The soul man better known for his gruff-n-ready vocals has still got it. Twenty-five years after a spine-injuring car accident, Theodore DeReese "Teddy Pendergrass", Sr., has more than enough to celebrate. Not only do his timeless classic such as "Turn off the Lights" and "Love T.K.O." read like the R&B section of iTunes but the Philadelphia native's trials and tribulations have given his life purpose and inspired many.
On Sunday, June 10, the City of Brotherly Love pays a respectful nod to the legendary crooner with a musical celebration and benefit, "Teddy 25: A Celebration of Life, Hope, and Possibilities." Hosted by actress and comedian Mo'Nique, Teddy 25 pays homage to Pendergrass' life, music and career; raises funds for Teddy Pendergrass Alliance (TPA), a non-profit organization which helps people with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) rebuild their lives; and honors celebrities, industry executives, medical professionals and others who have been instrumental in his life and work. Long-time friends Patti LaBelle and NBA All-Star Julius Erving serve as event co-chairs along with Philadelphia International founders and soul music pioneers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The gala, which takes place at Philadelphia's Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, will include musical tributes by LaBelle, Melba Moore and Stephanie Mills. Among the evening's honorees are Whitney Houston, Arsenio Hall, Regis Philbin, Ashford & Simpson, Cathy Hughes, and Donald Trump among others.
"This is a wonderful celebration of 25 years of living with spinal cord injuries. I've had my ups and downs -- not knowing whether I was going to live to see another day -- but I'm here 25 years later thriving," says Pendergrass. "There was a time after my accident that I felt I needed to prove that I was still viable in the music industry, but I am at peace with who I am and where I am. I no longer want to be subject to criticism, I've had 40 years of that doing concert tours. Now, I feel celebrative, grateful and thankful to people who made it their mission to make sure I functioned and I want to express my gratitude publicly to these individuals."
A longtime fan, Mo'Nique is excited to celebrate one of Philly's musical forefathers for Black Music Month.
"Teddy Pendergrass is a musical icon and has crossed all barriers with his music," she said. "It's an honor for me to host. As a young girl, I remember hearing my cousin playing his music all the time. She was a huge fan and as I grew older, I understood why."
Most music lovers can relate to Mo'Nique's appreciation for the smooth sounds of Teddy Pendergrass. Although Pendergrass has no plans to record in the near future, Pendergrass will bless the stage with an original song written especially for the festivities. And it's sure to be a knockout!
For tickets, log on to www.kimmelcenter.org or call (215) 893-1999.
To learn how you can help others with spinal cord injuries, visit www.teddypendergrassalliance.org.
To make a contribution or donation to the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.