September 18, 2019 Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me (Documentary Review)
The name Teddy Pendergrass is easily recognized by anyone who appreciates R&B and Soul music. Known for his amazing stage presence, powerful singing voice, and stark good looks, he would go on to become a superstar of a different kind. All this stated, does anyone truly know the story behind this complex man’s life? In truth, most probably do not know much of the detail, but thankfully a long overdue documentary, entitled Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me, is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD as of September 13th through MVD Visual.
A film from Director and BAFTA award-winner Olivia Lichtenstein, Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me offers a closer look at late singer. A 106 minute journey, it outlines Pendergrass’ life from his early childhood growing up in a gritty, dangerous Philadelphia neighborhood, to his time leading Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes to the top of charts, followed by his unprecedented solo career, and a tragic accident that nearly took his life.
Enough intrigue to grab the attention of any music fan, the real meat of the documentary lies in the assemblage of interviewees including Pendergrass’ mother, former girlfriends, bandmates, collaborators, managers, and his own children. Dispersed evenly throughout the film, in addition to the heartfelt interviews from those closest to him, there are also spoke words from Pendergrass himself; all taken from a bulk of recorded tapes outlining his life in his own words. Beyond these features, there is also a generous amount of back footage from Pendergrass’ performances, along with his own interviews with media figures, all making the documentary extremely well-rounded and validated.
These factors all in mind, Lichtenstein does an excellent job of piecing it all together into a full-length film that is honest, heartbreaking, and educational. Amassed with a lot of information, you learn that the singer practically unrecognizable by name alone prior to the start of his solo career due to the fact that nearly everyone was confused that Harold Melvin’s name was a front of the Blue Notes, even with Pendergrass being the actual leading man. Snowballing from here, thanks to talent and charisma, Pendergrass took his life into his own hands, going on to launch a solo career that included five consecutive platinum albums and the label of a sex symbol to women.
Coming across as almost a god-like figure on stage, you relive the sorrow of his tragic 1982 car accident which left him a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. Shocking, Lichtenstein gives you an inside look into the world of the almost unbreakable man who is told he will never being able to walk or even sing again. Engulfed, like a wave taking him under, fortunately Pendergrass fought back to defy the odds and sing once more, but most of all, find he had plenty to live for.
A lot to take in, Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me is a complete, comprehensive look into one of the world’s best entertainers. What you learn is not only gives you newfound respect for Pendergrass, but also that even in your darkest hour there is hope to keep fighting and find new meaning in life. In addition, you learn that no man or woman is perfect, and we all have our flaws and errors, it is how we repent is what defines us.
A film not just Teddy Pendergrass fans, but also a must see for a new generation of music lovers, Cryptic Rock gives Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me 5 out of 5 stars.