Teddy Pendergrass, the iconic R&B vocalist who dominated the ’70s and ’80s died yesterday at the Bryn Mawr Hospital, outside of Philadelphia. In a statement made by his son, Teddy Pendergrass II, to the Associated Press, the singer had failed to fully recover from surgery related to colon cancer, carried out in the summer. He was 59.
The Philadelphia native shot to fame in the early ’70s as the lead singer with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, who signed to legendary Philadelphia-based production/writing duo Gamble and Huff. The group went on to record tracks like “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” also a hit for Thelma Houston. After splitting from Melvin’s band in 1976, Pendergrass maintained a prominent position in music releasing classics such as “Love TKO,” “Close The Door and Turn Off The Lights,” becoming an icon for female fans.
Already paralyzed from the waist down, after a car accident in 1982 saw the baritone crooner suffer severe spinal cord damage, Pendergrass continued his successful career even appearing on stage at the Live Aid Concert in 1985. Although he didn’t go out on tour again for 19 years after the accident, he went on to record the platinum selling album Love Language after recovering from the road accident.
With over 20 albums to his credit, various Grammy nominations and multiple platinum discs he went on to developing his own organization to benefit other sufferers of spinal cord injuries, The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance. It was through this philanthropic endeavor that Teddy hoped to give others the opportunity to live life to the fullest despite their injuries in all aspects of daily living.
Survived by his son, two daughters, wife, mother and nine grandchildren Teddy Pendergrass will remain huge influence on music. “He will live on through his music,” his son confirmed.