Pendergrass first rose to fame as lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes in the 1970s before a successful solo career at the end of the decade. In 1982, Pendergrass was severely injured in an auto accident in Philadelphia, resulting in his being paralyzed from the chest down. He subsequently founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, a foundation that helps those with spinal cord injuries. He commemorated 25 years of living after his spinal cord injury with the star-filled event, “Teddy 25 – A Celebration of Life”, at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. His last performance was on a PBS special at Atlantic City’s Borgata Casino in November 2008.
On June 5, 2009, Pendergrass underwent successful surgery for colon cancer and returned home to recover. A few weeks later he returned to the hospital with respiratory issues. After seven months, he died of respiratory failure on January 13, 2010, at age 59, with wife Joan by his side, while hospitalized at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. His body was interred at the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
There are plans to make a feature film biopic of Pendergrass’s life, and Tyrese Gibson is set to star as the late singer.