Friday, June 10, 2011

Teddy Pendergrass & Whitney Houston - "Hold Me"

Hold Me (Duet With Whitney Houston) - Love Language

(Debuted June 9, 1984, Peaked #46, 18 Weeks on the Charts)

This was the song that introduced Whitney Houston to the Billboard pop chart. While she was a backup singer on a few songs that had charted previously (like Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman"), this was the first single to list her on the label. While it wasn't a Top 40 pop hit, it managed to reach the Top 10 on both the R&B and adult contemporary charts. In fact, the first few times I ever heard it was on an AM station that skewed more toward adult contemporary.

That's right...where I grew up, the main radio stations were still on the AM band as late as 1984 and the FM stations that were any good were either from Canada or Syracuse, which were affected by weather patterns. That would soon change later in the year, but that part of northern New York was behind the times when it came to a lot of things. But I digress...

While Whitney Houston is arguably the bigger star on this song, when it was released, the "name" was Teddy Pendergrass. He had been involved in a serious car accident in 1982 that left him paralyzed from the waist down. There had been two Pendergrass albums since the accident, but both included material that was already "in the can" before the brakes failed on his Rolls. After a long period of physical therapy, he signed with a new record company and recorded the LP Love Language, which included "Hold Me." Despite the injury, the record proved that Pendergrass could still carry a torch with the best of them even when confined to a wheelchair.

Listening to "Hold Me" with the benefit of nearly 30 years of hindsight, it's easy to see that the female vocal is quite talented. It's safe to say that from the standpoint of a listener in 1984, few knew just how big that voice would become as the 1980s progressed. Yes, she was able to hold her own against the powerful voice that Teddy Pendergrass possessed on the single, but it was difficult to guess that she was about to turn out seven #1 singles before the decade was over.

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