*About 4,000 thousand people paid their respects to R&B legend Teddy Pendergrass at a memorial service Saturday in Philadelphia.
A 200-member gospel choir sang at the service. Also, Melba Moore, Tyrese and others including Musiq Soulchild, Bunny Sigler, Gerald Alston and Lyfe Jennings, performed.
“He was the first to show it’s good to be sexy and black,” said McKinley Horton, a piano player with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes who sat in the audience. “He presented a certain kind of black manhood, with his dark beard and his big smile, that helped send out a strong R&B message.”
Horton said men had envied Pendergrass, whom Melvin called “Rug” because of his thick hair.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that during the ceremony, Pendergrass’ manager David Markus said his client “rode Gamble and Huff songs like Ben-Hur at Circus Maximus.”
The image of a powerful man in full command of the muscular cadences of the distinctive Philly International sound drew smiles from the audience.
Pendergrass was left paralyzed from the waist down following a 1982 car crash but continued to record music.
Music producer Kenny Gamble says after Pendergrass was injured, “His life changed and he started to really give to others.”
Pendergrass, who died Jan. 13 after a battle with colon cancer, was later laid to rest at a private burial service. He was 59.
Related article & photos: Thousands mourn Teddy Pendergrass