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Teddy Pendergrass, one of the most successful R&B singers of the 1970s and ’80s, passed away yesterday after a battle with colon cancer. He was 59. Pendergrass was diagnosed with cancer last year and had a difficult time recovering from surgery; he died at Bryn Mawr Hospital outside of his native Philadelphia, ABC News reports. The five-time Grammy-nominated singer had chart-topping hits in three different decades with 1978’s “Close the Door,” 1988’s “Joy” and 1991’s “It Should’ve Been You,” plus well-known songs like “Love TKO,” “Two Hearts” with Stephanie Mills and “Hold Me,” a duet with Whitney Houston that featured on Houston’s 1985 debut album.
Pendergrass’ rise to international fame was briefly halted after he was involved in a 1982 car crash that left him in the hospital for six months and paralyzed from the waist down, but he didn’t let the accident prevent him from making music. “He had about 10 platinum albums in a row, so he was a very, very successful recording artist and as a performing artist,” Pendergrass’ friend and collaborator Kenny Gamble, of Gamble & Huff, told the AP. “He had a tremendous career ahead of him, and the accident sort of got in the way of many of those plans.”
Pendergrass began his career as lead singer of the Philadelphia soul group Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes — singing their Number One hit “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” — before embarking on his own solo career. He released his self-titled solo album in 1977 on Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International Records, the first of eight albums Pendergrass would record for the label before moving to Warner Music’s Asylum and Elektra. “To all his fans who loved his music, thank you,” his son Teddy Pendergrass II said. “He will live on through his music.”