Greg Tate, Influential Critic of Black Culture, Dies at 64

The omnivorous nature of Mr. Tate emerged early on. His family moved to Washington when he was 13 years old, and among his new friends was the playwright and poet Thulani Davis. In an interview, she recalled that Greg had come to her apartment to listen to records and question her about music, art, and literature. He read Amiri Baraka and Rolling Stone in equal measure.

“When I discovered a new sound or set of ideas,” Ms. Davis said, “I would listen to them or read them obsessively.”

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Tate is survived by a brother, Brian; a sister, Geri Augusto; and a grandson.

He studied journalism and film at Howard, where he also hosted a radio show and began trying his hand at music criticism. Finally, Ms. Davis recommended that she send something to The Village Voice, whose music editor, Robert Christgau, she knew.

Just before moving permanently to New York, Mr. Tate befriended Arthur Jafa, another Howard student, who was at the beginning of his own illustrious career as a video artist. A chance meeting outside Howard’s library, just before Mr. Tate moved to Harlem, turned into an eight-hour conversation, spanning Greek drama, avant-garde cinema, and the latest sounds of New York.

The two stayed close, exchanging ideas and becoming famous for their public speaking sessions. When Mr. Jafa needed an essay for an exhibition catalog, Mr. Tate wrote it in one night. On another occasion, Mr. Jafa joined Mr. Tate for an event in Minneapolis, where they ended up talking for 10 hours, turning into something of an accidental stage art.

“He did not accept false limits,” Jafa said in an interview. “It’s hard to describe what it’s like to have the voice of a generation as a friend.”

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