Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Soul music has lost one of its great voices. Howard Tate died Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 72 years old. Tate made his name with a string of records, including "Get It While You Can." He later slid into addiction and obscurity, but he revived his career in the last decade of his life. NPR's Joel Rose has this appreciation.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Howard Tate's first turn at the music business got off to a promising start in 1966, when the single "Ain't Nobody Home" hit the R&B charts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NOBODY HOME")

HOWARD TATE: (Singing) Once upon a time, a long, long time ago...

ROSE: As Tate told WHYY's FRESH AIR in 2003, fame came so quickly that it caught him by surprise.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

TATE: I came home from work one day, and a big limousine was sitting in front of the door, and they said, you got to get in here right away. They gave me a thousand dollars. They said, you got to get a suit. You're playing with Marvin Gaye tomorrow night.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NOBODY HOME")

TATE: (Singing) Ain't nobody home. Yeah. Ain't nobody home.

ROSE: Howard Tate grew up in Philadelphia and got his start singing in his father's church. He was discovered by the late Jerry Ragovoy, a producer and songwriter. In 2003, Ragovoy told me he was impressed by Tate's smooth tenor and soaring falsetto.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

JERRY RAGOVOY: The potential of his range was extraordinary, and I thought that Howard was maybe the only artist that I heard who could execute what I had in my mind as a writer.

ROSE: Their collaboration reached its pinnacle with Ragovoy's classic song "Get It While You Can."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET IT WHILE YOU CAN")

TATE: (Singing) Get it while you can. Get it while you can. Get it while you can. Don't turn your back on love.

ROSE: But while Janis Joplin and others had success covering Howard Tate, Tate himself never made much money from his recordings.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

TATE: Back in the day, you know, we just didn't get paid, at least black artists, because things wasn't set up the way they are now, you know, with the managers. So we had no protection, and who knows what happened to the money along the way?

ROSE: Tate walked away from the music business in the 1970s and got a job selling insurance. Then his 13-year-old daughter died in a house fire. Tate's marriage fell apart, and he turned to cocaine.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

TATE: I thought drugs would alleviate that depressed feeling that I had, which was a crucial mistake. It only led to destruction, homelessness and all of that. And that's what happened.

ROSE: For about a decade, Tate lived on the streets of Camden, New Jersey, working odd jobs to score.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

TATE: I would walk 30 miles to get $20. I would beg people, let me clean your garage, let me wash your car, let me cut your lawn, just to get $20. I would want that drug so bad.

ROSE: Finally, in 1994, Tate checked himself into a rehab clinic. Tate was born again and started working as a preacher. He wasn't sure if he could still sing until he went into the studio again with producer Jerry Ragovoy in the early 2000s.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

TATE: When I opened my mouth and I stepped up to the mic, I knew it was a miracle. Jerry didn't know it, of course, but I was thanking God, you know, with all my heart and soul that he had blessed me to still have the voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LEARNED IT ALL THE HARD WAY")

TATE: (Singing) I learned it all the hard way. Can't you see I repented for my sins? Oh, I sit right here by my window, hoping you will come back again.

ROSE: After 2003, Howard Tate launched his second career, recording a handful of albums and playing to appreciative crowds around the world. Tate enjoyed the overdue attention, but he also said he had a higher goal in mind for his comeback: to show other drug addicts that there's hope. Joel Rose, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LEARNED IT ALL THE HARD WAY")

TATE: (Singing) This is my true confession, darling. That I just can't make it here without you. Oh, I made you lots of promises.

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.