We were deeply saddened to learn yesterday of the death of music and cultural critic Greg Tate, author of Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader (2016). He was 64.
After attending Howard University, Tate launched his career at the Village Voice in 1987 and went on to write for many publications, including Vibe, Spin, The Wire, ARTNews, and Downbeat. He is the author of Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America and Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience and the editor of Everything but the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture. In 2016 we collected many of his writings in Flyboy 2, which features interviews, reviews, and art, book, and music criticism.
Tate was also a musician who led the conducted improvisation ensemble Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber. He served as a visiting professor at Yale, Columbia, Brown and Williams. In 2020 he co-curated the exhibition Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
His editor, Ken Wissoker, says, “Greg Tate’s Voice essays invented a whole new critical language — both a new form of critical writing and a theoretical approach. It would be hard to underestimate how much a whole generation learned from him. It was a privilege to know him and a dream and an honor to work with him on Flyboy 2. An incalculable loss, far too soon.”
Duke University Press has a final book with Greg Tate under contract, to be published sometime in the next few years. Titled White Cube Fever: Hella Conjure and Writing on the Black Arts, it is a collection of his writing on Black arts, including essays on Carrie Mae Weems, Basquiat, Arthur Jafa, Kerry James Marshall, Sanford Biggers, Lonnie Holley, Ellen Gallagher, and Theaster Gates. It will be a bittersweet pleasure for our staff to work on this posthumous project.
Our condolences go out to Tate’s family, friends, and legions of fans.