Teddy Pendergrass: A Musical R&B/Soul Legend of His Time

Written by Jae Jones

Theodore DeReese “ was one of the best American R&B/soul singers and songwriters of his time. He rose to fame during the early 1970s as the lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blues Note. He eventually left the group to pursue a solo career, and became well-known for musical talent and style. Pendergrass was born on March 26, 1950 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the only child of Jesse and Ida Geraldine Pendergrass. His father left the family and was later murdered when Pendergrass was just 12 years old. Pendergrass  sang in the church choir and had dreams of one day becoming a pastor.

He attended Thomas Edison High School for Boys, but later dropped out in the 11th grade to enter the music business. His first song ever recorded was “Angel With Muddy Feet.” In 1977, Pendergrass released his self-titled album, which went platinum on the strength of the disco hit “I Don’t Love You Anymore”. He would soon follow-up with a hit single, “The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me,” which became a top 20 R&B hit.  Pendergrass’s popularity grew and soon he was known as a music sensation. It is believed that Pendergrass was on his way to being the Elvis. By the early 1980s he was the leading male artist of his day.


Pendergrass was in a serious car accident in 1982, he lost control of his Rolls-Royce, sending the car into a guard rail. The car then crossed into the opposite traffic lane and hit two trees. Pendergrass and his passenger were trapped for 45 minutes. He survived but suffered a spinal cord injury which left him a quadriplegic from the chest down. The passenger in his car only suffered minor injuries. He later returned to the stage and kept recording through the 1990s. Pendergrass died in 2009 from respiratory issues after surgery from colon cancer. He received several nominations for the American Music Awards between 1979 and 1981 for Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist, Favorite Soul/R&B Album, and Favorite Disco Artist. He won the AMA for Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist in 1979.





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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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