R&B legend Teddy Pendergrass is the focus of a new documentary chronicling his rise to stardom, and the car accident that temporarily halted his career. Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me, is scheduled to debut at the Philadelphia Film Festival on Friday (Oct. 26).
The film will also air on Showtime, in addition to the U.K.’s Sky Arts channel and the BBC, Variety reports. A premiere date has yet to be announced.
Award-winning filmmaker Olivia Lichtenstein directed and co-executive produced If You Don’t Know Me, along with Pendergrass’ former managers, Shep Gordon, Daniel Markus and Allan Strahl. The film dissects the various “levels” of Pendergrass’ story, from his days as a member of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (best known for the 1968 single “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”) to his solo stardom, and burning desire to crossover from the R&B world.
In 1982, Pendergrass got into a car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down and subsequently stopped him from becoming more famous, Lichtenstein told Variety. “I think that’s why people don’t know him in the same way as a Marvin Gaye or a Luther Vandross,” she said. “What I hope is he’ll get to crossover now, with the film.”
The Philly native was an architect of the early R&B era. His first five solo albums went platinum, and spawned timeless hits that include “Close the Door,” “Turn Off the Lights” and “Love T.K.O.”
“Teddy P” was on a winning streak that undoubtedly stalled after the car collision. Despite his courageous return to the stage following the accident, he struggled to recapture the commercial success of his heyday. Pendergrass announced his retirement in 2007, after 40 years in the music industry. He died from colon cancer in 2010.
Watch the documentary trailer below.