Arrangements are set for Teddy Pendergrass, who died at age 59 Wednesday from colon cancer at a Bryn Mawr Hospital in suburban Philadelphia. Pendergrass is in the ranks with Marvin Gaye, Barry White, and Lionel Richie as icons of contemporary R&B and soul with a seductive and romantic voice.
Pendergrass began his career in 1970 as lead singer of Harold and the Blue Notes with hits like and “Wake Up Everybody” (1976) “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (1972). The song became a hit again when Simply Red covered it in 1989 and went to number one. By the mid-late 70s, Pendergrass became a solo superstar with “Turn Off The Lights”, “Close The Door”, and “Love TKO”. However, during his prime, in 1982, brake failure led to his Rolls Royce crashing into a tree and the singer became paralyzed from the waist down, but he was not down and out.
Like the late Christopher Reeve, Teddy Pendergrass became a spinal cord advocate as founder of the Pendergrass Alliance, and made a brief comeback at 1985’s Live Aid. He continued performing and making records such as 1988’s Joy, where the title song was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Male R&B Vocal Performance”.
Next weekend, there will be a viewing held on January 22 at Enon Tabernacle Church in Philadelphia at 10am, and the funeral will take place the following day at West Laurel Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. They’re both open to the public.
Pendergrass is survived by his son Teddy Pendegrass II and his two daughters.