It’s crazy to think that in the past seven or eight years, we’ve lost so many influential male soul singers: Barry White, Rick James, Luther Vandross, Gerald LeVert and Michael Jackson have all left us in the fairly recent past, and just last night, it was learned that the legendary Teddy Pendergrass passed away at the age of 59.
Teddy was influential in several ways. As a vocalist, he brought some serious fire and brimstone to soul music. It figures that the man was a child preacher. If you listen to some of his early hits with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes-“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” jumps out immediately-that man was testifyin’. He was definitely one of the genre’s most distinctive voices. He was also soul music’s first real unadulterated sex symbol-hosting “For Women Only” concerts and recording songs that spoke directly to his female audience. Remember the Eddie Murphy bit in “Delirious” about Teddy?
Teddy was also one of the first male R&B superstars-he was the first male soul singer to have his first four albums go Platinum. Despite never having a big pop hit as a solo artist, he was a big enough name to co-host the American Music Awards back in 1981. His career was temporarily halted by an auto accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down, but he returned to recording in 1984 and remained a fixture on the R&B charts for another decade-scoring two #1 hits during that period.
It seems that with each superstar we lose, the golden era of soul music fades further and further away. Thanks for the music, T.P. You’ll be missed.