Greg Tate, writer and historian for Black Avant-Garde, dead at 64 –

Greg Tate, an insightful and influential critic and essayist who focused on matters relating to music, art, and other worlds of culture, has died at the age of 64. Reports of his death began circulating online early Tuesday, and his publisher, Duke University Press, confirmed the news. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Tate made his name early on as a diligent and elegant music and art writer for publications including village soundAnd energy, And yarn-Beside ARTnews, for which he has written a number of articles and reviews dating back to 2017. He was one of the most important early historians of hip-hop in the 80s, in terms of music as well as all the elements of street art and fashion that continue to surround it.

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In musical circles, he was influential in the ways he used hip-hop and other sounds, linking them to an extended lineage of black avant-garde music and art by visionaries including Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and countless others. in a Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience, a book on Hendrix from 2003, wrote, “Black culture must produce demigods and mythical creatures: half-human, half-winged angelic things bent on saving race, advancing culture, and campaigning for black redemption.”

Other books by Tate include Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America (1992), Everything But Burden: What Whites Take From Black Culture (Anthology edited in 2003), and Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader (2016). He was also a founding member of the Black Rock Alliance and Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber. His work also extended to the field of curation when, last year, he and Liz Munsell organized the exhibition Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

In a wave of grief among followers and peers on Twitter, jazz writer Adam Schatz books That Tate was “for black avant-garde music as Clement Greenberg was for abstract expressionism, a pioneering critic, canon builder, curator, astronaut and explorer of planets unknown to most of his peers.” Doreen Saint Felix, writer for publications including Dr New YorkerAnd books, “The first step toward that is tradition and whoever we all emulate is Greg Tate…the greatest…and the best, so generous with his time and this mind.”

NS ARTnewsTate wrote of the opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2017. Tracing its roots to the slave trade, he wrote: “The outline of the story should be familiar to most readers of these pages, but as with most matters of the nation and race, the devil is in the gruesome details, such as the never-ending tale of endurance and the indelible transcendence of those horrors that occurred along the way.Great museums offer a range of opportunities and strategies not only to get those devilish details right but to kill us softly, As the song goes, while doing it. The NMAAHC scores are high either way.”

Greg Tate

Photo by the author sent by Greg Tate to ARTnews.
Courtesy Greg Tate

In 2019, Tate wrote a file ARTnews Review of the Whitney Biennale in relation to “The World of White Institutional Art (hereafter referred to as TIWAW).” His memorable performer of the passage: “Like Miles Davis, every Whitney Biennial is blowing, prestigious and brilliant, inevitably, to certain groups of opinions, and otherwise too.” In 2020, he wrote a file ARTnews “Letter from New York” about the early stages of the epidemic. and in 2021, as part of a series dedicated to “Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation,” ARTnews He published four interviews that Tate and Liz Munsell did with characters scanned on the show, including an archival discussion that Tate had with rapper and artist Rammelsey.

to interview with New York magazine about publishing Flyboy 2Tate recalled his early days in the city: “I arrived in New York in ’81, just as hip-hop was blowing up. The radio wasn’t playing hip-hop. There were no videos. It was the way I found out about KRS-One and Rakim and Big Daddy Kane and Public Enemy is word of mouth. It was a very secretive conversation, but being in New York in the ’80s we were basically in the epicenter of global culture.”

in a ARTnews “Letter from New York” last year, he wrote of the excitement of seeing his friends and his city come to life again (at least a little bit) after three months of lockdown due to the coronavirus — “on a walk on the Hudson River near 135th Street, while a very silent protest closed Black Lives Matter George Floyd’s West Side Highway nearby.The sun was in glorious spring bloom, the air was warm and gentle, the curve was solemnly flattened, and once again New Yorkers were on the grass at the water’s edge, strolling, rambling, And they bring out classic funk and soul out of their boom boxes and portable speakers.”

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo