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Teddy Pendergrass
Birth name Theodore DeReese Pendergrass
Born March 26, 1950(1950-03-26)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died January 13, 2010 (aged 59)
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres R&B, soul, gospel, jazz
Occupations Singer, songwriter, composer
Instruments Vocals, piano, guitar, drums
Years active 1970–2006
Labels Philadelphia International
Surefire/Wind Up
Associated acts Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
Website Official site

Theodore DeReese "Teddy" Pendergrass (March 26, 1950[1] – January 13, 2010[2]) was an American R&B/soul singer and songwriter. Pendergrass first rose to fame as lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes in the 1970s before a successful solo career at the end of the decade. In 1982, he was severely injured in an auto accident in Philadelphia, resulting in his being paralyzed from the waist down. After his injury, the affable entertainer founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, a foundation that helps those with spinal cord injuries.


Early life

Born Teddy Pendergrass in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was the son of Jesse Pendergrass and Ida Geraldine Epps. During Teddy's early childhood, his father left the Pendergrass family and was not an integral part of their lives. In 1962, Jesse was murdered, leaving Theodore fatherless. Years later, Teddy attended Thomas Edison High School for Boys (now closed). He sang with the Edison Mastersingers. Subsequently, he dropped out[3] in the 11th grade to enter the music business. According to author Robert Ewell Greene, Pendergrass was ordained a minister as a youngster. Later he was to become a drummer for a band, and later lead singer. The church was his initiation for talent and eventual success.


Pendergrass' career began when he was a drummer for The Cadillacs, which soon merged with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. Melvin invited Pendergrass to become the lead singer after he jumped from the rear of a stage and started singing his heart out. Months later the group signed with Gamble and Huff on the then-CBS subsidiary Philadelphia International Records in 1972. The Blue Notes had hits such as "I Miss You", "Bad Luck", "Wake Up Everybody", the two million seller "If You Don't Know Me by Now", and many more. Following personality conflicts between Melvin and Pendergrass, Pendergrass launched a solo career and released hit singles like "The More I Get the More I Want," "Close the Door," "I Don't Love You Anymore," "Turn Off the Lights" and others.[1]

His first solo album was self titled Teddy Pendergrass (1977), followed by Life is a Song Worth Singing (1978), Live Coast to Coast and Teddy (1979), 1980's TP and the final Philadelphia International Records album It's Time for Love (1981).[1] He also sang a duet with Whitney Houston on "Hold Me", from her self-titled debut album.

Later career

On March 18, 1982, in the Germantown section of Philadelphia on Lincoln Drive, Pendergrass was involved in an automobile accident. The brakes failed on his 1981 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, causing the car to hit a guard rail, cross into the opposite traffic lane, and hit two trees. Pendergrass and his passenger, Tenika Watson, a transsexual nightclub performer with whom Pendergrass was casually acquainted, were trapped in the wreckage for 45 minutes. While Watson walked away from the accident with minor injuries, Pendergrass suffered a spinal cord injury, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.[4][5]

In August 1982, PIR also released This One's for You, while Pendergrass was recovering from his accident. In 1983, the album Heaven Only Knows was released. This was his last album containing his pre-accident recordings. Ten years after the accident, he recorded a version of "One Shining Moment," the theme for March Madness Basketball on CBS.

After completing physical therapy, he returned to the studio to record the album Love Language, featuring the 1984 ballad "Hold Me", a duet with a then-unknown Whitney Houston. He also returned to the public for a performance on July 13, 1985, at the historic Live Aid concert in Philadelphia, then continued to record throughout the 1980s and 1990s.[6] In 1996, he starred alongside Stephanie Mills in the touring production of the gospel musical Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.[7] In 1998, Pendergrass released his autobiography entitled, Truly Blessed.[8]

In his later years, Pendergrass' “Wake Up Everybody” has been covered by a diverse range of acts from Simply Red to Patti LaBelle and was chosen as a rallying cry during the 2004 Presidential campaign by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds to mobilize voters. In addition, Little Brother, Kanye West, Cam'ron, Twista, Ghostface, 9th Wonder, DMX and DJ Green Lantern have utilized his works.[9]

In 2006, Pendergrass announced his retirement from the music business.[10] In 2007, he briefly returned to performing to participate in Teddy 25: A Celebration of Life, Hope & Possibilities, a 25th anniversary awards ceremony that marked Pendergrass' accident date, but also raised money for his charity, The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, and honored those who helped Pendergrass since his accident.[11]

Personal life

Pendergrass had several children with different women back home in Philadelphia. In 1987, he married a former dancer of his named Karen Still. The couple amicably divorced in Pendergrass' later years and Karen stayed as Teddy's caregiver. Teddy then married a woman named Joan. He also had a grandson named Kris Frick, an aspiring soccer player who was banned from the Bermuda national team and subsequently followed a career in rap music.

