Tag Archives: Leon Huff

Happy Birthday Teddy Bear

3Music is as much a part of black history as any part of our history. Therefore, today I want to salute Black History Month by paying homage to the ghost of the greats who made a huge impact on the world and the lives of us who lived it. Today, artists have one or two hits and they are called legends. I find this laughable because, frankly, there is no body of work, in most cases, to support the label or prove worthy of attention. Black artists and icons have mastered their craft and created genres that will last forever.

NO ONE did it better than the man we affectionately call “Teddy” – Theodore Pendergrass – one of the greatest R&B singer and songwriter of our time. Teddy rose to fame as lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in the early 1970s prior to his hugely successful solo career at the end of the decade. In a horrible twist of fate, in 1982, Teddy was severely injured in an auto accident resulting in his being paralyzed from the chest down. After his injury, he founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, a foundation that helps those with spinal cord injuries.

Teddy was not unlike most R&B singers he sang often at church and dreamed of being a pastor being ordained as a minster at the age of 10. In his early career, he sang with the Edison Mastersingers and dropped out of school in the eleventh grade to pursue the music business, recording his first song “Angel With Muddy Feet.” The recording, however, was not a commercial success.

It was the result of a chance encounter with the Blue Notes’ founder, Harold Melvin, who convinced Pendergrass to play drums in the group. Then fate stepped in and during a performance Teddy began singing along, and Melvin, impressed by his vocals, made him the lead singer. Before Pendergrass joined the group, the Blue Notes had struggled to find success. That all changed when they landed a recording deal with Philadelphia International Records in 1971, thus beginning Teddy’s successful collaboration with label founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. From this point there was no turning back.

I will briefly list a few of Teddy’s most memorable hits that took him high in the stratosphere starting with his self-titled album, which went platinum on the strength of the disco hit, “I Don’t Love You Anymore.” Its follow-up single, “The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me,” became a top 20 R&B hit. It was quickly followed by Life Is a Song Worth Singing. That album was even more successful with its singles including “Only You” and “Close the Door.”

2The disco single, “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose” was popular in dance clubs and after that came two more successes, Teddy and the live release, Live Coast to Coast. Hits off Teddy included “Come and Go With Me” and “Turn Off The Lights.” This was followed by the album, “TP” that included his signature song, “Love TKO” and “Is It Still Good to You.” Between 1977 and 19981, Teddy landed five consecutive platinum albums, which was a then-record setting number for a rhythm and blues artist.

Teddy’s popularity became so massive at the end of 1977 with sold-out audiences packing his shows; his manager soon noticed that a huge number of his audience consisted of women of all races. They devised a plan for his next tour to play to just female audiences, starting a trend that continues today called “women’s only concerts.”

With five platinum albums and two gold albums, Teddy was on his way to be what the media was calling him, “the black Elvis” not only in terms of his crossover popularity but also due to him buying a mansion akin to Elvis’ Graceland, located just outside of his hometown of Philadelphia. By early 1982, Pendergrass was the leading R&B male artist of his day usurping competition including closest rivals Marvin Gaye and Barry White.

2Then tragedy struck on the night of March 18, 1982, in the East Falls section of Philadelphia on Lincoln Drive near Rittenhouse Street, Teddy was involved in an automobile accident. He lost control of his Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit – the car hit a guard rail, crossed into the opposite traffic lane, and hit two trees and was trapped in the wreckage for 45 minutes; leaving him a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down.

He kept recording through the 1990s in spite of being wheelchair bond and give the world his final hit in 1994, which was a hip-hop leaning “Believe in Love”. His most lasting memory for the world was “Wake Up Everybody” a tune that has been covered by a diverse range of acts from Simply Red, Patti LaBelle, Babyface, Little Brother, Kanye West, Cam’ron, Twista, Tyrese Gibson, DMX, 9th Wonder, and DJ Green Lantern.

Sadly, on January 13, 2010, the man we knew as “Teddy” left us to sing with the angels. I’ll tell you, and if you knew Teddy, the world will never be the same without his uniquely profound soulful voice. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Patti LaBelle

1-As I thought about a woman to give great praise and highlight during this month dedicated to great women and their achievements. My choice was Patricia Edwards better known to the world as Patti LaBelle or to those who love her as “Miss Patti”. She is renowned as a Grammy Award winning recording artist, author, and actress with over 50 years in the music industry. Miss Patti spent 16 years as lead singer of Patti Labelle and the Bluebells a group that changed their name to “Labelle” in the early 1970s and released the iconic song “Lady Marmalade”.

She started a solo career shortly after the group disbanded in 1977 becoming an established crossover success with “On My Own”, “If You Asked Me To”, “Stir It Up”, and the hit “New Attitude”. She has also recorded huge R&B ballads; “You Are My Friend”, “If Only You Knew”, and “Love, Need and Want You”.

Miss Patti possesses the vocal range far greater than any soprano. Her musical legacy and influence, she has rewarded her with inductions into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Apollo Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. The World Music Awards presented her with the prestigious Legend Award. She has sold over 50 million records worldwide.

She released her self-titled album in 1977 to critical success, with the highlights being the dance singles “Joy To Have Your Love” and “Dan Swit Me”, and the pop-R&B ballad “You are My Friend”, a song she and her husband co‑wrote. Her subsequent follow-ups, however, 1978s “Tasty”, 1979s “It’s Alright with Me”, and 1980s “released”, failed to be as successful. Though well-established in some circles, LaBelle never followed her live performance success with hit records, which was often the case with the Bluebelles. In 1981, she was switched to Philadelphia International Records.

Miss Patti found success outside of music, performing on Broadway, TV, and movies. Her first film role was “A Soldier’s Story” and later issued for the soundtrack of Beverly Hills Cop. She garnered headlines in 1985 for her show-stopping performances, first at Motown Returns to the Apollo where she opened the show with Joe Cocker singing “You Are So Beautiful” where she received high praise. In the same show, she engaged in the so-called “infamous mic toss” between her and Dianna Ross during the show’s finale “I Want to Know What Love Is”. In fact, most views thought she stole the show.

A longtime resident of Philadelphia married Armstead Edwards, who had one child and tow adopted boys who were the children of their next-door neighbor after their mother died of cancer. Following the death of her youngest sister Jackie Padgett, the couple raised Padgett’s teenage children. In 2000, the couple announced their separation. Their divorce was finalized in 2003.

As lead singer of the legendary group Labelle, Patti LaBelle has been called one of the pioneers of the disco movement due to singles such as “Lady Marmalade” and “Messin’ With My Mind”. In turn, “Lady Marmalade” has been also called one of the first mainstream disco hits. Rolling Stones Magazine includes LaBelle in its 100 Greatest Singers List, citing her as an influencing factor to “generations of soul singers” including Luther Vandross, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige and Christina Aguilera.Other singers who have been inspired by Patti LaBelle are Ashford & Simpson, Celine Dion, Donna Summer, Jennifer Hudson, Jody Watley, Macy Gray, Mariah Carey, Martha Wash, Paula Abdul, Fantasia Barrino, Whitney Houston, and Ariana Grande as well as Oleta Adams, and Regina Belle.

I could go on for days praising this woman for her longevity and accomplishments but space does not allow it. But, if you have ever seen this show-stopping songstress, I am sure you will agree. As the old adage says, she is one in a million, rather I would say she is one who only appears once in a lifetime. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


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