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Teddy Pendergrass

Born:    March 26, 1950

Birthplace:    Philadelphia, PA

Died:  January 13, 2010

Place of Death:   Bryn Mawr, PA

Zodiac Sign:  Aries

Theodore DeReese Pendergrass was an American singer. Born in Philadelphia at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, Pendergrass was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He initially rose to musical fame as the lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. After leaving the group over monetary disputes in 1976, Pendergrass launched a successful solo career under the Philadelphia International label, releasing five consecutive platinum albums, a record at the time for an African-American R&B artist. Pendergrass's career was suspended after a March 1982 car crash left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. Pendergrass continued his successful solo career until announcing his retirement in 2007. Pendergrass died from respiratory failure in January 2010.

He attended Thomas Edison High School for Boys in North Philadelphia. He sang with the Edison Mastersingers. He dropped out in the 11th grade to enter the music business, recording his first song "Angel with Muddy Feet". The recording, however, was not a commercial success. Pendergrass played drums for several local Philadelphia bands, eventually becoming the drummer of The Cadillacs. In 1970, he was spotted by the Blue Notes' founder, Harold Melvin (1939–1997), who convinced Pendergrass to play drums in the group. However, during a performance, Pendergrass began singing along, and Melvin, impressed by his vocals, made him the lead singer. Before Pendergrass joined the group, the Blue Notes had struggled to find success. This all changed when they landed a recording deal with Philadelphia International Records in 1971, thus beginning Pendergrass's successful collaboration with label founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

On March 18, 1982, in the East Falls section of Philadelphia on Lincoln Drive near Rittenhouse Street, Pendergrass was involved in a car crash. It appeared that someone had tampered with the brakes of the new Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit of which he had just taken delivery. The car hit a guard rail, crossed onto the oncoming lane, and hit two trees. Pendergrass and his passenger, Tenika Watson, who attested to the fact that Pendergrass was sober and uncomprehending as to why the brakes did not function, were trapped in the wreckage for 45 minutes. While Watson walked away from the collision with minor injuries, Pendergrass suffered a spinal cord injury, leaving him a tetraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down.

In 1972, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes released their first single, a slow, solemn ballad entitled "I Miss You". The song was originally written for The Dells, but the group passed on it. Noting how Pendergrass sounded like Dells lead singer Marvin Junior, Kenny Gamble decided to build the song with Pendergrass, who was only 21 at the time of the recording. Pendergrass sings much of the song in a raspy baritone voice that would become his trademark. The song also featured Blue Notes member Lloyd Parks singing falsetto in the background and spotlighted Harold Melvin adding in a rap near the end of the song as Pendergrass kept singing, feigning tears. The song, one of Gamble and Huff's most creative productions, became a major rhythm and blues hit and put the Blue Notes on the map. The group's follow-up single, "If You Don't Know Me by Now", brought the group to the mainstream with the song reaching the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, while also reaching number one on the soul no. 1 singles chart. Like "I Miss You" before it, the song was originally intended for a different artist, fellow Philadelphian native Patti LaBelle and her group Labelle but the group could not record it due to scheduling conflicts. Pendergrass and LaBelle developed a close friendship that would last until Pendergrass's death.

In 1977, Pendergrass released his self-titled album, which went platinum on the strength of the disco hit "I Don't Love You Anymore". Its follow-up single, "The Whole Town's Laughing at Me", became a top 20 R&B hit. Although not released as singles, the uptempo album tracks "You Can't Hide from Yourself" and "The More I Get, The More I Want", as well as the ballad "And If I Had" were also hits. The debut album was quickly followed by Life Is a Song Worth Singing, in 1978. That album was even more successful with its singles "Only You" and the classic million selling number 1 R&B hit "Close the Door". The latter song firmly established Pendergrass as the top male sex symbol in music. The album's popularity was furthered by the disco hit "Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose", the ballad "It Don't Hurt Now", and the mid-tempo classic "When Somebody Loves You Back". That double platinum number-one R&B triumph was followed up in 1979 by two successes, the albums Teddy (which stayed at number 1 on the Billboard R&B chart for 8 weeks and was named the 2nd biggest R&B album of the year), and the live release Live Coast to Coast. Hits off Teddy included the classics "Come Go with Me," the legendary erotic ballad "Turn Off the Lights", and the uptempo album cut "Do Me". With his sex appeal at an all-time high after his 1979 tour, Pendergrass took a more mellow approach on his 1980 album TP. It included the classic number two R&B hit "Love TKO", the Stephanie Mills duet version of "Feel the Fire" and the Ashford & Simpson composition "Is It Still Good to You". Between 1977 and 1981, Pendergrass landed five consecutive platinum albums, which was a then record-setting number for a rhythm and blues artist.

On June 5, 2009, Pendergrass underwent successful surgery for colon cancer and returned home to recover. A few weeks later he returned to the hospital with respiratory issues. After seven months, he died of respiratory failure on January 13, 2010 with his wife Joan by his side, at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He was 59. His body was interred at the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Source.

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