Teddy Pendergrass

Minister. High school dropout. Drummer. Multi-platinum recording artist. Quadriplegic. All of these words describe Teddy Pendergrass, none of them define him.

Eager to get out of town, I Google “Events in Philadelphia.” I Am Who I Am, The Life and Legacy of Teddy Pendergrass appears in the search results and I am in the car heading to the city of Brotherly Love.

The fundraiser at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, chronicles the R&B crooner’s life with a traveling exhibit, gala and film screening. Teddy Pendergrass emerged in the 1970s as the lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. His popularity exploded when he went solo and enraptured fans with his rich, soulful voice. In 1982, he was paralyzed from a devastating car accident.

I attend the movie Close the Door: Live, Teddy’s 1979 performance at the Los Angeles Greek Theatre. The remastered footage shows his amazing command of the nearly all-woman crowd (I saw two men in the audience). His sultry voice and sex appeal are undeniable. He starts the show sporting a cowboy hat and ends blowing out candles. Clearly orchestrated to tell a story in song, one segment goes from Come Go with Me to Close the Door to Turn Off the Lights. Even people viewing the movie sing along as if they are concertgoers.

teddy pendergrass tid bits

The film is followed by a panel discussion of Teddy’s life by friends and industry experts. Moderated by Reel Black’s Mike Dennis, speakers include:

  • Patty Jackson, radio personality from Philadelphia’s WDAS radio
  • Jerry Cummings, former member of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
  • Bill Jolley, Teddy Pendergrass’ former music director
  • Carvin Haggins, Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer

The conversation was lighthearted at times with participants responding to questions such as, “How many panties were thrown?” Teddy Pendergrass’ shows were infamous for women throwing stuffed teddy bears and undergarments on stage. In case you’re wondering, the answer is…

lyricfancy at Life and Legacy of Teddy Pendergrass Discussion

Panel members discuss Teddy Pendergrass concerts at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 29, 2016

Jerry speaks of how Teddy told him first that Teddy was leaving their group, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. He also shares how Teddy was so enamored with Joan, who later became Teddy’s wife. Bill talks of how he collaborated with the singer to rearrange songs to better suit him performing in a wheelchair.

The event concludes with panelists sharing their favorite Teddy Pendergrass songs. Joan Pendergrass passionately talks about the initiatives of the foundation and how she continues to fall in love with Teddy years after his passing.

lyricfancy at Life and Legacy of Teddy Pendergrass

Joan Pendergrass shares thoughts about her late husband at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 29, 2016

I learned so much about the man behind the music. If you’re unfamiliar with Teddy’s music, here are a few tracks to whet your appetite.


This post contains an affiliate link, which means I receive a few pennies if you make a purchase.  🙂  No cost to you.

For more information on the organizations involved with this event, please visit their websites:

Reel Black, www.reelblack.com

Joan and Teddy Pendergrass Foundation, teddypendergrassofficial.com

African American Museum in Philadelphia, www.aampmuseum.org

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