R&b superstar Teddy Pendergrass was an ordained minister at the age of 10, a seasoned drummer, and then a charismatic singer who rose from the ranks of early ’70s Philadelphia soul and kept his career moving right up until his untimely death this week at 59 from cancer. Pendergrass’s crippling injury in a car accident way, way, way back in 1982 might have curtailed his live performances, but it in no way stopped his singing career.
Since I deeply love the works of the wildly underrated filmmaker Alan Rudolph, I’ll of course point out that Pendergrass supplied the sexy songs for Rudolph’s “turning point” picture, Choose Me (1984). The opening credits for the film (sporting that wonderfully dated yet still awesome “neon” Eighties look) have been posted to YT by a Spanish fan (thus the dubbed lines of dialogue at the very end of the clip):
For most AM radio fans, Pendergrass will forever be best known for his terrific work as a lead vocalist for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Here they are back in 1972, doing their biggest hit “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” on (what else?) Soul Train:
And here is arguably the group’s most timely (and timeless) song, the Marvin Gaye-esque “Wake Up Everybody” from 1975. It might not quite be “What’s Going On,” but it stands as a rather conscious “answer song” to “Let It Be” that urges the listener to change the world: