TEDDY PENDERGRASS-THIS ONE’S FOR YOU.

TEDDY PENDERGRASS-THIS ONE’S FOR YOU.

Ever since Teddy Pendergrass left Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, the success he’d enjoyed with his former group kept on coming. By 1981, Teddy had released five albums since his solo career started in 1977. From his 1977 debut album Teddy Pendergrass was certified platinum, Teddy cemented his reputation as Philadelphia International Records’ most successful solo artists. Then in 1978, not only was Life Is A Song Worth Singing certified platinum, but gave Teddy his first number one album in the US R&B Charts. Teddy released in 1979 proved his most successful album, reaching number five in the US Billboard 200, number one in the US R&B Charts and was certified platinum. Proving Teddy could do no wrong, his 1979 live album Live! Coast To Coast was certified gold.

TP, released in 1980, saw the success continue into a new decade, giving Teddy his fourth and final platinum disc. Although 1981s It’s Time For Love was a commercial success, being certified platinum, it failed to match the success of his four previous albums. Then just before Teddy released his sixth album, 1982s This One’s For You, Teddy’s life was transformed. Suddenly, music was the least of Teddy’s concerns. After being involved in an automobile accident, Teddy was paralyzed from the waist down. It was against this life changing event that Teddy released This One’s For You. However, Teddy Pendergrass proved to be one of the most determined and courageous men ever, as you’ll realize, after I’ve told you about This One’s For You.

This One’s For You was Teddy’s sixth album for Philadelphia International Records. His previous album It’s Time For Love was Teddy’s first album not to be certified platinum. However, Teddy was still the most successful artist one Philadelphia International Records. So, for This One’s For You the label’s best songwriters provided songs. 

Given how important to Philadelphia International Records Teddy Pendergrass was, This One’s For You saw the label’s best songwriters and producers get to work. Gamble and Huff contributed This Gift of Life, Now Tell Me That You Love Me and It’s Up To You (What You Do With Your Life). I Can’t Win For Losing was penned by McFadden and Whitehead with Victor Carstarphen. The title-track This One’s For You was a song written by Barry Manilow and Marty Penzer. Ashford and Simpson, who’d long enjoyed success as songwriters, producers and artists cowrote Only To You. Another successful songwriting partnership wereLeRoy Bell and Casey Bell, who cowrote Loving You Was Good. Together with Richard Roebuck’s Don’t Leave Me Out Along the Road, these eight tracks became This One’s For You.

Recording of This One’s For You took place at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios. Accompanying Teddy were M.F.S.B. while the Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Evette Benton and Barbara Ingram add backing vocals. Jack Faith and Bobby Martin were two of the arrangers on This One’s For You. Gamble and Huff produced three tracks, while McFadden and Whitehead with Victor Carstarphen and Ashford and Simpson produced a track. Once This One’s For You was recorded, tragedy intervened and Teddy Pendergrass’ life was never the same again.

Before This One’s For You was released, Teddy was involved in an automobile accident. Tragically, his spine was damaged, resulted in him being paralyzed from the waist down. Set against such a tragic backdrop, the commercial success of This One’s For You must have seemed irrelevant to everyone involved. Teddy was just thirty-two, and at the height of his career. When This One’s For You was released, it reached number fifty-nine and number six in the US R&B Charts. This was Teddy’s least successful album and his only album so far, not to be certified gold or platinum. However, that would change in years to come. Two singles were released from This One’s For You. The Gift of Life reached number thirty-one in the US R&B Charts in April 1982 and I Can’t Win For Losing reached number thirty-two in the US R&B Charts in September 1982. Although This One’s For You wasn’t Teddy’s most successful album, the circumstances surrounding its release, and Teddy’s accident make it a quite poignant album, which I’ll now tell you about.

Opening This One’s For You is a song McFadden and Whitehead cowrote and co-produced with Victor Castarphen, I Can’t Win For Losing. synths and cascading strings join the rhythm section before Teddy’s vocal enters. The first thing you notice is the eighties sounding production. It’s quite unlike early Philadelphia International Records’ productions. A meandering bass line, stabs of space-age synths and cascading strings join the rhythm section, before Teddy’s vocal enters. One thing that’s the same is Teddy’s powerful, impassioned pleas. Still, Teddy can breathe life and meaning into lyrics. Soaring harmonies courtesy of the Sweethearts of Sigma, sweep in. Meanwhile, strings swirl and the bass helps drive the arrangement along, as Funk and Philly Soul combine. Here, the Philly Sound is given an eighties makeover, but Teddy Pendergrass’ vocal prowess stays the same.

This One’s For You is a cover of Barry Manilow and Marty Penzer penned track. It’s transformed, with plenty of soulfulness added. Teddy’s tender, half-spoken, hesitant vocal is accompanied by the lushest of strings, ethereal harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma and wistful woodwind. This very beautiful, understated combination is perfect, with Teddy delivering one of his most heartfelt vocals. Power and passion combine, with just keyboards, woodwind and the rhythm section accompanying him. Bursts of drums add drama and reflect the growing power of Teddy’s vocal, as he delivers a vocal that’s heartfelt and like unburdening of his soul. Quite simply, it’s a beautiful song.

