Theodore “Teddy” DeReese Pendergrass, Sr. (March 26, 1950 — January 13, 2010) was an African in America Great R&B/soul singer and songwriter. Pendergrass is also known as Teddy P, TP, or Teddy Bear. He passed away on January 13th, 2010 at 9:59pm, aged 59, at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
Teddy Pendergrass was born to Ida Geraldine Epps and the late Jesse Pendergrass (murdered in 1962), who left when Pendergrass was young and was not a part of his life. He was a student at the old Thomas Edison High School for Boys in Philadelphia. However, he dropped out in the 11th grade to go into 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’s 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 & 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.
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). He also sang a duet with Whitney Houston on “Hold Me,” from her self-titled debut album.
On March 18, 1982, in the Germantown section of Philadelphia on Lincoln Drive, while on his way to a party, Pendergrass was involved in an automobile accident when the brakes failed on his Rolls-Royce and he hit a tree. Damage to his spinal cord left him paralyzed from the waist down with limited use of his arms. In 1985 he made a surprise appearance at the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia, performing “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” in a wheelchair. It was his first stage performance since the accident.
In 1996, he starred alongside Stephanie Mills in the touring production of the gospel musical Your Arms Too Short to Box with God. In 1998, Pendergrass released his autobiography entitled, Truly Blessed.
In 2006, Pendergrass announced his retirement from the music industry. 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. As of August, 2009 Mr. Pendergrass is in Bryn Mawr Hospital recovering from a rare illness related to his paralysis condition. Mr. Pendergrass passed away on January 13, 2010, from complications following surgery for colon cancer.