Teddy Pendergrass dead at 59


Teddy Pendergrass, who emerged into the limelight as the powerful baritone lead of the R&B troupe Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and headed up such hits as "Turn Off the Lights" and "If You Don't Know Me By Now," died yesterday after a battle with colon cancer.

Teddy Pendergrass, live in 1979.

Theodore Pendergrass first hit the music world as the gifted drummer for the Cadillacs, the pre-natal troupe that would one day become Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. But his overpowering baritone was going to waste behind the drum kit, and with the Blue Notes he performed lead vocals on numerous number one hits before going solo in the last half of the 70s.

In 1982, the brakes on Pendergrass' Rolls Royce failed and, while in a spin out, his car struck two trees. Pendergrass' passenger escaped with minimal injury, but the accident left Pendegrass paralyzed from the waist down. He remained an active force in the music industry, releasing over a dozen albums until he announced his retirement in 2006.

Throughout his career, Pendergrass belonged to a class of R&B singers with a bent for positivity, and in their ranks, Pendergrass' singing voice, a heavy, husky baritone, and his stage presence of beaming good vibrations, made him a beloved and cherished musical presence.

In 2009, Pendergrass underwent surgery to treat colon cancer. Yesterday, he died of the disease, surrounded by friends and family. He was 59 years old.