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Teddy Pendergrass: an unbreakable spirit

June 28, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s almost dawn and here I am, a glass of Pinot Noir in hand, listening to ‘This is the last time’ from Teddy Pendergrass’s ‘Joy’ album.  I tend to reminisce when listening to Teddy songs because some of them defined my teenage dating years. My first slow dance was to Teddy and Whitney Houston’s ‘Hold me’ and when I split up with my boyfriend, ‘This is the Last time’ was my crying song.  I recall many a time when a Teddy song expressed how I felt at that moment.   Teddy had break up songs and make up songs, songs for saying sorry and thank you songs, happy songs and sad songs….Teddy had it all covered. There was a Teddy song for every occasion.  For those too young to remember, Teddy (also affectionately known as  Teddy Bear or TP) was a sex god in the late 70s and early 80s. This was at a time when a hairy chest and a beard was masculine and so sexy (still is to me!). There was none of the chest-waxing, eyebrow-shaping male preening that is so commonplace now 😀  Here’s the man doing what he does best:

Teddy: Live in ’79 (singing ‘Close the door’)

TeddyAfter2

Some of my male friends argue that Teddy’s songs were a bit on the cheesy side.  On the other hand, my female friends think Teddy could teach men today what romance is all about. But just when Teddy had the world at his feet, an accident on March 18, 1982 left him paralysed from the chest down and wheelchair-bound.  This tragic accident signalled a turning point in his life.  With the love and unwavering support of his family and friends, he made it through the lowest points of his life.  The first music video I saw of him after the accident was ‘In my time‘, which was deeply moving.  Here was a man, who was once so agile, now confined to a wheel-chair. If I found it difficult to watch, then I cannot imagine how difficult it would have been for him to make the transition from being able-bodied to being heavily reliant on someone else for his personal care.

In 2007, he gave an interview to mark 25 years of living with spinal cord injury – and what an interview that was!

Art Fennell interview with Teddy Pendergrass – Part One

Art Fennell interview with Teddy Pendergrass – Part Two

Teddy’s story is an inspirational one.  In his shoes, some of us would have spent the rest of our lives wallowing in self-pity or hoping for a miracle but Teddy has accepted that there is no cure and has learned to live a full life in spite of his disability. He works in conjunction with the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance to promote a good quality of life for people with his condition.

As a teenager, I loved his music and his rugged good looks.  As an adult, I also love his mind. I admire him for his determination, positivity, self-belief and intelligence. He was determined to make the best of the circumstances in which he found himself – and he succeeded.  Whilst he had support from friends and loved ones I believe, from personal experience, that one can only be helped if they want help themselves and are willing to accept help from others.  It takes great courage and tenacity to overcome such adversity and I think that he is, as he says, truly blessed.

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