*In the 1970s and ‘80s, crooner Teddy Pendergrass was the heartthrob that women threw their panties at when he performed. It’s not clear if the panties were the ones the women wore to Pendergrass’s concerts, or if they brought an extra pair. What was crystal clear was “drawers” were flying and landing at his feet every time he performed.
There was no doubt that the ladies loved them some Teddy. Yet, things changed for the singer, when on March 18, 1982, the brakes on his Rolls-Royce failed, causing the car to hit a tree at full speed. After eight days of being unconscious, Pendergrass, when he regained consciousness, realized he was paralyzed. And he was told he would be confined to a wheelchair for life, due to his broken neck and extensive damage to his spinal cord and vital nerves.
Pendergrass, according to his 1998 autobiography, “Truly Blessed,” couldn’t deal with going from a sex symbol singer, to a wheelchair-bound paraplegic. Pendergrass wrote that he asked his wife, Karen, to give him lots of sleeping pills and allow him to die. She refused.
On top of his thoughts of suicide, Pendergrass continued to hear rumors about the cause of the auto accident, which ranged from the singer mixing drugs and alcohol. According to Philadelphia police, there was no evidence to support such rumors. And there were rumors that at the time of the accident, Pendergrass was with Tenika Watson, a transgender, who he was dating. Watson years later said in her own words that she didn’t know Teddy before the accident, and he only offered her a ride home not knowing she was a transgender.
Nevertheless, Pendergrass ultimately made a return to the recording studio following the crash. In 1984, he released the album, “Love Language.” He would release seven more over the years, including “Workin’ It Back,” and “Joy.” The album “Joy,” yielded the single by the same name, which hit No. 1 on Billboard. It was Pendergrass’s first No. 1 hit in more than a decade.
On July 13, 1985, Pendergrass returned to the stage to perform at the storied Live Aid concert in Philly. It was said there were 89,000 people in the audience, with another 1.5 billion world television viewers. Pendergrass wasn’t sure how he would be received singing his love songs sitting in a wheelchair. The answer came quickly, when he received a standing ovation, which he described as “incredibly emotional.”
Teddy Pendergrass died on January 13, 2010.