Teddy Pendergrass the only child of Jesse and Ida Pendergrass was born on March 26, 1950, in Philadelphia. He first sang in church at 2, was ordained a minister at 10 learning to sing and play the drums as a junior deacon of his church.
Teddy found fame as the lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes with hits: Wake Up Everybody, If You Don’t Know Me by Now, The Love I Lost, and Don’t Leave Me This Way subsequently covered by Thelma Houston in 1977 and the Communards in 1986. Houston’s version of the song became widely known for its association with the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s
However, the proceeds from the Blue Notes’ success were not shared equally; on tour, Melvin enjoyed luxury accommodation while the other group members stayed in cheap motels. In 1976 Teddy quit the Blue Notes. Melvin responded by threatening the singer with bodily harm.
Teddy’s voice has been described as deep, rich warm and fuzzy, like someone hugging your body. Often referred to as “black Elvis” Teddy was tall, handsome and stylish; women found him irresistible, fathering three children by two different women, in the same year.
Shep Gordon offered to manage Teddy following a drug-off to see who could handle their drugs better; Teddy … collapsed after two days, when he came to, he and Gordon shook hands, and Gordon became his manager.
At Gordon’s insistence, Teddy began his infamous “Ladies Only” concerts with his next three albums going gold or platinum. Teddy received several Grammy nominations during 1977 and 1978, Billboard’s 1977 Pop Album New Artist Award, an American Music Award for best R&B performer of 1978, and awards from Ebony magazine and the NAACP.
In 1982 following a car accident Teddy was left paraplegic however he continued to successfully record. He formed the non-profit Teddy Pendergrass Alliance in 1998 to advocate for those with spinal cord injuries
Teddy suffered complications following colon cancer surgery dying on January 13, 2010. Following Teddy’s death, probate of his entire estate was granted to his wife, Joan.
However, his son Teddy Jr denied the legitimacy of the Will — an amendment of an earlier document naming him as his father’s sole beneficiary – claiming that his father lacked the capacity make such a decision and that it had been signed by Joan, not Teddy.
Teddy Jr. claimed he possessed the sole copy of his father’s legitimate will.
Montgomery County Pennsylvania Orphans Court, declared the Will produced by Teddy Jr. as fake, finding that his testimony about the will was “wholly lacking in credibility,” similarly the notary public, who, certified the Will and testified to its authenticity in court — further complicated the $850,000 six-year-long legal battle.
However, the conflict exacerbated animosity among family members with relatives and friends picking sides during the case. Joan commenced an action against Teddy Jr and his lawyers to recover costs.