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Teddy Pendergrass is Truly Blessed

To some folks life come easy,

To some life come hard,

Some keep on tryin,’

Some just get tired.

– Teddy Pendergrass, “Cold, Cold World”

Sometimes a book is so good you can’t hold on to it. That is what happened to my copy of Truly Blessed, the autobiography of singer Teddy Pendergrass. I briefly left it, in a bag with other items, in a supposedly secure place. When I reclaimed the package later, the book and a new, unopened CD, Teddy Pendergrass, were gone. Yes, someone stole the book. On the bright side, for the thief, if he chooses to read Truly Blessed, he will not be disappointed.

Pendergrass’ is one of the better biographies of contemporary people I’ve read. It chronicles not only his personal story, but changes in society and the recording industry from the late 1960s to the late ’90s. Pendergrass has also written as honestly about being disabled as anyone I’ve read.

Teddy Pendergrass’ own story began at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia on March 26, 1950. His mother, Ida, is a deeply religious woman who had prayed for a healthy child after numerous miscarriages. Theodore DeReese was her blessing. He was reared in holiness churches in North Philadelphia as much as at home, sometimes spending hours there each day. At the age of ten, the boy got a ‘call’ from God. He interpreted the message to mean he might be destined to be a preacher. But, there was another suitor for his attention. Show business was almost as endemic to his community as religion. Soon, the Uptown Theater, Philadelphia’s version of the Apollo, was attracting the clean-cut youth from down the street. Pendergrass made a rite of passage in that regard when he was 13. His mother, prepared to whip him for staying most of the night at the Uptown, decided he was too grown up for the strap. Not long after, Ida Pendergrass bought her son a set of drums. He had taken his first step on the road to becoming Teddy Pendergrass, the star.

Though he would be extremely successful by the time he was in his mid-twenties, Pendergrass did pay his dues. After dropping out of high school, he worked at any menial job he could obtain, from waffle-making to driving a truck. But, his favored occupation was as a drummer, a skill he had perfected by his late teens. He drummed for several local bands. Then, in 1969, Harold Melvin, newly blown off by the latest version of the Blue Notes, hired the group Pendergrass was drumming for as vocalists and installed Teddy as drummer for the reconstituted Blue Notes. Within a year, the drummer was out front singing lead on most of the group’s songs.

Pendergrass credits Melvin with teaching him the ins and outs of show business. However, the relationship was fraught with tension from the start. For years, Melvin insisted on calling the group Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Many a confused person thought that Pendergrass, the tall, dark, lead vocalist, a commanding presence, was Melvin. The problems extended beyond Melvin’s egoistic effort to promote himself at Pendergrass’ expense. According to Truly Blessed, Melvin could be quite abusive and kept royalties for himself instead of distributing the money among the group’s members. Though on their way up in the business, the other Blue Notes often did not have even ticket money home.

Pendergrass could not have happened into the eye of the Philadelphia music scene at a better time. Philadelphia International Records, headed by songwriters and producers, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, was poised to unseat Motown as the leading producer of successful soul music. Once Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, featuring Teddy Pendergrass, signed with PRI, the group became major beneficiaries of the PRI machine. The finest production values in the business were theirs and the best songwriters of the time vied to have the group perform their material. Their albums were eagerly embraced, producing such hits as “Wake Up Everybody,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and “Bad Luck.”

The soul groups of the 70s also benefitted from crossover success as white audiences purchased more and more soul recordings and albums succeeded on both the Rhythm and Blues and Pop charts.

About The Diva

  • freddie pendergrass

    Dear Teddy, the Pendergrass family in Greenville SC want very much to communicate with you. We are having a family reunion 8/31/07 – 9/2/07 in Greenville Sc. for details log onto Pendergrass Family. We are not trying to get anything from you we just want to fellowship and get to know all of the family better. Please contact me back.
    [Personal contact info deleted] All Pendergrasses are related.

