Teddy Pendergrass is one of the artists you’re likely to hear more than just one song from on THE BEAT. We love to bring you special features like this to highlight a great artist. Voices, bands, real, true artists that stand the test of time. Their music, their artistry brings back memories from a much better era of music, an era we treasure and cherish.
Today we invite you back to 1979 for one of the shows Teddy performed at the Sahara in Las Vegas.
ABOUT TEDDY PENDERGRASS
Where do you start? Where the voice begins that’s where and we’ll let him tell it to you in his own words then we’ll add ours.
I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa. I was given the opportunity to sing my first song in church at 2 ½ years old, and I did.
In grade school, I was given the opportunity to join the now world famous, Philadelphia Boys Choir, and I did.
In Jr High, I was given the opportunity to join the All City School Choir, and I did.
At 13, I saw a set of drums on the stage of the place where my Mother washed dishes and scrubbed floors. I took the opportunity to teach myself how to play.
At 18, while working as a waiter in an Atlantic City nightclub, I was given the opportunity to audition for a job playing drums with a band and travel. I did, and I got the job.
A year later, I was offered an opportunity to play drums for a singing group named the Blue Notes, and I did.
A year later, I was given the opportunity to become their lead singer, and yes, I did.
A year later, we signed a recording contract, and the named changed to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. We had immediate success with songs like “If you don’t know me by now, The Love I lost and Wake up everybody.”
In 1975, unsatisfied with my situation, and after much thought, I decided to take a huge risk and strike out on my own. So, with no money, I left the Blue Notes.
A year later, I signed a solo recording contract, and as they say, the rest is history.
I quickly surpassed all previous record sales by any black artist, sold out national and international concerts, owned estates, cars, my own private jet and oh yes, let’s not forget my “For Woman Only” concerts. I HAD IT ALL!
In 1982 and at the height of my career, I had an automobile accident. I WAS DEVESTATED!
I had no idea what to do or where to turn.
After being pushed aside and in despair, unexpectedly and thankfully, in ‘83, another golden and much-needed opportunity came my way. Not knowing whether I could, or would succeed, I was offered another recording contract.
In 1984 and against all odds, I released the album “Love Language” which spawned the duet “Hold me in your arms” featuring a then young and unknown 18 year old singer named Whitney Houston.
I went on to record six additional and successful albums; made videos, performed at the ’85 Live Aid, made numerous TV appearances, and accepted Grammy nominations.
I am also a published author.
The point here is “OPPORTUNITY…..and CHALLENGE”! Be challenged, challenge those around you…. because CHALLENGE creates amazing results…… BELIEVE ME. I KNOW!
There’s a handful of voices in music that, when you hear them, you know who it is. When you hear Teddy’s, there’s no mistake, there’s no other voice like it. It’s the power, the range, the energy, the call you feel deep in your soul and you know – instantly, it’s Teddy Pendergrass. That unmistakable voice is as recognizable as others we call on a first name basis like Bing, Elton, Frank, Luther, Jeffrey, Philip, Maurice, Billie, Ella, Michael, Marvin, Smokey, Aretha, Diana, Dionne, Whitney and others. It’s a unique club to be part of that’s for sure.
While the 60’s was the decade Motown would be the catalyst for crossing soul and R&B music into mainstream America, it was the 70’s that would solidfy it and define it. Producers like Norman Whitfield, labels like Philadelphia International and artists like Teddy Pendergrass would bring new ideas, new styles and arrangements that would be the soundtrack of the decade and a blueprint for the future.
Back when he was just a child, Teddy began singing gospel music in Philadelphia churches. When he was 6 years old, he was already making an impression on people as he was invited to sing in the highly presitigious citywide McIntyre Elementary School Choir as well as the All-City Stetson Jr. High School Choir. When he was ten, he had become an ordained minister. As a self-taught drummer, Tedd Pendergrass had a teen pop vocal group by age 15.
By the 1960’s, Teddy’s career was starting to enjoy success. It was when he was the drummer for the band The Cadillacs when he career began to spread its wings. By the late 60’s, the band merged with the more-established group, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. In 1970, the “Blue Notes” broke up and Harold Melvin, now aware of Pendergrass’ vocal prowess, asked Teddy to take the lead singer position. Once Pendergrass’ distinct vocals were heard by the dynamic production team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, the rest, as they say, was history.
Earlier we mentioned “Philly Intl.” If you don’t know what or who it was all about, or maybe you’re a little fuzzy on just how important it was to music and the landscape in the ‘business’ of music, here’s an amazing refresher course…
OK, back to Teddy…
With Teddy’s lead vocals spurring the group to more success, the billing of the group was revised to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Theodore Pendergrass.
