This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 6, 2002 11:25 PM. The previous post in this blog was R.I.P.. The next post in this blog is The real downside of the tram. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, July 6, 2002

Resurrection of an R&B legend

The Portland Waterfront Blues Festival was graced with a joyous performance tonight by Howard Tate. Tate's appearance in Portland was part of his re-emergence from nearly three decades of obscurity after a series of stunning rhythm-and-blues recording sessions in the late 1960's with songwriter-producer Jerry Ragovoy. The story of Tate's recent rediscovery, preaching in a small church, has been told repeatedly over the past year or so. Click over onto eBay, and if you can find it at all, you can pay upwards of $100 for the long-out-of-print CD of Tate's legendary sessions. (And it's worth every penny.)

This is simply to report that Howard Tate is in fine spirits, good form, and great voice.

Resplendent in a turquoise-green suit with white shirt and tie, and backed by the Uptown Horns, Tate worked his way through about a dozen of his strongest numbers -- opening with "Stop," and adding "Ain't Nobody Home," "Part-Time Love," "How Blue Can You Get," "How Come My Bulldog Don't Bark," "I Learned it All the Hard Way," "Look at Granny Run Run," and the show-stopper, "Get it While You Can." Before "Get it," Tate paid tribute to Janis Joplin, who popularized the song after Tate's earlier recording. Then the crowd of festival-goers heard, most of them for the first time, the version that convinced Joplin that the song was definitely worth recording. (It is probably not coincidental that Joplin also covered "Cry Baby," first recorded by Tate's early singing partner, Garnett Mimms.)

Tate punctuated his singing with a falsetto that was amazingly supple for any singer, much less one in his 60s. Not a flashy performer, he nonetheless enjoyed the groove being laid down by the Uptowns, who proved a highly capable backup band in the tradition of the Mar-Keys, the MGs, and more recently the CBS Orchestra.

"This is my first time in Portland, and I'm having a great time here," Tate told the enthusiastic audience. Responding to a question shouted out from the lawn, he added, "I don't know; it's a miracle."

The question wasn't audible to most of the crowd. But the fact that Tate was alive, on stage in the Pacific Northwest sunset, and doing such a great job with these tunes that had once been given up for dead, truly is nothing short of miraculous.

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