January 14th, 2010
01:28 AM ET
R&B legend Teddy Pendergrass passed away Wednesday night surrounded by family members following a long illness. The 59 year old Philadelphia native started honing his craft and voice at an early age, singing in youth choirs, then joining the Cadillacs, a group that later merged with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.
The group's self titled debut album in 1972, spawned the number one hit “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” later covered by the band Simply Red. Over the next three years the band saw success in the form of hits like, “The Love I Lost,” “Bad Luck,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and “Wake up Everybody.”
Pendergrass embarked on a solo career in 1977 with hits like “I Don't Love You Anymore," "You Can't Hide From Yourself," and "The More I Get the More I Want." Heating up the charts and the stage, Pendergrass became known for his steamy “Ladies Only” tours. He also received critical acclaim with Billboard's 1977 Pop Album New Artist Award and an American Music Award for best R&B performer of 1978.
The hit-maker and velvet voice didn't stop into the new decade. Fans will recall his 80' songs "Turn Off the Lights," "Come Go With Me," "Shout and Scream," "It's You I Love," "Love TKO" and "I Can't Live Without Your Love."
March 18, 1982 marked a turning point for the talented singer. A car accident shortly before his 32nd birthday left him paralyzed from the waist down. Two years and intensive physical therapy later, Pendergrass released "Love Language", which went gold followed by "Workin It Back" (1985), "Joy" (1988) and "Truly Blessed" (1991) which also became the title of his book released in 1998. The same year he established the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance to assist people with spinal cord injuries.
Teddy Pendergrass' voice and music was certainly guaranteed to steam up the car windows on a date night. He'll be missed by several generations who loved him for his ability to blend passion, longing and warmth into his music.
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