Craft Recordings is thrilled to announce the digital debut of This Christmas (I’d Rather Have Love), the sole holiday title (and final studio album) from the incomparable R&B star Teddy Pendergrass. Debuting on November 3rdacross digital platforms and available to pre-save now, the long-out-of-print album, which turns 25 this year, offers a soulful blend of original songs (“Happy Kwanzaa,” “Christmas and You”) plus an array of festive classics, including “Little Drummer Boy,” “Oh Holy Night” and “The Christmas Song.” This year, Christmas comes ahead of schedule with Pendergrass' contemporary and inspiring version of "Joy to the World," available now.
When he began writing his first-ever Christmas album, Pendergrass was fresh off a starring role in the touring gospel musical Your Arms Too Short to Box with God and was readying to publish his autobiography, Truly Blessed. It was certainly a joyful time for the artist—and that radiates throughout This Christmas (I’d Rather Have Love). Working with frequent collaborators like the GRAMMY®-winning songwriter/producer Reggie Calloway and songwriter/producer Jim Salamone, Pendergrass recorded an array of original material, including “Happy Kwanzaa” and the hip-hop inspired “Having a Christmas Party” (both written by Calloway). Other highlights include the Pendergrass/Calloway original “I Won’t Have Christmas,” while slow jams “Christmas and You” and “This Christmas (I’d Rather Have Love)” blend romance with the holiday spirit. Pendergrass also put his special touch on a slew of traditional holiday songs: from a grooving “Joy to the World” and Afrobeat-tinged “Little Drummer Boy” to soulful renditions of “We Three Kings,” “The Christmas Song,” “Oh Holy Night” and the John Lennon / Yoko Ono classic “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”
Upon its release in September 1998, This Christmas (I’d Rather Have Love) debuted at No.83 on Billboard’s Top R&B Hip-Hop Albums chart. In 2010, following Pendergrass’ death, it surged in popularity again, peaking at No.43 on the Holiday Albums chart. The album, which marked Pendergrass’ 14th and final LP, was also received warmly by critics, including AllMusic, which proclaimed, “Pendergrass' smoldering vocals make This Christmas (I'd Rather Have Love) one of the most romantic seasonal records on the market.”
Album producer, Jim Salamone shares “What a thrill to realize that Teddy's album is being re-released! So many great memories are attached to the creation of this timeless work. It will be very satisfying for people to be able to enjoy this record every Holiday season.” Adds Daniel Markus, Pendergrass’s co-manager “Teddy was very proud of this album. He put it all together himself with some help from the Calloway Brothers (of Midnight Star fame) and Jim [Salamone].”
Multi-platinum-selling singer-songwriter Teddy Pendergrass (1950–2010) was one of the most successful R&B artists of his era, despite enormous obstacles and a life-altering tragedy. Born in South Carolina and raised in Philadelphia by a single mother, Pendergrass was heavily involved in church as a child—not only training his voice in the choir but becoming an ordained minister at just 10 years old. At 20, he became the lead singer of the long-running Philadelphia soul group Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. Within months, they signed to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s legendary Philadelphia International Records, scoring their first major hit, “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” in 1972. The now-classic song, which topped Billboard’s R&B chart and peaked at No.3 on the Hot 100, was the first in a string of bestselling singles for the group, including “The Love I Lost,” “Bad Luck” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (also famously recorded by Thelma Houston in 1977).
As the group’s breakout star, Pendergrass embarked on a solo career, releasing his self-titled debut in 1977. An immediate bestseller (thanks to hits like “I Don’t Love You Anymore” and “The Whole Town’s Laughing at Me”), Teddy Pendergrass marked the first of five consecutive Platinum-selling albums for the singer-songwriter, making him the first Black artist to achieve such a feat. Among them was 1978’s Life Is a Song Worth Singing (featuring the R&B No.1 “Close the Door”) and 1979’s Teddy, which topped the R&B Albums chart, thanks to the sultry “Turn Off the Lights” (one of his signature “bedroom ballads”). By the end of the decade, Pendergrass was one of R&B’s biggest stars and a bona fide sex symbol, who was known for his popular “women-only” concerts. He continued the momentum as the new decade began, with Top 20 albums like TP (1980) and It’s Time for Love (1981), as well as Top 5 R&B hits like “Love T.K.O.” and the Stephanie Mills duet “Two Hearts.” But his life was forever changed in March 1982, when a car accident left him paralyzed from the chest down.
It was a long road to recovery for Pendergrass, who underwent years of physical therapy. In 1985, he made his triumphant return to the stage during Live Aid, appearing in front of nearly 100,000 fans (and countless others via satellite) at Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium. A year earlier, he recorded his first album since the accident, Love Language (featuring “Hold Me,” a duet with a then-unknown Whitney Houston). In 1988, he was back at the top of the R&B charts with his enduring hit “Joy” (the title track to his GRAMMY®-nominated 10th studio album), while the following decade would find him enjoying a regular schedule of releases.
In 2006, Pendergrass announced his retirement from the industry, turning his focus to his charity, The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, established to help others with spinal cord injuries rebuild their lives. Four years later, amid failing health, the singer-songwriter passed away at 59, leaving behind a rich musical legacy. Throughout his nearly four-decade-long career, Pendergrass was celebrated with a variety of honors, including five GRAMMY® nominations and a 1979 American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist. In 2021, he was inducted posthumously into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
This Christmas (I’d Rather Have Love) Tracklist
- Joy To The World
- Little Drummer Boy
- Christmas And You
- The Christmas Song
- Having A Christmas Party
- I Won’t Have Christmas
- We Three Kings
- Oh Holy Night
- Happy Kwanzaa
- This Christmas (I’d Rather Have Love)
- Happy Xmas (War Is Over)