Yesterday the music world sadly lost one of its all-time greats, R&B singing legend Teddy Pendergrass, at the age of 59, after a long battle with colon cancer.
As a member of the 1970s hit singing group Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, where he started off as their drummer, before stepping up to the mike, and then on his own in the late 70s and 80s, Pendergrass tore up the charts with his church-inflected, gruff baritone voice. He had the fire of a Pentecostal preacher, even when singing tender bedroom-love songs. The man could sing the phonebook and spin aural gold from it. He had the type of voice that could be soothing and gentle one minute, and then exude raw, fiery passion the next.
The five-time Grammy-nominated Philadelphia native enjoyed many classic hits, such as the immortal “The Love I Lost,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Wake Up Everybody,” “Love TKO,” “The Whole Town’s Laughing at Me” and “Close the Door,” among others. The world may never know how many babies were conceived with these songs as the musical accompaniment.
Sadly, Pendergrass was involved in a 1982 car accident at the height of his career, that left him paralyzed from the waist down, but he still continued recording for many years to come. His days as a matinee idol sex symbol, were over though. But he never succumbed to self-pity, and saw himself as a role model to other people with spinal cord injuries. Unfortunately, his singing voice was robbed of some of its natural power.
It’s a shame that he has been somewhat forgotten these days, due to the fact that he had not recorded anything new in many years. It’s also a shame that it sometimes takes someone dying to make the world truly realize what they meant to us. Now is the time for Pendergrass to be rediscovered by a whole new generation of music fans. He is clearly someone whose music will stand the test of time, and he should never be forgotten. The man was a true legend. May he forever rest in peace. And may the world continue conceiving babies to his immortal songs. That ability was the greatest gift he gave to us.