Soul legend Teddy Pendergrass dies aged 59

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The Independent Culture

Velvet-voiced soul legend Teddy Pendergrass, whose romantic ballads lit up the 1970s and 1980s, has died after a long battle with cancer, reports said Thursday. He was 59.

The singer - whose hits included classics such as "Turn Off the Lights" and "Close The Door" - passed away on Wednesday at Philadelphia's Bryn Mawr Hospital, his son Teddy Pendergrass II said.

Pendergrass's son told The Philadelphia Inquirer that his father - paralyzed from the waist down following a 1982 car crash - died after undergoing surgery for colon cancer eight months ago that had led to a "difficult recovery."

A Philadelphia native, Pendergrass was born on March 26, 1950, and was raised by his mother, Ida Pendergrass, after his father left at an early age.

According to the singer's website, he began singing in church at the age of two and was a member of the All City Elementary School Boys Choir by the time he was six years old.

He later fell in love with performing after watching music legends such as Bobby Darin and Chubby Checker at the nightclub where his mother worked.

His music career began in earnest as a drummer for the The Cadillacs who later merged with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.

Front-man Melvin promoted Pendergrass to lead singer and the outfit enjoyed a dazzling period of success from 1972 to 1975, with hits such as "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and the seminal "The Love I Lost."

After a series of bust-ups with Melvin, Pendergrass quit the Blue Notes in 1976, and subsequently forged a successful solo career that included five consecutive multi-platinum albums.

Following the car crash that left him wheelchair-bound, Pendergrass continued to record, helping the career of a young Whitney Houston in the 1984 duet "Hold Me," and later performing at the 1985 Live Aid concert.

Pendergrass announced his retirement from music in 2006, but returned for a charity concert a year later to raise funds for his Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, set up to help people coping with spinal cord injuries.

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