Loving You Was Good sees the tempo increase on a track written LeRoy Bell and Casey James. It’s as if they’ve written the track with Teddy in mind. Chiming guitars, a pounding rhythm section and growling, moody horns join shimmering strings. They provide the perfect backdrop for Teddy’s emotive vocal, tinged with sadness and regret. The Sweethearts of Sigma add tender, soaring harmonies as the arrangement is much more like what you’d expect on an album released by Philadelphia International Records. Strings cascade, rasping horns and stabs of keyboards join the rhythm section to drive the arrangement along, mixing drama and emotion. Teddy with the help of the Sweethearts of Sigma’s soulful harmonies delivers a vocal filled with emotion, regret and heartache. This is Teddy doing what he was so good at, bringing a song to life, as if he’d lived the lyrics and survived to tell the tale.

Closing Side One of This One’s For You is The Gift of Life, which given the lyrics is extremely poignant. Especially when Teddy sings “This Gift of Life which you can’t buy with money.” It brings home the reality of Teddy’s situation. Just a slow, careful rhythm section, swathes of lush strings and piano accompany Teddy’s vocal. It veers between pensive and when it grows in power, becomes celebratory. The Sweethearts of Sigma accompany him, as the arrangement grows in power and drama, as Teddy gives thanks for The Gift of Life, one of the most poignant songs Teddy Pendergrass ever recorded.

Now Tell Me That You Love Me opens Side Two of This One’s For You. It’s the second Gamble and Huff song. Swathes of slow, lush strings, guitars and keyboards combine with Teddy’s half-spoken vocal. His vocal is full of emotion and heartfelt. The Sweethearts of Sigma accompany Teddy, adding punchy harmonies that answer Teddy’s call. Strings quicken, while the piano and guitar are at the heart of the arrangement. What makes the song, is Teddy’s impassioned pleas, matched all the way for emotion by urgent harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma. With Teddy and the Sweethearts of Sigma at their very best, singing a song penned by Gamble and Huff, things don’t get much better than this. Take it from me.

The last Gamble and Huff song on This One’s For You is It’s Up To You (What You Do With Your Life). Bursts of growling horns and the rhythm section join the lushest of strings to dramatically open the track. Soon, the tempo slows and Teddy steps up to deliver one of his trademark vocals. He mixes power, passion and raw emotion. His vocal grows in power, taking command of the song, while a piano, guitar, woodwind and the rhythm section provide a backdrop that grows in power and drama. Once Teddy’s vocal rejoins, the Sweethearts of Sigma join him. Their harmonies are just the finishing touch to the song, as Teddy unleashes a vocal where power, raw emotion and drama unite brilliantly.

Don’t Leave Me Out Along the Road opens with just stabs of keyboards, a thoughtful rhythm section and emotive strings. When Teddy’s vocal enters, it’s filled with hurt and heartache, the piano answering Teddy’s tender call. Strings add to the sadness and emotion, as do the Sweethearts of Sigma’s cooing, heartfelt and soaring harmonies. As the arrangement progresses, it reveals its beauty, sadness and emotion, as it heads to its dramatic ending.

Closing This One’s For You is Only To You penned and produced by Ashford and Simpson. This is a much more uptempo track, allowing Teddy to close the album on a high. Bursts of blazing horns, a pounding rhythm section and swathes of strings unite, before giving way to a piano lead arrangement. Teddy’s vocal is filled with feeling, as he heads into bedroom ballad mode. This is something Teddy is so good at, some might say the best. His vocal grows in power and drama, becoming a vamp, with the Sweethearts of Sigma’s soulful, punchy harmonies for company. They play their part in an arrangement that matches Teddy for power, drama and emotion every step of the way, resulting in Teddy closing This One’s For You with a bedroom ballad par excellence.

Every time I listen to This One’s For You, I find it an extremely poignant album, given what happened to Teddy Pendergrass just before its release. What makes This One’s For You even more poignant is the celebratory The Gift of Life, given its lyrics and their celebration of life and its sacred nature. Then there’s the album cover to This One’s For You, with Teddy standing strident and proud. It’s a heartbreaking image, given just what happened. 

Even though This One’s For You didn’t match the success of his five previous albums, this isn’t a reflection of the music. By 1982, soul music was no longer as popular. Musical tastes were changing and soul singers like Teddy Pendergrass were no longer as popular. However, despite changing fashions in music and Teddy having suffered a horrific, tragic accident, resulting in him being paralyzed from the waist down, he continued to enjoy commercial success. 

Through sheer determination, grit and courage, Teddy Pendergrass’ career continued, and the success he’d enjoyed returned. While he only released one more album for Philadelphia International Records, 1983s Heaven Only Knows. It was Teddy’s least successful album, but when he signed to Asylum, his first album for his new label, 1984s Love Language was certified gold. Four years later, after releasing 1985s Workin’ It Back on Asylum, 1988s Joy released on Elektra was also certified gold. After that, Teddy released three further albums for Elektra. They were 1990s Truly Blessed and 1993s A Little More Magic. You and I was Teddy’s final secular album, released in 1997.

Despite the tragedy that befell Teddy Pendergrass, his career continued. That’s testament to his courage and bravery. 1982s This One’s For You was released just after Teddy’s life changed for evermore. This One’s For You is a poignant album, from one of the greatest soul singers of his generation, Teddy Pendergrass. Although This One’s For You wasn’t Teddy Pendergrass’ most successful album, it features Teddy at his very best.  Standout Tracks: Loving You Was Good, The Gift of Life, Now Tell Me That You Love Me and It’s Up To You (What You Do With Your Life).

TEDDY PENDERGRASS-THIS ONE’S FOR YOU.

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