TEDDY PENDERGRASS - 'IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME' : THE RISE, FALL AND RESURRECTION OF SOUL’S SEXIEST SUPERSTAR / UK FILM PREMIERE ANNOUNCED
TEDDY PENDERGRASS - IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME
The Rise, Fall And Resurrection Of Soul’s Sexiest Superstar
UK FILM PREMIERE IN CONJUNCTION WITH SKY ARTS
BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE (BFI)
19th FEBRUARY 2019
includes Q&A session with director Olivia Lichtenstein
tickets on sale 15th January (8th January to BFI members)
OPENING AT CINEMAS NATIONWIDE FROM 22nd FEBRUARY
DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED HERE
DVD RELEASE SPRING 2019
(Moviehouse Entertainment / Cadiz Music)
Promotional trailer : bit.ly/2JwxylF
'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 paralyzed 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.
photos by Neal Preston
A compelling tale with surprising twists and turns, the film is an intimate portrait of one of the greatest singers of his generation. Describing Teddy’s meteoric rise from his tough ghetto childhood in Philadelphia to becoming a key member of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and his subsequent solo career, it also tells how he fought for the rights of African-American artists in a 1970’s music industry prejudiced against black performers.
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 realize 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 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.”
Theodore DeReese ‘Teddy’ Pendergrass (1950–2010) was born and raised in Philadelphia. Rising to fame as the charismatic lead singer on many classic songs by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, he left the group over monetary and personality disputes in 1975, immediately launching a successful solo career with the label Philadelphia International that delivered five platinum selling albums in a row. However, his meteoric rise was suspended following a near-fatal car crash in March 1982 that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Making an emotional return to the stage at the historic Live Aid concert in Philadelphia in 1985, he maintained a successful solo career until announcing his retirement in 2006.
Pendergrass died from respiratory failure in January 2010 at the age of 59.
BBC Films is co-financing the documentary about the late R&B icon, which is being introduced to buyers in Berlin by Content Media.
Teddy Pendergrass, the R&B legend who became the first black male singer to record five consecutive multiplatinum albums in the U.S., is getting the documentary treatment.
Storyvault Films, Tempo Productions and Wasted Talent are on board to produce Pendergrass, examining the life of the singer known as the "Black Elvis," who rose to fame in the '70s as the lead singer for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and achieved global success with hits including "Don't Leave Me This Way" and "If You Don't Know Me By Now." Pendergass' career would be interrupted in 1981 when he was paralyzed in a car accident at just 31 years old, although he would return in the '90s. He died in 2010 following respiratory failure.
The film is being directed by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Olivia Lichtenstein (The Silent Twin: Without My Shadow, Broadmoor and Who Killed Kirsty MacColl?). Content Media has signed on to handle international sales, with its president of film Jamie Carmichael and exec vp sales and distribution Jonathan Ford introducing the film to buyers at the European Film Market in Berlin. BBC Films is co-financing.
Pendergrass is being produced by Lichtenstein via her TV production company Storyvault Films in association with Tempo Productions’ Piers Tempest (upcoming Churchill, The Wife) and Wasted Talent’s Ian Flooks (Killing Bono, Robot Overlords).
Joe Oppenheimer, BBC Films' acting head, is exec producing alongside Pendergrass’ former manager Shep Gordon, Daniel Markus and Allan Strahl.
“Everyone knows his voice — 'Don’t Leave Me This Way,' 'If You Don’t Know Me By Now,' 'Love' ... and a score of other instantly recognizable and much-covered classics — but all too many have forgotten the extraordinary story of the man behind it — and his unique contribution to the history of popular music and his courageous triumph over adversity,” said Lichtenstein.
Added Oppenheimer: "From Olivia’s earliest pitch, we knew that this was a story demanding to be told. We’re delighted to back her ambition to bring Teddy Pendergrass’ extraordinary talent and remarkable life to cinema audiences everywhere."
Content’s Carmichael and Ford said, “this is a really powerful human story, backed up by a unique musical angle — we’re really excited to introduce this important project to our friends in distribution.”
Production on Pendergrass is due to start in April.