NEW YORK – Legendary singer, dead after a long illness at age 59, spent his last 28 years in a wheelchair, left to wonder what life might have been like had a car crash not completely altered his destiny.
Before the crash, Pendergrass was one of the most electric and successful figures in music. He established a new era of R&B with an explosive, raw voice that symbolized masculinity, passion and the joys and sorrow of romance in songs such as "Close the Door," "It Don't Hurt Now," "Love T.K.O." and other hits that have since become
He was an international superstar and sex symbol. His career was at its apex — and still climbing.
Friend and longtime collaborator Kenny Gamble, of
the renowned production duo Gamble & Huff, teamed with Pendergrass on his biggest hits and recalled how the singer was even working on a movie.
"He had about 10 platinum albums in a row, so he was a very, very successful recording artist and as a performing artist," Gamble said Thursday. "He had a tremendous career ahead of him, and the accident sort of got in the way of many of those plans."
Pendergrass, who was born in
Philadelphia in 1950, suffered a spinal cord injury in a 1982 car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down — still able to sing but without his signature power. The image of the strong, virile lover was replaced with one that drew sympathy.
But instead of becoming bitter or depressed, Pendergrass created a new identity — that as a role model, Gamble said.
"He never showed me that he was angry at all about his accident," Gamble said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "In fact, he was very courageous."
Pendergrass died Wednesday in suburban Philadelphia, where he had been hospitalized for months.
The singer's son, Teddy Pendergrass II, said his father underwent colon cancer surgery eight months ago and had "a difficult recovery."
"To all his fans who loved his music, thank you," his son said. "He will live on through his music."
"Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts and Monte Carlo's
And El Dorado's I'm waking up out of my slumber feeling like Ralo
So follow it's showtime at the Apollo
Minus the Kiki Shepard what about a ho in a leopard-print
Teddy Pendergrass cooler than Freddie Jackson
Sippin a milkshake in a snowstorm
Left my throat warm in the dorm room at the AU
We blew hay too, athletes might take you
But you must have me mistaken with them statements that you make
Cause...." - So Fresh So Clean - Outkast