Teddy Pendergrass, the gruff-voiced Philadelphia soul powerhouse who belted out hits like "The Love I Lost" and "If You Don't Know Me By Now" as lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes in the 1970s for Philadelphia International Records and went on to forge an influential solo career as a seductive bedroom balladeer, has died. He was 59.
The singer's son, Teddy Pendergrass II, said his father died yesterday at Bryn Mawr Hospital. He underwent colon cancer surgery eight months ago. Pendergrass II said the singer, who had been paralyzed from the waist down after he crashed his Rolls-Royce on Lincoln Drive in the Germantown section of Philadelphia in 1982, had "a difficult recovery."
"To all his fans who loved his music, thank you," his son said. "He will live on through his music."
After the car accident, he spent six months in a hospital but returned to recording the next year with the album Love Language.
He returned to the stage at the Live Aid concert in 1985, performing from his wheelchair.
Pendergrass was raised by his mother, Ida Epps, in North Philadelphia, and started singing in public at an early age. At age 21/2, he recalled in an interview in 2007 that he stood up on chair at the Glad Tidings Baptist Church and sang "If I Could Write A Letter To Heaven." "I was just a little bitty guy," he said. "I had to be seen. Always been my problem."
In 1998, Pendergrass founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, an organization whose mission is encourage and help people with spinal cord injuries achieve their maximum potential in education, employment, housing, productivity and independence.
A tribute called "Teddy 25: A Celebration of Life, Hope and Possibilities" was held at the Kimmel Center in June 2007 to mark 25 years since his accident. It featured such artists as Patti LaBelle and Stephanie Mills.