During the late 1970s all the up to the early ’80s, Teddy Pendergrass was one of the biggest stars in Black music. His seductive ballads and the disco funk sound that was curated by TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) gave Pendergrass a lane all to himself. He gave future R&B singers the template by holding “Ladies Only” concerts. But his multi-platinum recording career came to a screeching halt in March of 1982 after a devastating car crash left him a quadriplegic. Now in a documentary on Showtime, directed by Olivia Lichtenstein, will premiere on this Friday, February 8.
The film, Teddy Pendergrass- If You Don’t Know Me By Now chronicles the rise, fall, and triumph of the R&B Soul legend. From his humble beginnings growing up in North Philadelphia, to landing a lead singing role in Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, to launching his incredibly successful solo career.
Even after his accident, Pendergrass resumed his career by recording hit albums and touring until his death on January 13, 2010.
In an interview with Variety, Lichtenstein explained her passion behind the project and contacting his manager Shep Gordon to get it done. She said, “I called Shep and said, ‘People don’t remember Teddy the way they ought to, and I have to make this film,’ and Shep said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
“It works on lots of levels,” Lichtenstein said. “It’s interesting because of the music. It’s interesting because of the time. There was this issue of being a crossover artist, this ridiculous distinction between black and white music. “I think that’s why people don’t know him in the same way as a Marvin Gaye or a Luther Vandross. What I hope is he’ll get to crossover now, with the film.”
Teddy Pendergrass sang on chart-topping songs with Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes such as “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Wake Up Everybody,” “Bad Luck,” and many others. His solo work includes classics like “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” “Close The Door,” “Come On and Go With Me,” and “Turn Off the Lights.”
You can check out the trailer of “Teddy Pendergrass- If You Don’t Know By Now,” below.