Visionary cultural critic Greg Tate dies aged 64


Greg Tate, journalist, essayist and author, one of the most influential writers of this century, who elevated writing to black culture and everything it has influenced, from jazz to hip hop to l art and cinema, died on December 7 in New York. . He was 64 years old.

His daughter, Chinara Tate, confirmed the death. No cause was given.

Standing in a long line in Trader Joe’s, glancing casually at my phone and suddenly without any control to myself, I shout, “What, what is this !!!!!” Immediately all eyes are on me. The people who were standing near me in line started to walk away. Tears flowed from my eyes like a waterfall at the cash register, words were difficult. No, they didn’t get it: the text on my phone said Greg Tate is dead.

NO, not Tate. He was our indestructible “Iron Man”, a dark warrior, fighting through the dark cloak of America’s myths, swinging his sharp words like a long sword penetrating through the BS Acknowledging that he’s gone is very difficult.

No front here, Tate and I weren’t buddies but we were siblings. We appeared on a few panels together a few years ago. Every time he spoke I wanted to pull out a pen and take notes, he was so prolific. This cat was like a ray of sunshine: in his presence he made you shine, gave you confidence to move forward in your project or another point of view on any subject.

He has been a mentor to thousands of people around the world. After contacting a friend in South Africa, he texted me: “I will never forget the long, silent walk to the mountain of the gods San and Khoi, Table Mountain, in Cape Town where we all had to go. the two of us talk to a literary festival, Open Book Fest. I will never forget Greg. I will never forget not to forget Greg. Even if, in a fit of exorcism, I try to do it: because Greg now lives fully in our spiritual and intellectual blood streams. The realm of the gods, ”said Bongani Madondo, personal friend and one of Tate’s mentees by osmosis, in Johannesburg, SA.

You didn’t need to be in his presence; you just have to read his works to feel his WORDS and understand the urgency of the present. His “Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America” and “Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader (2016)” are required readings. If you go back to the 1980s like me, then read it weekly in the Voice of the village (which hit newsstands Tuesday night) was an automatic reflex. His weekly Afro-Futuristic take on the music of funk, jazz, hip hop, art, literature, sci-fi, race, film and history was astounding (at the same time). time, it opened doors to so many young people in all these fields). He was a black intellectual with roots in the neighborhood who never sought to take prisoners, writing in the middle of a Cecil Taylor tune that only hip or inspired people could really dig.

Not to see him play and lead his big band Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber is a great loss. They were unlike any other, but one would expect no less from the co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition. Their repertoire of classics and original compositions oscillated between deep funk, hip hop, avant-garde and everything in between. Earlier this year, Tate conducted the Arkestra in a live performance at the Apollo Theater at the screening of Gordon Parks’ original film “Shaft.” Launch of a new interpretation of Issac Hayes’ theme song “Theme from Shaft”. And, let’s not forget, his collaboration with one of the most important figures in jazz, composer Butch Morris on the Burnt Sugar album “The Rites”. The rock band Bad Brains would never have entered my vocabulary without Tate.

Those in-person conversations saw that smile, the sparkle in his eyes, and heard his words flowing like a Wayne Shorter solo. Always one to ask “How’s the writing going?” or “what are you working on?” It wasn’t about him, it was about sharing his knowledge and just being real.

During his stay at the Voice of the village, young Tate was writing with big willie cats like Stanley Crouch, Nat Hentoff, Gary Giddins and investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. He was swimming with these big fish and shining. I read his article first, then Crouch and Barrett, Giddins and Hentoff, which was on the last page. At this point Tate and Crouch were guns and Thulani Davis-dam all hard-hitting visionaries, nuff said.

Sometimes his words were so deep I felt like Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra were stuck in a jam, browsing my dictionary or Googling online to understand his lines. His vocabulary was so seductive, so trendy with a groove that caught the attention of the black bourgeoisie, the LBGTQ crew, hip hop and intellectuals of all races. Yo, that brother did it over and over again !! His words danced with Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed, Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray with the spirit of Oscar Brown Jr.

You know the brother who wears the beanies, the colorful scarf wrapped around his neck and the tinted glasses. He had swag with a bit of Monk, don’t even think about trying to duplicate Tate, that won’t happen! But we can all take his advice and keep reading his writings. Gon ‘Greg Tate, we have your legacy, thank you very much for being and sharing.

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