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Archive: Remembering Teddy Pendergrass

pendergrass6.jpgPendergrass in Washington, 1976 (Photo by Ellsworth Davis/TWP)

As fans mourn the death of R&B legend Teddy Pendergrass, Click Track dug into the Washington Post archives for vintage reviews and photographs of the soul icon. And for a look at Pendergrass in recent years, check out the slide show compiled here.

(Lots of screaming fans, after the jump.)

pendergrasspromoTeddy Bear in concert (undated promotional image)

Teddy Pendergrass, In Form
By Tim Warren
December 12, 1980

Shortly after 10 o'clock last night, a tall, handsome man in a conservatively tailored aqua suit strode onto the stage at the Capital Centre. The distinctly soprano tinge of the tumultuous roar from the crowd indicated clearly that Teddy Pendergrass, the No. 1 heartthrob in rhythm and blues today, was about to begin another concert.

And what a show it was -- Pendergrass skillfully working the capacity crowd of 20,000; eliciting screams, moans and declarations of love from the predominantly female crowd that have not been heard since the heyday of James Brown.

Since leaving Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, for which he was lead singer, in the mid-'70s, Pendergrass has enjoyed enormous popular success, especially for his extended sensuous readings of ballads. The possessor of a striking, gravelly voice, Pendergrass projects an image of gentleness, passion and sensitivity -- a heady mix by any standard. He is a master showman.

Several times last night, Pendergrass had 'em stomping in the aisles, but the greatest response came during a red-hot duet with Stephanie Mills. Their reading of the ballad "Feel the Fire," complete with a cafe-like prop setting and earnest looks and caresses, simply destroyed an audience that had come for precisely this taste of ambrosia.

Thumbnail image for pendergrass1.jpgIn Washington, 1976 (Photo by Ellsworth Davis/TWP)

Teddy Pendergrass
By Geoffrey Himes
August 20, 1979

The screaming for Teddy Pendergrass began before the singer even took the Capital Centre stage last night. The slides of sexy Teddy that flashed on the white curtain started the female screams. When Pendergrass appeared in his big cowboy hat and teddy bear insignia on his sleeves, the wails picked up. When he sang "You Got What I Need" in his powerful, throaty voice -- pointing at the crowd and shaking his pelvis -- the sold-out arena went bananas.

The screams were an essential part of Pendergrass' performance and he got them with every gesture, comment and inflection. His songs are to eros as church hymns are to religion.

Pendergrass is interesting musically because his raw Southern soul voice is wrapped up in the smooth Philadelphia sound of producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. The contrasts worked best last night on a medley of old hits Pendergrass had sung with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes when the Philly sound was at its peak.

On his later songs, like "Come On and Go With Me," his sexy moan was effective. But it was disappointing to find that Pendergrass lacked the versatility to do anything but growl in the same gear all night.

pendergrass4.jpgIn Los Angeles in 1984, after the car collision that left the singer paralyzed (Photo by Craig Herndon/TWP)

Teddy Pendergrass
By Harry Sumrall
October 12, 1978

The lights lowered slowly until the stage was completely dark. Quietly at first, then growing to an ear-shattering level, the sound of thunder exploded from the loudspeakers. Smoke began to bellow from the center of the stage. Lights flashed on and off.

The sell-out crowd began shouting "Teddy, Teddy." And then, there he was, standing on a raised platform, enclosed in a cage of shimmering ribbons, dressed in a floor-length, white-sequined cape - Teddy Pendergrass!

After years of singing with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass is now the star of the show, Tuesday night, backed by a 13-piece group that was dressed in tails and that provided a solid and powerful accompaniment, Pendergrass' voice echoed across the cavernous expanse of Constitution Hall. The show included many of his own hits as well as medley of songs that he sang with the Blue Notes. He is capable of soft ballads or raucous rockers.

He is also an engaging performer. Whether dancing about, or joining the percussionist for a brief timbale solo, or seated on a stool and softly dedicating a song "for the ladies," Pendergrass revels in the spotlight that is now his alone.

By Ally Schweitzer  |  January 14, 2010; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  Archive  | Tags: Teddy Pendergrass  
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