[photo: Teddy Vann in younger music-making days.]
By R. Damani Howell, M.D.
To the world beyond, Teddy Vann was the creator of hit songs like "The Power of Love."
But to me -- to the whole community of Lefferts Manor/Prospect Lefferts Gardens -- Teddy was the resident philosopher, who spouted wisdom up and down Midwood Street; he was the artist who played wonderful tunes on his piano for the world outside to hear; and he was the mind-warrior who played wicked games of chess at Wendy's on Empire Boulevard.
Teddy will be especially missed at this time of year.
It was Teddy who many years ago introduced the celebration of Kwanzaa to Central Brooklyn, the lighting of the candles and the adherence to rites he considered more meaningful than ones traditionally associated with the guy on the sled with the reindeer.
Teddy was always looking to give a special meaning to Christmas -- for himself, his family, and other people of color.
It was Ted who several decades ago penned a song that was big on Black radio stations at the time, "Santa Claus Is a Black Man," which featured the cute voice of his oldest child, Akim.
But maybe more than anything else, Teddy was like a surrogate father to hundreds of boys -- now young men -- who loved to play basketball and loved to listen to him talk about how mathematical the game was. He would instruct them in math and sternly push them toward careers and professions that would do them and their families proud.
I learned basketball watching and listening to Teddy, and to Teddy's son Kayode, who went on to play for Georgetown. (Daughter Chinyere would play for Fordham.)
Even in recent years, Teddy remained a fixture at Wingate Park, the neighborhood hang-out spot for basketball and handball players.
Yes, he will be missed very deeply.
When my wife Brittny and I got married several years ago, we proudly played for our guests one of Teddy's songs that made it up the hit charts, "Power of Love," crooned by Luther Vandross.
And that is one of the greatest truths of all, that Love Has Power.
Rest in Peace. And peace to Wan-Ling, Teddy's loving wife, and to Akim and Kayode and Chinyere, and to Teddy's grandchildren, who will miss him very much.