Teddy Pendergrass was driving his new Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit through the treacherous curves of Lincoln Drive, when he lost control of the vehicle near the East Falls section in Philly.
The singer was traveling with a transsexual dancer named Tenika (John) Watson, who performed at Philadelphia clubs.
The singer lost control of his Rolls-Royce on a cold night and was thrown upwards, slamming his head against the roof of the car, which broke his neck, between the fifth and sixth vertebrae.
Watson walked away with minor injuries, while Pendergrass was admitted to the Spinal Cord Injury Center at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, where he underwent surgery.
Bone fragments severed Pendergrass’ nerves, and left him a quadriplegic at the height of his career.
Pendergrass had a number of hit solo albums prior to the accident, making him an international sex symbol and the biggest solo artist on Philadelphia International Records, which was owned byKenneth Gamble & Leon Huff.
Prior to the accident, Teddy Pendergrass had released his self-titled solo debut, which featured songs like “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” as well as “The Whole Town Is Laughing At Me.”
The hit singles continued to roll in, with songs like “Turn off the Lights,” “Close The Door,” and his hit single “Love TKO.”
Teddy Pendergrass racked up five consecutive platinum albums between 1977 and 1981, to get a sense of his popularity.
Gamble & Huff were in the Caribbean, recording and writing when they heard the news about the accident.
All was not lost for Teddy Pendergrass during his paralysis.
He continued to release albums during his recovery, like This One’s For You and Heaven Only Knows.
In 1984, Teddy Pendergrass stormed back on the charts with the album Love Language, which featured the hit single “Hold Me,” featuring an unknown singer named Whitney Houston.
Teddy Pendergrass gave his first return performance at the historic Live Aid concert in Philadelphia, on July 13, 1985.
He also studied for months to earn his GED, since he dropped out of high school to become an entertainer.
“Finally, I’m a high school graduate,” Teddy Pendergrass said in an interview in 1984. “Now I intend to enrol in college and get a PhD in business, then a law degree.”