He published his autobiography, Truly Blessed, in 1992.


In 2009, Pendergrass underwent surgery for colon cancer and had difficulty recovering from that disease from which he eventually died following respiratory failure on January 13, 2010, at age 59, while hospitalized at Bryn Mawr Hospital in suburban Philadelphia.[12] He is survived by his son, Teddy Pendergrass II, two daughters and mother Ida Pendergrass.


Studio albums

Grammy Award nominations

Pendergrass received the following five nominations for Grammy Awards.

Award Year Result Category Song
Grammy Award 1979 Nomination Best Male R&B Vocal Performance "Close the Door"
1982 Nomination Best Male R&B Vocal Performance "I Can't Live Without Your Love"
1989 Nomination Best Male R&B Vocal Performance "Joy"
1992 Nomination Best Male R&B Vocal Performance "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"
1994 Nomination Best Male R&B Vocal Performance "Voodoo"

In popular culture

In Eddie Murphy's standup comedy, Delirious, Murphy does an imitation of Pendergrass singing "Only You", saying Pendergrass' masculine voice "scares the bitches into liking him".


  1. ^ a b c allmusic Biography
  2. ^ Walters, Patrick (January 13, 2010). "Soul Singer Teddy Pendergrass Dies in Pa. at 59". ABC News (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Associated Press). Retrieved 14 January 2010. 
  3. ^ "Singer fights his way back after accident". Anchorage Daily News. July 7, 1984.,3392372&dq=teddy-pendergrass+dropout&hl=en. Retrieved January 6, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Singer Suffers Spinal Injury In Auto Crash in Philadelphia". New York Times. 1982-03-19. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  5. ^ "The Trials of Teddy Pendergrass". Entertainment Weekly. 1994-03-18.,,301425,00.html. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  6. ^ Piner, Mary-Louise. "Return to Stage a Personal Triumph for Teddy Pendergrass". Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  7. ^ Christian, Margena (1996-03-25). "Teddy Pendergrass stars in 'Your Arms Too Short to Box With God.'". Jet.;col1. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  8. ^ "Teddy Pendergrass". Jet. 1998-11-03.;col1. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Alemour, Olu (2007-05-03). "People Get Teddy". Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  11. ^ Waldron, Clarence (2007-07-02). "Teddy Pendergrass' all-star gala marks 25th anniversary of near-fatal car accident". Jet.;col1. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  12. ^ Walters, Patrick (2010-01-14). "Soul Singer Teddy Pendergrass Dies in Pa. at 59". Retrieved 14 January 2010. 

External links


Simple English

Teddy Pendergrass
Birth name Theodore DeReese Pendergrass
Born March 26, 1950(1950-03-26) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died January 13, 2010 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres R&B, soul, gospel, jazz
Occupations Singer, songwriter, composer
Instruments Vocals, piano, guitar, drums
Years active 19702006
Labels Philadelphia International Records
Associated acts Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
Website Official Website]

Teddy Pendergrass (real name: Theodore DeReese "Teddy" Pendergrass) (born March 26, 1950 – died January 13, 2010) was an American R&B and soul singer/songwriter. Pendergrass was paralyzed from the waist down when he was severely injured in an car accident in Philadelphia in 1982.

He died on January 13, 2010 of respiratory failure and is buried at West Laurel Hill Cemetery.


Teddy Pendergrass released 13 studio albums during his career:

Year Album
1977 Teddy Pendergrass
1978 Life Is a Song Worth Singing
1979 Teddy
1980 TP
1981 It's Time for Love
1982 This One's for You
1983 Heaven Only Knows
1984 Love Language
1985 Workin' It Back
1988 Joy
1991 Truly Blessed
1993 A Little More Magic
1997 You and I


Teddy Pendergrass' Official website


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