Clasics: Teddy Pendergrass & Whitney Houston – Hold Me (Asylum)
I can’t help figuring how ‘Hold Me’ was like a crossroad for the two protagonists of this song. With its title standing as a symbol. For a man – Teddy Pendergrass – who, from a moment to another, tragically found himself reduced to send the rest of his life in a wheeling chair. This after havin’ established himself as the top male sex symbol in music. And for a then unknown singer – Whitney Houston – who had to find the path to glory at the time.
And what a blast they delivered. With ‘Hold Me’ probably sounding even more emotional nowadays. A song which originally appeared two years before… Although under a different title (‘In Your Arms’), as a part of Diana Ross‘s ‘Silk Electric’ album. With writing work courtesy of Linda Creed and Michael Masser.
‘Hold Me (in your arms)’ is probably how they both needed to feel at the time. Although for way different reasons. ‘Hold Me’, is pretty much what they did. Meanwhile securing a safe return to fame for Pendergrass. And the step one of a massive success story for Houston.
– Born in Philadelphia, PA, to a religious family, Teddy Pendergrass‘s early singing happened in church. He dreamed of becoming a pastor at the time and eventually got his wish when ordained a minister at the age of 10. He started takin’ on drums during this period, securing his first professional gig with The Cadillacs as a drummer in the late 60’s. Teddy soon after caught up the attention of The Blue Notes‘ founder Harold Melvin who made him an offer to join the band. However, during a performance, Pendergrass began singing. With Melvin, impressed by his raspy baritone voice, makin’ him the lead singer of the group.
Their first single together – ‘I Miss You’ – came to light back in 1972. The success happened to be immediate. Opening an impressive series of hits. From ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ to ‘The Love I Lost’. Not to mention ‘Wake Up Everybody’ and ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ which Thelma Houston turned into a Disco smash hit in 1976. Teddy leavin’ the group due to artistic and financial conflicts that same year…
He embarked on a solo career the year after with the release of his eponymous album. A solid package which features gems such as ‘You Can’t Hide From Yourself’ (only released as a single in Holland). But also ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ and ‘The More I Get, The More I Want’. The latter speakin’ of which Italian producer Serge Funk would give an interesting development. With this on his 2018 released ‘Can’t Get Enough’ interpolation.
Its follow-up – ‘Life Is A Song Worth Singing’ – engendered an even bigger following. Spanning classics such as ‘Only You’, ‘Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose’ and ‘Close The Door’. By 1978, Teddy was seen to many as the top male sex symbol in music. His 1979 album, ‘Teddy’ strengthening his position with the mellow ‘Come Go With Me’ and ‘Turn Off The Lights’ in addition to the groovy ‘Do Me’. With the man going further in the downtempo mood on his 1980 ‘TP’ album featuring ‘Love TKO’ and the Ashford & Simpson penned ‘Is It Still Good To You’.
On a sad Mar. 18, 1982, Teddy got involved in a car crash which left him a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down.
With his contract with PIR now over, he ended up signing with Elektra Asylum. Releasing his debut-album – ‘Love Language’ – in 1984. An album which saw him duetting with a then unknown Whitney Houston on the mellow ‘Hold Me’. 4 years after, he scored his first #1 single in nearly a decade flirting with the then emerging New Jack Swing on ‘Joy’ from the album of the name.
A final hit would come in 1993 by the likes of the Reggie and Vincent Calloway penned ‘Believe In Love’ which opened his ‘A Little More Magic’ album.
Although on a wheeling chair since his tragic accident, Teddy kept on performing live sporadically until the announce of his retirement in 2006.
Pendergrass underwent successful surgery for colon cancer on June 05, 2009 then returned home to recover. A few weeks later, he got back to the hospital with respiratory issues. He sadly died 7 months after of respiratory failure on Jan. 13, 2010, aged 59…
– Lookin’ back, Whitney Houston‘s life sadly had everything of a screenplay for a tragedy film. Meanwhile showcasing the fantastic raise of a talent talent that nothing seemed to be able to stop at the time. Then the progresive fall of a Goodess taken into her internal evils.
Superlatives are just missing to properly depict this exceptional character. From her family surroundings. She was the daughter of Gospel singer Cissy Houston who herself was the cousin of Dionne Warwick. And her honorary aunt was Aretha Franklin, whom she met at age 8 or 9 when her mother took her to a recording studio. Then she would have the chance to meet Arista CEO Clive Davis who literally took her under his wing. Turning her into a multi-million record selling artist. With thanks to her one of a kind vocal mezzo-soprano voice. Not to mention her beauty – she had been a fashion model for some time – comin’ up as so to say the icing on the cake…
Whitney most likely got her tuition when touring nightclubs where her mom during her teenage years. She eventually became a backup singer on Michael Zager Band‘s single ‘Life’s A Party’ back in 1977 at the age of 14. This before delivering background vocals for Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls the year after. Doin’ TV commercials (remember Canada Dry), she appeared on Material‘s second album ‘One Down’ in 1982. Eventually takin’ the lead vocals on ‘Memories’ featuring Archie Shepp on saxophone.
Houston signed a record deal with Arista back in 1983. But she would have to wait until February 1985 to see her debut-album hitting the streets. This on the heels of the vibrant ‘Hold Me’ which she’d recorded the year before with Teddy Pendergrass. A success that would lead to countless others along with time.
To make this short (with a fully comprehensive bio at your disposal on Wikipedia), Whitney Houston released a total of 7 albums. With her latest – ‘I Look To You’ – back in 2009. Meanwhile, she heavily contributed to 3 original soundtrack albums. Beginning with ‘The Bodyguard’ back in 1993. But also ‘Waiting To Exhale’, ‘The Preacher’s Wife’ and ‘Cinderella’.
Houston‘s versatility allowed her to embrace almost every kind of atmospheres. Touching the bottom of hearts and souls with vibrant ballads such as ‘Saving All My Love For You’, ‘Greatest Love Of All’ or ‘I Will Always Love You’ among others. As able to fire things up on uptempo gems. With cuts such as ‘So Emotional’ but also the overlooked ‘Love Will Save The Day’ being the first coming to mind. Not to mention her cover version of Chaka Khan‘s classic ‘I’m Every Woman’. Or the firing ‘It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be’ that saw her sharing the duties with Aretha Franklin back in 1989 to name but a few…
By the early 2000’s, in other words about 10 years after her marriage with former New Edition member, Bobby Brown, the image of Whitney Houston had already started altering itself. Turning from the one of a ‘good girl’ which she’d seen as throughout the 80’s and 90’s into the one of an elusive moody person. Unable to respond to her obligations at times. Eventually cancelling performances or rendez-vous at the very last moment. With ongoing rumors of her using drugs with her husband. She went into rehab and eventually divorced in February 2007. But she unfortunately never managed to get back on her feet. With, as would have sung Neil Young, ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’ forever…
On Feb. 11, 2012, Houston was found unconscious in Suite 434 at the Beverly Hills, CA Hilton Hotel, submerged in a bathtub. The paramedics arrived at approximately 03:30pm PST, eventually performing a CPR before pronoucing her death 25 minutes later.
On Mar. 22, 2012, the L.A. County coroner’s office reported the cause of Houston‘s death was drowning in addition “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use”.
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