The time was 1980. I was a junior at Uniondale High School. Though I was shy and insecure, I did go to a few house parties on the weekend. I’d try and fail to ask the girls for a dance. The deejays would slow the pace down and all of the couples would walk on the dance floor for a slow jam.
It was there that my official anthem would be played, “Love T.K.O.” Listening to the lyrics of the song was like listening to my own life story. The singer of the song lost his life to colon cancer today.
R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass was one of the most electrifying singers in R&B music. He died after a long illness at his home in suburban Philadelphia. He was 59 years old.
Pendergrass started his singing career in his church at the age of 2 and became an ordained minister at the age of 10. Later in life, he joined Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes as a drummer and eventually became their lead singer.
The group hit it big in the mid-70’s with the help of the renowned duo, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff with songs such as “The Love I Lost”, “Bad Luck” and biggest hit, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”. He left the group in 1977 for a solo career.
Pendergrass’ music bordered on eroticism, without the use of explicit lyrics or coarse language, but through the raw emotion in his voice. “Turn Off the Lights” was a tune that perhaps best represented the many moods of Pendergrass — tender and coaxing yet strong as the song reaches its climax. Comedian Eddie Murphy jokingly replied in his 1983 Delirious routine that Teddy Pendergrass’ voice was able to ‘scare the females into liking him’.
He also hit it big with the tracks “Close the Door,” “It Don’t Hurt Now,” & “Love T.K.O.”. He was on top of the music world until a car crash in 1982. Pendergrass suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Though debilitated, he was still able to sing, but without his signature power. Pendergrass was nominated for Grammy awards in 1979, 1982, 1989, 1992 & 1994. After his injury, the entertainer founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, a foundation which helps those with spinal cord injuries.
Smooth Jazz and More will be playing many of Teddy Pendergrass’ greatest hits all during the month of January to commemorate his passing.