Soul Legend Teddy Pendergrass has died, according to ABC News. Reportedly, he suffered from complications related to a recent operation on his colon. He was 59.
For many of us, “Teddy P.” has lived as an elusive legend on earth for much of our lives. We heard of his storied greatness from the old folks who had laughed, loved, danced, and made babies to his music. We held our breath with our Mamas and watched the old footage of the beautiful man in well-fitted show clothes – his mahogany skin gleaming and his rich, husky voice reaching into our souls. We wept a bit with the grown folks when the Teddy Bear wheeled onto the stage during increasingly rare performances.
In his days with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, and in his all too brief solo career, Teddy Pendergrass made an indelible mark on the Soul Music genre and on the African American Vernacular Culture.
He enjoyed extraordinary success, selling over 10 million records in a decade and packing out venues with sizzling women-only concerts.
Teddy P. urged us to authenticity - taught us to “Be For Real”, and urged us to “Wake Up, Everybody”. Later the same day, the Teddy Bear crooned to us. In his charming way, he got us to “Close the Door” and “Turn off the Lights”. And he couldn’t stay on our bad side. He’d lure us back, moaning “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, girl, and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” baby.
It’s true that, in many ways, we lost a bit of Teddy P. after the severe March 1982 car accident that paralyzed him from the chest down and led to lingering hate-fueled speculation about his passenger, transgender drag performer Tenika Watson.
We always hoped that he’d return to us for good. Every now and then, until his official retirement in 2006, he did. Sure, devotees wanted more. But it was a blessing to at least have him with us, and to catch a glimpse from time to time.
For years, Pendergrass’ music was almost enough. Occasional performances were almost enough. His being in the same dimension was almost enough.
But now he’s become The Love We Lost. Too Soon. And for Teddy P.’s true fans, nothing is enough.
Rest in Peace, Teddy Pendergrass.
Especially as we grapple with realities of the earthquake's wrath in Haiti, and challenges here at home, there's no better time to heed Teddy Pendergrass' words and "Wake Up, Everybody" and "build a new land". The song is performed here on Soul Train.
Turn off the Lights
Be For Real
Here, Teddy P. fronts Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes on Soul Train.
The Love I Lost