Where is Rhythm and Blues now? Great R+B men are getting to be extremely rare. One of the great male R+B voices. Gone TP’10. Teddy Pendergrass, the former lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blues Notes, is gone. Originally, the band’s drummer, Teddy made great dance records for Philadelphia International’s producers, Gamble and Huff. Still touring after his 1982 paralysis from his car accident, Pendergrass was the sexy lead singer that re-invented the way the R+B crooner connected with his audience. He was Luther before Luther. Living in Philadelphia since he was a school boy, his appearance at Philadelphia-half of the Live-Aid concerts ranks with one of that day’s emotional high points.
Farewell Michael Jackson’09. Barry White’03, Luther Vandross’05, James Brown’06 and Ray Charles’04. Temptations’ lead singers Eddie Kendricks’92 and David Ruffin’91, gone too. Curtis Mayfield’99 and Marvin Gaye’84 RIP. Levi Stubbs (4 Tops)’08 , Lou Rawls’06 and Wilson Pickett’06.
Although Eddie Levert of the O’Jays still sings at 67, his son Gerald Levert’06 has passed. The Spinners’ Phillippe Wynne’84 traded lead vocal duties with Bobby Smith who still performs at age 73.
Remembering Otis Redding’67 (Promoter Bill Graham said he was the most exciting performer of all his 1960’s concert attractions.) Chef from South Park? No. Shaft? damn right. Peace, Issac Hayes’08.
What about Prince? He is a unique rockin’ R+B artist. Although his voice is his alone, and it is soulful… OK, he still stands on the top-shelf. What about Earth Wind and Fire? Phillip Bailey and Maurice White are still very active in concert appearances. They are definately top-shelf. Those hit-making years of Kool and the Gang were led by James ‘JT’ Taylor, who is still active but has split with “the Gang” . Reverend Al Green still touring, amen. Soulful Bill Withers once played Carnegie Hall in 1972. He doesn’t tour but, DJ’s still love to sample his beats. The Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson sneaks into the charts with Snoop Dogg now and then, but no “Burn Rubber”, no “Early In The Morning” and no all-aboard the “Party Train”.
Lionel Richie is still active and make lots of room for him, on the R+B top-shelf, for his Grammys with the Commodores and solo career. The great Smokey Robinson who is a premier songwriter, Miracles’ front man, solo artist is still active. Recently, spotted on “American Idol”, Smokey also performed at the 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame 25th Anniversary concerts. Speaking of soul men, Sam Moore, of Sam & Dave fame, rocked Madison Square, backed by Springsteen and his crew. However, his counterpart, Dave Prater passed away in 1988.
But, one of the last giants, who also performed at the under-rated Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame concerts, is still touring, still recording and still at his keyboard. Still sharp, vocals still intact, the Stevie Wonder stands alone.
Teddy Pendergrass, R&B Soul Singer, Dies at 59. www.nytimes.com. Read more about Teddy Pendergrass’ career in the NY TIMES. An extensive obituary by Jon Pareles was published January 14, 2010.
Mr. Pendergrass was the Philadelphia soul singer whose husky, potent baritone was a definition of R&B seduction in the 1970s.