Teddy

When you’re old, you begin to read obits and relate to the ages of the dead. Like this from this morning: the great Teddy Pendergrass dead at 59 of colon cancer.

If you are of a certain age, it also gives you mortality rumbles because Teddy was once the GO–TO music for bumbling seductions. Ask anyone of the much maligned 70’s generation who was/is at an elevated level of A) musical knowledge and taste and B) interest in the fairer sex, and "Turn Off The Lights,” (a Gamble/Huff tune) and “Love T.K.O.”(a tune Leon Huff co-wrote) were the gold standard. They were so sexy that even the firmest objections and tightest mental chastity belts loosened when they were playing. As adjectives go, “Steamy” was invented for Teddy. Gracias Senor!

And then there was that time when the same girlfriend, like all women between 12 and 35 in those days,wanted to see Teddy. In the biblical sense. And you went along, unsuspecting fool, unaware that the man was gonna grind his hips, slowly lose all his clothing and sing directly to every woman within like 20 feet of the stage. No, there were no Teddy Pendergrass gigs with seats. Or at least the real fans never thought of sitting in them. They were called “Ladies Only” concerts and it was the first time I’d ever seen a shower of panties and bras at a concert. It was like being at Macys on 34th street in the womens underwear department on a Saturday afternoon during the spring sale. We’re talking a sky full of everything from thongs to boxers. Lace rubber bands to steel cable DD cups. All hurled toward Teddy who just smiled and kept on alluring them with that big, conspiratorial, “you want to get naked with me” voice of his. I’ve really never been the same since that night. Being in the middle of the Beatles screaming/crying thing, which by 1975 had evolved into something like werewolves who wanted to eat (?) Teddy, was unforgettable. It was like 10,000 chicks in a sexualized trance. But only for Teddy. He was like flames. In a 70’s polyester, wide–lapel suit. And he was a Philly Guy. One whose car wreck, which put him in a wheelchair, remains a source of controversy. Women, drugs, a Rolls——it was a classic Philly story. And before that, let’s not forget the Blue Notes where Teddy was the Big Dog. “The Love I Lost.” It’s gonna get better than that—how? And of course, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” Very likely the best Philly Soul ballad, if not best tune among all the magic that Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff conjured back in those days. And Teddy, the poor man survived an odd, cruel twist of fate being paralyzed from the waist down (!) since 1982. What a voice and what a presence. The man owned the stage. And my girlfriend. Talk about humbling.

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COMMENTS
Greg's picture

Thanks for the recollections. Ironic indeed.

michael barr's picture

Hey Robby, Was looking at the 20 year reunion book, and read your entry. Thought I would try to find you online. Nothing on Facebook or People Search. So we typed in where you work. Thought it might be nice to get in touch. Contact me at the above e-mail. Remember the pen rocket in 4th grade? Mike Barr

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