January 14th, 2010
01:28 AM ET

R&B's Teddy Pendergrass dead at 59

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.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. ED

    Thanks for the great music. Rest in peace.

    January 15, 2010 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ms.V

    Another voice silenced..
    I am sitting here shedding a tear, as i reflect on all the great moments Teddy has given us. My friends and i recall how we instantly recognized the first few notes of "Close the Door" at the clubs back in the day and I remember wearing out a copy of "Life is a song worth Singing". Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes was always one of my favorites and growing up in Detroit w/ the Motown sound we still eagerly embraced Tsop- the sound of Philidelphia of which Harold and Teddy were a big part of.
    As an albun collector, I remember many a night with "Love TKO and "Come go with Me" as they reflected the times of my life at that point.
    At 48 yrs old, I find the songbook of our youth slowly dwindling: Teddy MJ, Barry, Luther, Issac Rick James, and others too numerous to mention.
    Thank you Teddy cuz you were just simply "Teddy"

    January 15, 2010 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. Dee

    I will truly miss you Teddy i grew up to your music and loved it then as well as now. I was more than honored to see you in person after 20 years when I grew up as an adult . Yuor music will live inside me for ever and ever. I will always love you and know no one will never take your place as a singer you were truly the best at your career

    January 14, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ty

    Rest In Peace TP, and thanks for the wonderful music that got me threw some tough times....................God Bless.

    January 14, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Angie

    Great memories Doreen. Sounds like my parents. I remember listening to my mother and father playing his 8 tracks in the van as we rode to Myrtle Beach. You Got What I Want and It Don't Hurt Now. Oh my goodness. My mother went to his concerts too when he was in his prime, shirt open days!! When Love TKO came out, my father held the album up and said, I look good like Teddy P, don't I?! We had a laugh off of that one. I remember in the early printing of the vinyl album, the words were printed on the paper "sleeve" inside the album. Love TKO went..."lookin back over the years I quest I shed a tear." We laughed at that for years when we figured out it was a typo! Thank you Teddy for bringing so much joy to me and my family. You will never be forgotten. Your voice was the voice of a generation of young parents in love!

    January 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Miss Angie

    Rest In Peace Teddy Bear!!!!!! There will never be another. Your music will live on.

    January 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee

    Philadelphia born soul legend Theodore Dereese Pendergrass has left us but he will always remain one of my most favorite singers of all time. Teddy Pendergrass gave us an entire catalog
    of uplifting songs such as Wake Up Everybody to sensuous songs as “Close The Door.’
    In the 90's, I had the pleasure of reading his biography, “Truly Blessed’ and discovered that he was his mother’s miracle child because she suffered several miscarriages before Teddy
    Pendergrass was born on March 26, 1950. Much to the dismay of his mother Teddy was not close to his father at all. His father was killed when Teddy was 12. I was a fan when he started off with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. That soaring tenor and
    baritone just beckoned the ear to ‘come on over to my place.’
    I look at Teddy Pendergrass’s career in utter amazement. This man commanded the charts for a great while and held sold out concerts. Men and women alike have great adoration
    for Teddy Pendergrass. When Teddy Pendergrass sang The More I Get, The More I Want ' you believed him. When he sang, “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” you understood it and when he
    sang “You Can’t Hide From Yourself, you instantly knew it. When he sung, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ the world took heed and everyone from Patti Labelle To Simply Red echoed the sentiment.
    When I was a kid, I remember my father going to the barbershop and buying the Love TKO album and bringing it home and playing it when he thought we were asleep. My mom went out and bought a dress to wear to the ‘For Ladies Only Concert.’ My father promised her he’d take her if she’d take him to see Aretha Franklin or Chaka Khan in concert when they came to Chicago. Man, watching my parents getting prepared for the concert was like watching a concert! While TP’s ‘It Don’t Hurt Now’ was on the turntable my father was bobbing his head to the beat and my mom is spraying perfume and powder and running back and forth to every mirror in the house to see which pair of earrings went best with her new outfit. My mother was going to see the Teddy Bear and she was not going to be short stopping! Teddy Pendergrass always had a penchant for making hits for the ladies and with the ladies. I really loved his duet “Two Hearts” with Stephanie Mills and ‘Hold Me’ with Whitney Houston.
    Unlike my parents, I never got a chance to see TP in concert. In the early 80's after the accident that left him confined to a wheelchair his touring schedule came to a halt. But I will always remember the jewels that he gave to the world even after his unfortunate accident ‘Joy’ and My Greatest Inspiration’. Radio stations around the world will have tributes ranging from playing his music to dedication blogs on their web sites. Black Entertainment Television may even do a tribute like they did for Michael Jackson. But whatever is
    in the works, I just want to say that Teddy Pendergrass left behind a great body of work and he will truly be missed.

    January 14, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Angel Fernandez

    Teddy....has finally "Turned off the lights"

    January 14, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. gjh

    The very first album I ever spent my own money on was "Life is a Song Worth Singing", I was 15 years old and now nearly 31 years later, I've never stopped feeling good about the possibilities of having a "love" when I listen to that album.

    January 14, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Debra R

    I always thought Teddy was underappriciated. I am sure he is now in heaven leading the choir! Rest in the arms of the angels sweet man!

    January 14, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. LBW

    One of my favorite love songs is "Hold Me". He did this duet with Whitney Houston when she was just a girl. He will be missed.

    January 14, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. TV viewer from the Midwest

    that's too bad that he died. he was a wonderful musician and had an incredible voice! may he rest in peace!

    January 14, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. DeLiRon

    R.I.P. Teddy ♥

    January 14, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jeminique

    You will truly be missed. Thanks for the memories.

    January 14, 2010 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  15. judy

    I have always been a huge fan of Teddy's. I grew even more respect for him as a human being as well as an entertainer when he came back to the stage after his paralysis. He will be truly missed. Rest in Peace.

    January 14, 2010 at 5:31 am | Report abuse |

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