Howard Tate: Soul singer who was given a second chance at a musical career


Howard Tate, who died on 2 December aged 72, was a soul singer who was given a second chance at a musical career three decades after being derailed by disputes with industry executives, personal tragedy and drug addiction.

Tate was born in Macon, Georgia, and grew up in Philadelphia, where as a teenager he sang with the doo-wop group The Gainors. He was a rising star who later suffered through decades of such extreme darkness that his long-time producer believed he was dead.

In the late 1960s and early '70s, Tate had three top 20 R&B hits, including "Get It While You Can", written by his long-standing producer Jerry Ragovoy and made more famous by Janis Joplin. Tate toured the chitlin circuit with Aretha Franklin as her version of "Respect" climbed the charts in 1967, but within a decade, he had walked away from his career, disillusioned that he wasn't getting the royalties he thought he deserved. He took up a new career selling insurance in Philadelphia. "I got rid of my own records, and I didn't listen to other people's records because I didn't want to flash back," he said in 2003.

Then his daughter died in a fire and his marriage fell apart. He drank heavily, became addicted to crack and other drugs and ended up homeless. By the mid-1990s, he had cleaned up and became a minister, eventually leading a congregation in Willingboro. Around that time, his 1967 album "Get It While You Can", considered a classic by soul aficionados, was reissued on CD.

On the liner notes, Ragovoy wrote that the singer was probably dead, but in 2001, a chance meeting at a grocery store between Tate and a former member of Harold Melvin's Blue Notes tipped off the music world that he was alive. In 2003, he returned to the studio and made Rediscovered, which was nominated for a Grammy. Over the next five years, he toured and released a live record and three more studio CDs.

Howard Tate, singer: born 13 August 1939; died 2 December 2011.