In the end, the story of Teddy Pendergrass is a tragic one. An auto accident in March, 1982 left him confined to a wheelchair until his death on January 13, 2010. A brilliant career was cut short as a result of the accident, but that does nothing to negate the years of triumph that preceded it.

Teddy Pendergrass first came to public attention when he joined the renowned Philly soul great Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes in 1970. Though he was not originally recruited as a lead singer (see question below), Melvin promoted him to that role when John Atkins left the group later that year.

In 1971, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes signed to Philadelphia International Records, and when they released their debut single, “I Miss You,” the following year, Teddy Pendergrass was the lead singer. It was the beginning a fabled collaboration with producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

Other hits followed with Pendergrass up front, including soul classics like “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “The Love I Lost,” “Bad Luck,” and “Wake Up Everybody.” When conflicts arose over finances and Pendergrass’ billing (understandably, he wanted the group’s name changed to Teddy Pendergrass & the Blue Notes), he left the band in 1977.

Solo success was immediate and massive for Pendergrass beginning with his platinum self-titled debut in 1977. He sold out shows all over the world, and did an entire tour for audiences of women only. By 1982, he was the biggest male R&B artist of his time. All in all he had five platinum and two gold albums.

After the 1982 car accident there were more hits, but Teddy Pendergrass never achieved the same level of success that he had prior to that fateful night. In 1985 he made a stirring appearance at Live Aid in Philadelphia, and in 1988 he had his first #1 R&B hit in a decade with “Joy.” He retired from the music business in 2006.

Teddy Pendergrass was without question one of the greatest soul singers of all time. In 1982 he was in London to perform at the Hammersmith Odeon. This indelible performance has been captured on a new DVD Teddy Pendergrass – Live In ’82 (Shout! Factory), and it captures the soul giant at the peak of his powers, singing some of his biggest solo hits.

Contrary to popular belief, there was classic soul music made after the early ’70s. In fact, there is still some being made today. Teddy Pendergrass may be gone, but this new DVD is the living proof.

One lucky soul music fan is going to win a DVD copy of Live In ’82. All you have to do to enter the contest is send an email to with the word “Teddy” in the subject line, and the answer to the following question in the body:

In 1970, Teddy Pendergrass joined Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. For what role was he originally recruited by the group?

Please DO NOT post your answer in the comments section.

The deadline for entries in Monday, April 4, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. eastern. At that time, I will select one winner at random from all of the correct entries. This contest is open to readers with a valid US mailing address only.

I like to include a song for you every week, so here is my favorite from Teddy Pendergrass. It’s his cover of Ashford & Simpson’s “Is It Still Good To You”.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="600" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]

About the Author

Ken Shane

Ken Shane lives in Narragansett, R.I. He is a freelance writer and far and away the oldest Popdose writer. In fact, he may be the oldest writer, period. He wants you to know that he generally does not share his colleagues' love for the music of the '80s, and he does not forgive them for loving it. (Ken passed away in November 2022. R.I.P. —Ed.)

View All Articles