I believe in starting off each day with an energetic chuckle. That’s why I was heartened this morning when my esteemed blogging colleague Tom “I’ve seen more movies than you’ve had hot dinners” Sutpen made a reference on Facebook to an old Richard Pryor routine (The Wino and the Junkie) that gave me a good case of the giggles.
But then karma kicked in. I learned of the passing of the legendary R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass, who’s shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 59. What a truly sad thing to happen to an immensely talented performer whose existence here on the corporeal plain brought him equal parts fame…and tragedy.
Pendergrass’ musical career began with the Cadillacs; he played drums for the group until they merged with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes—whose titled leader made Teddy the aggregation’s lead singer after Pendergrass jumped from the rear of the stage during one performance and began singing his heart out. The Blue Notes, who began charting songs in 1972 on the CBS subsidiary Philadelphia International Records (under the supervision of the equally legendary Kenneth Gamble and Leon A. Huff), racked up an impressive number of hits that included Bad Luck and Wake Up Everybody—culminating in the two-million selling classic If You Don’t Know Me By Now. But personality conflicts between Pendergrass and Melvin soon erupted, and Teddy left the group in 1977 for a solo career, soon spawning Top 40 hits like Close the Door and Two Hearts (a duet with Stephanie Mills).
In March 1982, Pendergrass was driving around in the
R.I.P, Mr. Pendergrass. You will be missed…particularly if I hear If You Don’t Know Me By Now on a jukebox near me.