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



His omnivorous nature emerged early on. His family moved to Washington when he was 13, and among their new friends was the playwright and poet Thulani Davis. In an interview, she remembered Greg coming to her apartment to listen to records and grilling her about music, art and literature. He read Amiri Baraka and Rolling Stone in equal measure.

“When he discovered a new sound or set of ideas,” Ms. Davis said in an interview, “he would listen to 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. Eventually Ms. Davis recommended that he submit something to The Village Voice, whose music editor, Robert Christgau, she knew.

Just before moving to New York permanently, Mr. Tate struck up a friendship with Arthur Jafa, another Howard student, who was at the beginning of his own illustrious career as a video artist. A chance encounter outside the Howard library, just before Mr. Tate moved to Harlem, turned into an eight-hour conversation, ranging over Greek drama, avant-garde film and the latest sounds coming out of New York.

The two remained close, bouncing ideas off each other and becoming famous for their public gab sessions. When Mr. Jafa needed an essay for an exhibition catalog, Mr. Tate wrote it in a night. On another occasion, Mr. Jafa joined Mr. Tate for an event in Minneapolis, where they ended up talking for 10 hours, becoming a sort of accidental performance art.

“He didn’t accept false boundaries,” Mr. Jafa said in an interview. “It’s hard to describe what it’s like having the voice of a generation as your friend.”

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