The Essential Teddy Pendergrass

The Essential Teddy Pendergrass

After fronting Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes through a series of hits that included “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” and “I Miss You,” Teddy Pendergrass quit the group in 1976 and re-emerged as a self-styled ladies’ man who would lead Gamble & Huff’s venerable Philadelphia International label into the Eighties. By 1977, the careers of Philly figureheads like The O’Jays and The Spinners were beginning to wane, but Pendergrass’s voice provided Gamble and Huff with new inspiration. For years, the Philly sound had been marked by pillowy vocalists (Al Green, Marvin Gaye) with their smooth vocal styles. Deep in tone and rough around the edges, Pendergrass’ voice brought unadulterated masculinity back into R&B without sacrificing an inch of vulnerability. The results were electrifying. Pendergrass reinvented the slow jam, taking it not only into the bedroom but under the sheets with songs like “Feel the Fire,” “Close the Door,” “It’s Time For Love,” and “Turn Off the Lights.” Of course, Pendergrass could also start the party and he brought a sense of depth to disco songs like “I Don’t Love You Anymore” and “Life Is A Song Worth Singing.” However, his defining moment is the smoldering “Love T.K.O.,” perhaps the most haunting, intoxicating break-up song ever recorded.

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