  • Connie Morris-Moore

    Dear Teddy,

    How are you doing? I have not seen you since August 17, 2001; when you did the concerts in New York. I gots tickets for both of your shows; the Thursday nite show at the Beacon Theatre and the Friday nite show at Westbury Music Fair. I wrote you a letter and sent you a rose. I gave it to your daughter. Then I was informed that you said that I could meet you. And, I was granted the wonderful opportunity to meet you. I TOLD YOU THEM AND I AM TELLING YOU NOW, “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!! I THINK OF YOU ALL THE TIME; AND I PRAY FOR YOU”. I really think if I did not have your music to get me thorough life, I would not be where I am today. You helped me thorough the power of song! I LOVE YOU. Please keep in touch.

  • Delores Lewis

    Hello Teddy:

    Just wanted to write you to find out more information about your foundation, and also to see if you could say a few words of encourgement to my brothers. Let me explain; My brother name is freddie and he will be 50 years old this year. He was shot 25 year ago at the age of 25. He has been paralized from the waist down for the last 25 years. He has always had help and it seemed like up until now he has coped with this situation pretty well. My 25 year old brother was his caregiver for the last 2 years and has helped freddie with life in the wheel chair. Well my second brother name is Roy, he is 26 years old now. Last year Roy was shot at age 25 and paralized from the waist down. This set the whole family back so far especially Freddie. What are the chances of having 2 brothers shot and put in a wheel chair after their 25th birthday. It actually killed my mother she died of a heart attack 4 months after Roy came home in the Wheel Chair. She could not take the stress of taking care of the both of them. Living your life is almost impossible without a wheel chair accessible home. I want to know if your foundation or any other organization will help my brothers with a handicapped accessible house. I need some help with getting them in and out of the house. Please write me back . I’m in Chicago looking to relocate to Tennesse.

  • Deborah

    Iwould like for you if possible to send my e-mail address to the lady name Deloris Lewis who sent in a e-mail to you on January 10th 2008 with the mention of her two brother both at the age of 25 get shot and paralized Iwould like to commicate with her if possible thank you Deborah

  • Michael

    Hi Teddy, I live in the Uk and would love to know if you will ever perform on stage again as I would come all the way over from England to see you. I hope you are well and your health is as it can be. I have loved your music from the very early days and I love it still, it is my lifes ambition to see you perform and I hope I am not too late. Kindest regards Michael

  • Ray Ellis

    Considering he’s dead, it’s doubtful he’ll be performing anywhere.

  • Michael

    Where did you get this information from? All the sources i have seen tell me he’s very much alive!



  • Lily

    Hi Teddy, how is it going?

    Just wondering if we’d ever see you perform The Power of One live in South Africa, you know the connection…!

  • Lily

    Ray Ellis – you need help as a matter of urgency. What makes you think you’d be the first to know that? Please…, we don’t need this.

  • gloria b fluker

    Hello Teddy!
    I have been trying to contact you.
    It’s been a lifetime ago.
    Please contact me!
    Glory B

  • Michael Ludford

    Please can you tell me if Teddy receives these messages? I’ve left notes before but i never have any replies! Sorry to be a pain but i would reallllly love to know how Teddy is.
    Michael from the UK thank you.

  • El Bicho

    “Please can you tell me if Teddy receives these messages? I’ve left notes before but i never have any replies!”

    You answered your own question.

  • Michael Ludford

    Love your name El Bicho! Seems a waste of a site if that’s true what you say?
    Any suggestions on how you can mail the man?

  • El Bicho

    Thanks, ML. i would suggest you google him and see if you can learn who his agent or manager is and contact them

  • leah peadergrass

    I love are the one I have in
    my life.LOVE YOU.
    I didno’t know you where
    my uncle I LOVE YOU TEDDY

  • loyal

    would love to know how Mr Pendergrass is doing in
    2008. Love your songs Sir.

  • Lotus Gossip

    :(. Poor Teddy.

  • Pynki

    I wondered what had happened to Teddy P…..he was every school girl’s heart throb in the 1980′s. A Truly Blessed man indeed. Have my condolences.