The late Teddy Pendergrass was born on the 26th March 1950 and was the first solo male black artist to achieve five consecutive multi-platinum albums during his five-year reign at Philadelphia International Records (PIR) as a solo artist.
Gamble and Huff, the owners of PIR, made Teddy Pendergrass into an international super-star with a large multi-racial female fan base across the globe. In addition, Teddy was one of the few black male artists to place number ones on the Billboard R&B and Soul singles chart listings in over three decades.
The first one was “Close the Door” which achieved the number one position on 8th July 1978 (2 weeks). The single was taken from his second studio album entitled “Life Is A Song Worth Singing”, which peaked at number one, week ending 19th August 1078 on the Billboard Soul Album Chart listings for two weeks, in the process selling over two million plus copies. Teddy’s second album was also to be certified multi-platinum by the RIAA, with the million selling single “Close The Door”. Also the first solo album of his career achieved the number 5 position in 1977 on the Billboard Soul Album Chart and also achieved multi-platinum status, simply entitled “Teddy Pendergrass”.
Before Pendergrass achieved his second number one single during the 1980s, Teddy’s third studio album achieved greater success by peaking at number 5 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart Listings and was in the Top Ten for several weeks. He did better on the Billboard Soul Album Chart listing by taking the number one position, for week ending 4th August 1979, and staying at the summit for 4 weeks. This was the best showing of his career, out-selling the first two solo albums, bringing the total of all three studio albums to approximately 7 million units sold in North America
During this period, Teddy was innovative and creative, taking a
calculated risk. He trod the path that others were afraid to adventure along, with the support of Alive Entertainment Management (an artist management company based in Los Angeles, under the leadership of Shep Gordon). Then, Teddy was the only known Black Artist to successfully promote and hold a female -only concert. At the same time as Teddy was signed to Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records label, he was involved in the development a brand of “Teddy Bear” jeans for women customers only, which were sold in several shops across America and on his concert tour in America. Teddy formed his own company, Teddy Bear Productions Inc, of which he was chairman and president. Teddy was a great visionary and forerunner of corporate branding, long before such artists as Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé developed their own brands.
On the strength of his previous studio albums and at the height of his popularity, Teddy entered the 1980s with a bang, achieving more multi-platinum selling albums. Two multi-platinum albums in succession were released in the same year in 1980. The second single to reach the summit of the Billboard R&B single chart listing was “Joy” on 25th June 1988 (2 weeks).
The final single of his career to obtain the number one position was “It Should’ve Been You” on 18th May 1991. It was the biggest-selling single of his career since “Close The Door”. It was number one for two weeks, ranking number one on radio and retail points. The single was co-written and produced by Teddy with Terry Price.
By 1991, according to the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America) Teddy had earned 4 gold albums and 8 platinum albums with little help from Pop radio stations across America. Also his four studio albums on Elektra Entertainment since his auto accident have sold over 2.5 million copies without the support of concert tours.
Teddy Pendergrass’s songs have been sampled by numerous soul and R&B artists and have been used in a number of TV commercials and films around the world, including the Nutty Professor, Old Navy and Chevrolet.
Teddy later became an inspirational figure to millions in the 28 years since he was left quadriplegic from a horrific 1982 car accident. He established the charitable Teddy Pendergrass Alliance (TPA) in 1987, and in 2007, formed a partnership with the National Spinal Cord Injury Association to help people with injuries during the early stages of recovery, which led to his recognition that year as one of the most influential SCI activists with his induction into the Spinal Cord Injury Association Hall of Fame.
Teddy is certainly the reigning prince of the Philadelphia Sound, a powerful voice that stands out as a dynamic brand around the world that will earn multi streams of income for the Gamble and Huff organisation for many years to come.
“Teddy was truly blessed with an incredible talent that was one of kind”