Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010

Teddy Pendergrass dies aged 59

Teddy Pendergrass
Teddy Pendergrass performed a concert tour in 2001

Soul singer Teddy Pendergrass has died at the age of 59 following "a difficult recovery" from colon cancer surgery, his son has told the AP news agency.

Teddy Pendergrass II said his father had died at a hospital in Philadelphia.

He was paralysed from the waist down in a 1982 car accident. In 2001, he went on his first tour since the accident.

Pendergrass enjoyed early success with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, whose hits included If You Don't Know Me By Now, before going solo in 1976.

He was the first black male singer to record five consecutive multi-platinum albums in the US.

Pendergrass, who has used a wheelchair since his accident, made a return to live performance at the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia in July 1985.

"To all his fans who loved his music, thank you," his son said.

"He will live on through his music."

Sex symbol

As lead singer with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Pendergrass had his first US hit with I Miss You in 1972.

A string of successful singles in the US, as well as the UK followed, including If You Don't Know Me By Now, later covered by acts including Simply Red, and Don't Leave Me This Way - also a hit for Thelma Houston in 1976 and The Communards in 1986.

Valerie Simpson, Teddy Pendergrass and Nicholas Ashford
Pendergrass, centre, performed at Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985

He quit the band in 1975 and went on to enjoy greater fame as a solo singer known for his soulful ballads. His hits included Love TKO, Close The Door and Turn Off The Lights.

Pendergrass became something of a sex symbol attracting the adulation of enthusiastic young women at his concerts.

Leon Huff, of production and songwriting duo Gamble and Huff - who teamed up with Pendergrass on some of his biggest hits - said he watched Pendergrass's first solo gig and "saw the coming of a superstar".

"When Teddy walked out on the stage, he didn't even open his mouth and the place went crazy with screaming females," he told Philadelphia radio station WDAS.

"He was just so dynamic and, when he started singing, he just blew them away."

'Smooth sound'

After suffering a spinal cord injury in 1982, Pendergrass spent six months in hospital before returning to the studio the following year to record the album Love Language.

He never showed me that he was angry at all about his accident. In fact, he was very courageous
Record producer Kenny Gamble

Huff's partner Kenny Gamble paid tribute to "a great baritone singer" with "a real smooth sound".

"He had about 10 platinum albums in a row so he was a very, very successful recording artist and a performing artist," Gamble said.

"He had a tremendous career ahead of him and the accident sort of got in the way of many of those plans."

He added: "He never showed me that he was angry at all about his accident. In fact, he was very courageous."

Pendergrass performed his first solo live dates in almost 20 years in May 2001 in Atlantic City, which were followed by concerts all over the US.

In 2006, Pendergrass told the BBC the tour took an enormous effort.

He was the background to all my canoodling when I was a teenager
Chris, Northampton

"For a start, I had to have a group of people with me to look after my health needs," he said.

"But if you add to that the problems of transporting a wheelchair from airport to airport, it was all just too much effort."

He later founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance to help people with spinal cord injuries "achieve their maximum potential in areas of education, employment, housing, productivity and overall independence".

He is survived by his wife, his son, two daughters, his mother and nine grandchildren.

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