Thursday, January 14, 2010

Goodbye, Teddy

The lights have been turned off. Teddy Pendergrass, only months shy of his 60th birthday, has shuffled off this mortal coil, leaving an unrivaled R&B legacy. He got his initial taste of fame as first an instrumentalist and then vocalist for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. The story behind that movie is wonderful and totally Teddy, and if you see me out and about, ask me and I'll tell you.

As the band grew in natural stature, label execs and market pressures forced Teddy to tone down some of his more flamboyant and less orthodox characteristics, aspects of his life that fit in with the diverse and open Philly R&B scene at the time but wouldn't sell nationally.

Eventually, Teddy struck out on his own and became legendary for his sensual stage performance, which of course paired perfectly with the raunchy yet romantic edge to his most famous songs. This was particularly the case with his famed "ladies only" shows.

In 1982, Teddy was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed, and while he still made high-profile appearances around his hometown over the next two decades, his career was never the same. Last year, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and, despite a surgery in June, succumbed to the terrible disease last night.

While the bulk of Teddy's success occurred before I was even born, for several years he has been one of my favorite artists. There's something comical about the music today, but underneath that, there is a depth and seriousness and, especially, desperate quality that I've not found many other places. For that I thank him and send his loved ones my deepest condolences as they mourn the man who, though we never met, made an impact on my life across time and space.

No comments: