|Teddy Pendergrass returned to recording and performing after a paralyzing auto accident in 1982.|
PHILADELPHIA - Teddy Pendergrass, who became an R&B sex symbol in the 1970s and ’80s with his forceful, masculine voice and passionate love ballads and later became an inspirational figure after suffering a devastating car accident that left him paralyzed, died yesterday at age 59.
The singer’s son, Teddy Pendergrass II, said his father died at Bryn Mawr Hospital in suburban Philadelphia. The singer underwent colon cancer surgery eight months ago and had “a difficult recovery,’’ his son said.
“To all his fans who loved his music, thank you,’’ his son said.
Pendergrass grew up in poverty in North Philadelphia. He first became recognized as a singer with the popular Philadelphia group Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes in the late 1970s.
He left the band to start a solo career and garnered five platinum albums before suffering a spinal cord injury in the 1982 car accident. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.
He spent six months in a hospital but returned to recording the next year with the album “Love Language.’’
“If anything, I can sing about love and sexuality even more now because I’ve felt a lot more of it,’’ Pendergrass told the Globe during his recovery. “There are a whole lot of people around the world who have sent their love and messages, and I get them one way or the other. I feel it or hear it in the mood of the people on the street. You understand it. It’s there. And it’s positive.’’
He returned to the stage at Live Aid in 1985, performing from his wheelchair.