In 1976, Pendergrass left Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes and formed his own Blue Notes, featuring Teddy Pendergrass. Teddy eventually disbanded his Blue Notes in favor of a solo career and went on to sign a contract with Philadelphia International Records.
With the launch of his solo career, Teddy burst on the scene with his platinum solo debut album Teddy Pendergrass that included the top-notch singles: “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” “You Can’t Hide From Yourself,” and “The More I Get the More I Want.”
Inspired by the great Shep Gordon, Teddy began to institute his infamous “Ladies Only” concerts. His next three albums, Life Is a Song Worth Singing (1978), Teddy (1979), and Teddy Live (Coast to Coast) went on to become gold or platinum.
Teddy received several Grammy nominations in 1977 and 1978 including Billboard’s 1977 Pop Album New Artist Award, an American Music Award for best R&B performer of 1978 along with prestigious awards from Ebony magazine and the NAACP. Teddy was also the number one choice in consideration for the lead in the movie biopic The Otis Redding Story. Teddy’s album “Teddy” produced the hits “Turn Off the Lights,” and “Come Go With Me,” in 1979. His hits “Shout and Scream,” and “It’s You I Love,” were on his album Live Coast to Coast also in 1979. As the 70’s came to a close, Teddy moved into the 80’s at the top of his with more hits to come including “Love TKO” on his 1980 album “Teddy”.
His 1981 album “It’s Time for Love” gave Teddy another gold album and included the hit singles “My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration” and “I Can’t Live Without Your Love.” In the middle of all that was his duet with the incomparable Stephanie Mills on “Two Hearts” produced by super producers James Mtume and Reggie Lucas which picked up right where they left off from their 1980 duets “Feel The Fire” and “Take Me In Your Arms” on Teddy’s 1980 album TP.
In 1982, a devastating car accident left Teddy paralyzed from the waist down and wheelchair bound. After nearly a year of physical therapy and counseling, Teddy triumphantly returned to the recording scene. In 1983 he signed a contract with Elektra/Asylum in 1983. With tenacity and a determined spirit, Teddy submerged himself back into the music. Philadelphia International Records later issued two albums of unreleased tracks, “This One’s for You” (1982) and “Heaven Only Knows” (1983). Teddy’s ninth solo album, the Elektra/Asylum debut, “Love Language” went gold in the spring of 1984. On that album was an amazing duet with then unknown Whitney Houston titled “Hold Me” which was on the heels of her debut via Paul Jabara, the man behind Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” and more, his album titled Paul Jabara and Friends included The Weather Girls “It’s Raining Men” and a single from Whitney titled ‘Eternal Love’. We figured, hey, why not let you hear Whitney’s first and second songs back to back for this feature, check ’em out below.
Also on that album was the tear-jerker, “In My Time” featuring Teddy for the first time in a wheel chair on a stage. You can watch that video at the top of this page.
Other albums included “Workin’ It Back” (1985), “Joy” (1988), whose title track peaked at number one RB for two weeks, and “Little More Magic” (1993). The latter half of the ’90s found Teddy recording for the Surefire/Wind Up label. “Truly Blessed” (the name of a 1991 Elektra album) is the title of the telling autobiography Teddy Pendergrass co-authored with Patricia Romanowski.
Teddy would take almost two decades off before returning to music. In May 2001, after a 19-year absence, Teddy made a remarkable return to the concert stage, performing two sold out shows at the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, NJ. The shows were met with standing ovations and national recognition. He would go on to play to sold out concerts across the country including a performance at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles on Valentine’s Day 2002 for a DVD/ CD and VHS release entitled, “From Teddy with Love.”
In 2002, Mayor John F. Street of Philadelphia declared October 12th “Teddy Pendergrass Day” to commemorate the first live performance given by Teddy in over two decades.
Prior to his death, Teddy become an outspoken advocate for the disabled founding a national nonprofit organization that helps people with spinal cord injury (SCI) rebuild their lives.
On June 5, 2009, Teddy underwent successful surgery for colon cancer. He returned home on June 15th only to return to the hospital one day later with respiratory issues. On January 13, 2010, seven months later, at age 59, he died of respiratory failure with his beloved wife Joan by his side. His body is interred at the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. He was survived by his wife Joan, his mother Ida and his children, Tisha, LaDonna and Teddy II.
When you think of “baby-makin’ music’, Teddy is right up there with Barry, Marvin and Smokey for the crown but for my money, ain’t nothin’ like Teddy Bear.
We ask that you take a moment to visit the foundation set up in this man’s honor to learn how you can carry his message of love and support forward when you click the image below.
SOURCE: Teddy Pendergrass Website | Sal Amato
TEDDY PENDERGRASS ONLINE
Classic Teddy Pendergrass Music On Demand