TEDDY PENDERGRASS: If You Don’t Know Me – The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Soul’s Sexiest Superstar
‘If You Don’t Know Me’ is the untold and ultimately inspiring story of legendary soul singer Teddy Pendergrass, the man who was poised to become the biggest R&B artist of all time until the tragic accident that changed his life.
The unforgettable lead vocalist on classic Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes songs such as ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ and ‘I Miss You’, Teddy subsequently became the first solo male African American artist to record five consecutive platinum albums in the US, but his career was struck by tragedy in 1982 when a car accident left him paralysed at the age of just 31.
He later made a triumphant comeback in front of a global audience of 1.9 billion at Live Aid.
Featuring revealing interviews with his family, friends and colleagues alongside industry legends Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, rarely seen archive footage and a soulful soundtrack, this insightful and moving documentary captures Teddy’s rise to fame against the complex backdrop of 1960’s America and his victorious comeback after his life-changing accident.
The film was conceived, researched and directed by BAFTA award winner Olivia Lichtenstein, who recalls: “I grew up listening to soul music and I’d just started listening to Teddy again when I saw a documentary about Shep Gordon, the legendary artist manager who worked with everyone from Blondie to Alice Cooper – and Teddy. It included a little bit about him working with Teddy and it made me realise that I didn’t know what had happened to him. I had a really strong sense that I had to make a film to tell his story.”
Lichtenstein contacted Shep Gordon, who joined the project as an executive producer, with BBC Films also becoming involved.
The resulting 105 minute documentary includes magical and rarely seen original footage of Teddy’s performances, as well as intimate, candid interviews with co-performers,friends and family including Teddy’s ex-wife Karen and 100 year old mother Ida.
Adds Lichtenstein: “This is an extraordinary, human story that feels almost Shakespearian – it’s much more than just a music biopic, it’s an intimate portrait of both Teddy and of the extraordinary times in which he lived. We really get to know him because we hear from so many people who were close to him. It almost feels as if he comes back to life to let the world hear him sing again.”