TEDDY PENDERGRASS / “Teddy Pendergrass Mixtape”
I could not help taking a cynical view. My job was to get an interview, I ended up riding backseat shotgun as Teddy and his road manager were driven around to three or four New Orleans radio stations to help promote an upcoming concert at the Saenger Theatre, a major downtown venue back in the day. Teddy was doing his thing and it was a pre-arranged “drop in” during which Teddy delivered roses to the swooning secretaries, while the male disc jockeys either gave a knowing smile before conducting the on-air interview, or else they looked on with bored amusement at the effect Teddy had on the female workers, regardless of the age or marital status of the ladies. But, hey, that was Teddy’s claim to fame and he didn’t intend to disappoint. The back seat of the limousine was a different story. Teddy was patient in responding to my questions and, if my perception was right and my memory doesn’t fail me, Teddy was a little bored with the routine. Undoubtedly, it was the same M. O. everywhere he went. I guess florists were pleased, certainly the sisters were pleased, he worked hard at being charming even though it may all have been just another day at the office for Mr. Pendergrass. Regardless of what his daily grind was like, one thing for sure: when he was recording, Teddy was singing his heart out (or his ass off, depending on how you look at it). When I started putting this Mixtape together, once again I had to check myself. I remember Teddy. Remember meeting him and talking to him. Remember hearing him all over the radio. Did not buy many of his albums back when they first came out. Indeed, when I first heard that he had died, I resisted the obvious move of doing a Teddy tribute. I mean a handful of syrupy love songs would only be a bore. Then too once Haiti happened I completely shelved the Teddy idea until, as often happens with BoL, by happenstance I listened to a Teddy tribute on the internet—actually, I should say I started to listen because the DJ had included a number of raps that sampled Teddy and before I knew it I was saying to myself: “Hey doofus, get on your J., Teddy is smoking.” So now we’ve got over two hours of Philly born and bred Theodore DeReese Pendergrass, Sr. (March 26, 1950 – January 13, 2010) and it could easily have been longer. Yall probably know Mr. Pendergrass’ pedigree; know, how he started out as a drummer and then one day somebody heard him singing to himself, and then he joined Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. Early on he was recognized as the featured singer even though he wasn’t the leader of the group. And then there was a tug of egos, Teddy’s name got major recognition on the Blue Notes album covers and, of course, Teddy eventually went solo, and then his career took off big time. During his heyday, the late-seventies and early eighties, Teddy was selling more records than any other male, R&B solo artist. He had an unmatched run of five consecutive multi-platinum albums. And then in 1982, Teddy was in an automobile accident that left him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. He worked hard at physical therapy and after a few years was even able to resume recording. And though he never again had major hits, his sales were respectable and his grit was inspiring. Once I began gathering and sequencing the songs, that’s when I came to a really greater appreciation of Teddy Pendergrass, especially those tracks with Harold Melvin, when Teddy would bogart the mic and just flat out, out-sing the rest of the crew, plus the songs were more than romantic schmaltz. The Gamble & Huff Philly International crew came up with some major songs—major in how they sounded and major in their message. Indeed, one of the Philly soul slogans was “a message in the music.” Teddy’s solo recordings are more on the romantic, sexy side of the equation but even then there were some that were very meaningful. And don’t even begin to consider the closing track on the Mixtape, “My Father’s Child,” which is deep as any other pop/R&B song of its era, or any other era for that matter. So, Teddy, I got fooled by what I saw and didn’t pay enough attention to what I would have heard if I had listened closely to you. Sometimes we write off artists just because they’re popular or sexy or have a gimmick (can you do the “twist” with Chubby Checker?). Plus, Teddy had that rugged, bearded, black male thing going—in spades (hell, he was the ace of spades). Shaft existed on the silver screen but you could go to a Teddy Pendergrass concert and see, hear, and if you were extremely lucky, you might even get to touch the hem… yall know what I’m saying. But you know in a sort of perverse way, Teddy’s image too often overshadowed his talent. Teddy, I apologize for under-estimating you. I know it’s too late for you to hear this in this world, still, I think it’s important to ‘fess up. Teddy Pendergrass was truly one of the great ones in a long line of great black baritones: think Billy Eckstine or Joe Williams, Arthur Prysock and in later years Isaac Hayes and big Barry White… Teddy is deep in the tradition. He made a major contribution, is a major link in our male vocal music legacy. Teddy Pendergrass. Thank you brother. Thank you. Thank. You. —Kalamu ya Salaam P.S. I’ve included the half-hour DJ Wonder Teddy Pendergrass Tribute in the jukebox. If you like it, you can go here and download your own copy. Teddy Pendergrass Mixtape Playlist 01 “Wake up Everybody” - The Essential Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes 02 “Be For Real” - The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 03 “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” - The Essential Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes 04 “I Miss You” - The Essential Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes 05 “The Love I Lost” - The Essential Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes 06 “Hope That We Can Be” - The Essential Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes 07 “Bad Luck” - The Essential Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes 08 “I Don't Love You Anymore” – The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 09 “Come Go With Me” - The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 10 “Can’t We Try” - The Love Songs Collection 11 “The Whole Town's Laughing At Me” - The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 12 “I Can't Live Without Your Love” - The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 13 “I'll Never See Heaven Again” - The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 14 “And If I Had” - The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 15 “When Somebody Loves You Back” - The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 16 “Voodoo” – A Little More Magic 17 “Love TKO” - The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 18 “Easy, Easy, Got To Take It Easy” - Teddy Pendergrass/Life Is a Song Worth Singing 19 “Close The Door” - The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 20 “Turn Off The Lights” - The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 21 “Is It Still Good To You” - The Love Songs Collection 22 “You're My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration” - The Essential 3.0 Teddy Pendergrass 23 “Come Go With Me (Interface Mix)” - Somebody Loves You Back 24 “When Somebody Loves You Back (remix)” - Somebody Loves You Back 25 “Cold Cold World” - Teddy Pendergrass/Life Is a Song Worth Singing 26 “My Fathers Child” - A Little More Magic
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