by Dave Rodney, Contributing Writer to Caribbean Times
The riveting life story of Teddy Pendergrass is now on television screens and in cinemas, thanks to the vision of a persistent British film director Olivia Lichtenstein. Music fans will immediately recognize the captivating and soulful classics of music legend Teddy Pendergrass. He’s the first black male singer to record five consecutive multi-platinum albums in the United States.  And almost a decade after his passing in 2010, a film has been finally produced documenting the triumphs and the tribulations of this extraordinary talent. The documentary is called “If You Don’t Know Me By Now- The Teddy Pendergrass Story” 
“It was the brainchild of a British director named Olivia Lichtenstein who had a relationship with BBC Films and she brought them on as her producing partner”, a source close to the production said. “Olivia felt that Teddy didn’t get enough credit for his musical legacy and she pushed to get this film made”, she added.
The feature length documentary has just been released in the United States on Showtime, coinciding with Black History Month, and then it moves on to London later this month to run at selected cinemas throughout the United Kingdom.
Pendergrass first rose to fame in the 1970s as the lead singer for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and he performed on chart toppers such as Close the Door, Turn out the Lights, Love TKO, Don’t Leave Me This Way, Joy and If you Don’t Know Me By Now. But while Teddy dazzled audiences at some of the largest venues across the world, his personal life was at times challenging. The film reflects on his childhood in a Philadelphia ghetto, and it looks at the murder of his father and his first manager, and how sex, drugs, money, fame and a tragic accident at the youthful age of 31 impacted on his life.
The stories in the documentary are told by those who knew him best, and it also delves into how Pendergrass overcame depression and thoughts of suicide after he became a quadriplegic, rising to become one of the greatest hit machines of all time.
“From the earliest pitch of film director Olivia Lichtenstein, we knew this is a story that had to be told”, Joe Oppenheimer, executive producer with BBC Films revealed. “We are delighted to back her ambition to bring the extraordinary talent of Teddy Pendergrass and his remarkable life to cinema audiences everywhere”, he continued.
Some of the interviews that form part of the film were cast by Jamaican music industry executive Pat Shields of Black Dot LLC, an entertainment company in Los Angeles, California. Shields had previously worked at Warner Music Group in New York City. The film is being distributed by Content Media and has participatory credits from Storyvault Films, Tempo Productions and Wasted Talent. The feature is currently available on demand within US markets on Showtime.


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