Legendary R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass, affectionately known as Teddy Bear to his millions of adoring fans, died Wednesday evening after a long battle with colon cancer, RadarOnline.com has learned. He was 59.
The sultry singer – known for such classic songs as If You Don’t Know Me By Now, Turn Off The Lights, and Love TKO – passed away at a hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he was born.
His son Teddy, Jr. said his father had endured a rough recovery from surgery for his cancer eight months ago.
Pendergrass started in music with a group called the Cadillacs in the late 60s, and was still with the group when it merged with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in 1970.
He started as a drummer, but soon made the unlikely transition to lead singer after the group heard his powerful voice, often compared to soul sensation Barry White.
In 1972, Pendergrass’s baritone could be heard on the classic Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes song If You Don’t Know Me by Now.
The song became a Number 1 hit across the country.
After going solo, Pendergrass received several Grammy nominations, Billboard’s 1977 Pop Album New Artist Award and an American Music Award for best R&B performer of 1978.
He became known for swooning women at his ‘For Women Only’ concerts. But on March 18, 1982 in Philadelphia, it nearly all came to an end when Pendergrass was involved in a horrifying car accident. His Silver Spirit Rolls- Royce reportedly ran into a guardrail and into a bank of trees.
Penderson and a passenger in the car were trapped in the wreckage for 45 minutes. While the passenger walked away from the accident with minor injuries, Pendergrass suffered a spinal cord injury leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
He was wheelchair-bound and angry, but fought back with the help of his wife Karen and his family.
Two years after the accident — in 1984 — Pendergrass returned to the studio in his wheelchair to record an album. He went on to record other songs, and was nominated for a Grammy for Voodoo in 1993.
Before his death, Pendergrass was working on a musical documenting his life.
Overall, Teddy Pendergrass produced 33 singles and received five Grammy nominations. In the 80s, he sold more than ten million albums.
Pendergrass leaves behind three children.