Legendary R & B singer and songwriter Teddy Pendergrass, popular for his classic R&B hits “Turn Off the Lights” and “Love T.K.O,” died Jan. 13 at the Bryn Mawr Hospital in Philadelphia. He was 59.
His son, Teddy Pendergrass II, told the Philadelphia Inquirer his father underwent colon surgery eight months ago and was going through a “difficult recovery,” but that his father would “live on through his music.”
Born March 26, 1950, in Philadelphia, Pendergrass’ climb to superstardom began with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. In 1977, he launched a self-titled solo album, and went on to earn numerous platinum albums and a Grammy nomination.
Pendergrass ushered in a new, electric era of R&B that blended passion, raw sexuality and romance into an eclectic sub-genre of R&B music.
Donning skin-tight, multicolored pants; chestbaring blazers and a bevy of gold chains, Pendergrass laid the blueprint for today’s urban music sex symbols.
But tragedy struck the crooner in 1982 after an automobile accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. Despite the devastating turn of events, Pendergrass continued to record music and returned to the stage in 1985 for a Live Aid concert in Philadelphia.
In 1998, Pendergrass founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with spinal cord injuries.
His investment in community service and other civic issues transformed Pendergrass’ image from a magnetic ladies man to a philanthropic activist celebrated for his aplomb in the face of adversity.