My second phoner with Mr. Pendergrass we discussed the success of his last release, his book, his Christmas album – his greatest hits album – he was ecstatic to be one among the many in entertainment to even have a greatest hits. He was happy that a new generation of people were going to be able to hear a collection of music from the 70s that would hopefully enrich them.
He spoke of working with young people and his son, and how he encourages them and their aspirations to be successful in music.
Known as “Pop-Pop” to his grandchildren, Mr. Pendergrass was definitely at a content point in his life when we spoke — a man happy with his accomplishments and confident in his legacy. He was reluctant to speak of the evolution of his journey from member of Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes to solo artist. It apparently was not a smooth ride during his time with the band, but he was respectful and didn’t want to speak ill of his experience. At the same time, he encourages to read his book, so perhaps there’s more insight there. He did say that his decision to leave the group was a matter of “timing.” In a word, “timing” was certainly the “it factor” for Teddy, as his solo career soared!!! Among some of his favorite performances, he expressed a sentiment for the hits “Be For Real,” “Bad Luck,” “Wake Up Everybody.” It was after “Wake Up Everybody,” that he struck out as a solo talent. There’s a tone in Mr. Pendergrass’ voice when speaks about “Wake Up Everybody” towards the end of the interview. It’s as if that was when an aspect of himself woke up to what made him a legend. I have to say, for me, while I’m ecstatic that I had the fortune to speak with Mr. Pendergrass once, let alone twice – listening back to it, not one of my favorites. There’s a personable aspect that’s lacking when doing an interview on the phone as opposed to in person. However he did say “You were very good, thank you,” to me at the end of the session.
THANK YOU TEDDY PENDERGRASS… You have brought “JOY” to a “COLD, COLD WORLD.” Every day that I “GET UP, GET DOWN, GET FUNKY, GET LOOSE,” I do my best to “WAKE UP EVERYBODY” and encourage folks to “BE FOR REAL,” especially those with “BAD LUCK.” “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” are words I’ve only heard from you, and I now know what you mean by a “LOVE T.K.O.” Thanks to the spirit of your music, I don’t have to wonder “WHERE ARE ALL MY FRIENDS.” When I “CLOSE THE DOOR” at night and “TURN OFF THE LIGHTS,” I’m grateful to have one to hold tight and site “YOU’RE MY LATEST, MY GREATEST INSPIRATION.”
On June 5, 2009, Pendergrass underwent successful surgery for colon cancer and recovered to return home. A few weeks later he returned to the hospital with respiratory issues. After seven months, he died of respiratory failure on January 13, 2010, at age 59 with wife Joan by his side, while hospitalized at Bryn Mawr Hospital in suburban Philadelphia. Teddy is survived by his mother Ida, wife Joan, three children; Tisha, Teddy II, LaDonna, stepdaughters Sherilla Leftrade, Jessica Avila and four grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.