Howard Tate

Howard Tate


The saga of Howard Tate is, in the truest sense of the word, inspirational. Spanning sixty tumultuous years; rich with triumph and tragedy, popular acclaim and bitter betrayal, it is, simply put, the stuff of legend.


The saga of Howard Tate is, in the truest sense of the word, inspirational. Spanning sixty tumultuous years; rich with triumph and tragedy, popular acclaim and bitter betrayal, it is, simply put, the stuff of legend.

But, like any great story, it’s only as good as its ending. Fatefully, for Howard Tate, and no less then the millions of true believing blues fans across the country and around the world, his life has all the satisfying resonance that comes from just rewards attained, long delayed promises fulfilled and a genuinely happy-ever-after future.

That future begins with Rediscovered, his thrilling new album on Private Music / Arista Associated Labels and the first new release by this quintessential blues vocalist in over three decades. What happened to Howard Tate in all those long intervening years not only makes for a breathtaking testament to the tenacity of the human spirit; it, in itself, is the spirit that adorns these twelve beautiful and moving new tracks. This is the music of a life fully lived; of a talent tempered and tested and of the sort of divine intervention that rekindles faith and reaffirms the simple truth that Somebody up there loves Howard Tate.

If that name rings a familiar bell in the back of your brain, give yourself credit for a bit of canny bluesology. Those who know their stuff will recall that Tate was one of the brightest lights of the mid-to-late Sixties R&B scene, a golden age for young, ambitious artists just emerging from the giant shadows cast by the great originators. Even among such conspicuous competitors as Otis and Percy and Wilson, Tate stood out. It was a reputation due in large part to an incendiary live show, his landmark 1967 debut album, Get It While You Can and a creative partnership with producer and songwriter Jerry Ragovoy, the man behind such blues and R&B perennials as “Time Is On My Side,” “Piece Of My Heart” and scores of others.

Yet even as a string of Top 20 hits -- including “Look At Granny Run Run,” “Stop” and “Ain’t Nobody Home” -- were followed up by second album in 1974, a chapter depressingly familiar to many black music stars of the era was beginning to unfold. Unscrupulous promoters, unrelenting tour schedules and unconscionable royalty payments conspired to suck the pleasure and profit out of Tate’s career. By the mid-Seventies he had walked away from it all, leaving behind an unfulfilled musical destiny and a legion of disappointed fans.

It is here that Howard Tate’s story takes a dark and dangerous turn, tinged by self-destruction and tragedy. Returning to his native Philadelphia, he began selling insurance to support his wife and six children, one of whom – a thirteen year old daughter – perished in a house fire in 1976. The overwhelming grief of his loss brought his world down around him, ending his 19-year marriage and eventually robbing Tate of his very purpose for living. A slow-motion descent into drugs and alcohol landed him on the mean streets of his hometown, where he lived hand to mouth until, in 1994, he reached bottom and found God waiting for him there.

“It scared me to death,” Tate recalls of the morning in 1994 when he heard a voice telling him to go into the world and preach the gospel. “It felt like God had me out in infinity. I wasn’t asleep and I wasn’t awake. I really didn’t want to preach, but I didn’t have a choice. So I got busy.”

Forming the itinerant Gift of the Cross church, meeting in the living rooms of his small but fervent congregation, Tate took on his new mantle with a dedication and devotion that turned his life around, freeing him from drugs and alcohol and giving him an abiding compassion for the homeless and hopeless in whose company he had spent so many years.

But the miracles in the life of Howard Tate were only beginning. Even while he tended to his flock, his longtime producer Jerry Ragovoy had embarked on his own quest to find this same artist whose extraordinary potential had been cut short. “Ever since the late Seventies I had been getting calls from promoters and club owners wanting to book Howard,” Ragovoy recalls. “I tried everything I could think of to find him, but it was as if he’d dropped off the face of the earth.”

But Ragovoy wasn’t the only fan that kept the flame burning for Howard Tate. Philadelphia area DJ Phil Casden had at the same time launched a one-made crusade on his radio show for information leading to the whereabouts of the blues legend. “I grew up on his music,” Casden enthuses. “Anyone who can listen to ‘Get It While You Can’ and not be emotionally moved had better check their batteries. They might be dead.”

It was a conclusion many had already reached about Howard Tate, even as interest and demand for the brilliant blues of this once-forgotten prodigy grew following the 1995 re-release of Get It While You Can. The liner notes of album referred to the artist in the past tense.

But as Mark Twain once quipped, reports


Rediscovered - 2003