tweeted the song.

I have my share of warm memories of listening to Teddy P. Here are some of my favorites.

"Wake Up Everybody," 1975, performed with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes was an R&B hit that reflected the changing times and call to action of the black community in the 70s.

Grammy-nominated "If You Don't Know Me By Now," 1972, was also recorded with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

In 1978, I may have been standing at a record store when the doors opened for my copy of his album Life is a Song Worth Singing. Back then I bought music I liked almost as soon as the songs hit the airwaves, and I wore out "Close the Door," and "When Somebody Loves You Back."

He was one of the few singers who could talk through sections of his songs and I found it believable, not disturbing to the flow or phony.

When his Rolls Royce crashed in 1982, reportedly due to brake failure, and as a result he was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, I felt like somebody I knew personally had been injured. With others, I thought that was the end of his career, but he soon made appearances again. Per Wikipedia and other sources, he performed at the Live Aid concert in 1985, and also according to Wikipedia, he recorded a duet, "Hold Me" in 1984, with a then-unknown Whitney Houston.

Now I'm remembering more songs by Pendergrass that I've loved both before and after 1978 that I liked and purchased. However, I'm not the only one recalling Teddy Pendergrass today.

Marvalus at Conversations with Marva recalling Teddy under "Come on and Go With Me." She remembers that her mother was "in love" with Teddy Pendergrass.

Natasha at Young, Black and Fabulous informed readers of the singer's passing, and immediately received comments from those who appreciated his music. And at MrsGrapevine, the blogger writers, "My heart is broken.

My Old School Friday people know how much I love Teddy Pendergrass. Words just can’t express what his music does to me. In spite of the car accident of 1982 that left him paralyzed, he was one of the sexiest singers in my mom’s generation. My mother said, at concerts women would literally throw their panties on the stage. (We can’t relate to that because none of today’s artist have that much power with their voice). (

Finally, here he is performing his Joy live. He was nominated for a Grammy in 1989 for best male R&B vocal performance on this one.

Echoing Tyrese, may Teddy P. rest in musical heaven.

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