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Howard Tate Resurrects His Soul Roots
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Howard Tate Resurrects His Soul Roots
Howard Tate Resurrects His Soul Roots
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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Howard Tate has a voice to be reckoned with.

(Soundbite of song "Stop")

Mr. HOWARD TATE: (Singing) Stop. Baby can't you see that I can't take it no more.

HANSEN: In the 1960s, he sang soul music that was as cool as lemonade and as hot as a deep fryer.

(Soundbite of song "Stop")

Mr. TATE: (Singing) If you keep it up, I'm going to go through the floor. That's what's gonna happen, baby. Never knew how good a love could be. Love is gone and made a fool of me.

HANSEN: Elvis Costello once referred to him as the missing link between Jackie Wilson and Al Green. Tate made three killer albums and some singles for five different labels, and in the late 1970s, he left the music business. As late as 2001, many believed he had also left this life, but Tate had just gone missing. After a battle with addiction and homelessness, Howard Tate become a preacher and a drug counselor. And today, he's back in a big way.

(Soundbite of music from CD "Blue Day")

HANSEN: He has a new CD called "Blue Day." He's doing live shows and happens to be in our bureau in New York. Howard Tate, welcome back.

Mr. HOWARD TATE (Musician): Thank you, Liane.

HANSEN: Where you aware that people thought you had passed on?

Mr. TATE: No, I wasn't. I really wasn't, and I was quite shocked when I found out. I ran into a singer with the Blue Notes. And he says, I'm going to give you a phone number to this disc jockey named Phil Kazdin(ph). He's been on the radio saying that, you know, they've got it out that you're dead. And I was quite shocked, Liane. I really didn't believe it. And after I called Phil Kazdin up, and he said, man, everybody has been looking for you and looking for you and we just assumed you were dead, but I didn't believe that. And he says, low and behold, here you are, and you're alive.

(Soundbite of music from CD "Blue Day")

HANSEN: You been quoted as saying that this album, "Blue Day," is the one that you've wanted to do for three decades. What do you mean?

Mr. TATE: This album took me back to my roots. It's just a great album, produced very well by John Tivens, and it took me back where I belong. And I'm just trilled over this album.

HANSEN: It's been described as all killer and no filler.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TATE: That's a good way to describe this album.

HANSEN: Now John Tivens, and with some collaborators, wrote these songs for you. Why did they appeal to you?

Mr. TATE: Well, you know, because so much in these songs was a reflection back on my life and what transpired down through the years, and they just hit home. When we look at "Miss Behive," it reflects on what happened in my life, too.

(Soundbite of song "Miss Behive")

Mr. TATE: Drug addiction and a lot of heartache and pain and suffering and tears, but I'll tell you, I think they were thinking of Howard Tate when they wrote many of these songs.

HANSEN: "Miss Behive" is about Amy Winehouse.

MR. TATE: Yes, it is. And you know, I've seen her once on the Emmy Awards, I think it was. And it just reflects what's going on with her life. And you know, lo and behold, it's the same thing that went on in my life.

(Soundbite of song "Miss Behive")

HANSEN: You caution her about being a victim of her success. In some things that I've read, it was written that you were the victim of failures - failure to be paid, failure of your records to sell. Is that accurate?

Mr. TATE: That's right. That's exactly accurate. That's what drove me to the drugs in the first place, you know. Back in the day, you know, we just didn't get paid, at least black artists didn't get paid back in the day, you know, because things weren'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, you know, along the way.

HANSEN: Why did you want to get back in the game?

Mr. TATE: Well, you know, I'll tell you. When I was on the drugs and homeless, I never thought I could recover from that. It was the fight of my life, the hardest fight I ever fought. And I was so thrilled and happy when God set me free from being a drug addict, and I wanted to share that with those that are out there suffering. But they need to know there's hope, and the hope lies in God. So that's why I decided to come back.

HANSEN: Howard Tate, you know, I'm looking at a picture of you that was taken about the time that you released the tune, "Stop." Man, you have what looks like - I mean, a fade haircut. I mean, it's about four inches high, and you're wearing a smart sweater with stripes and a white shirt and a tie. I heard that Joe Tex(ph) is the guy who taught you how to dress.

Mr. TATE: That's right. Joe - yes, Joe taught me how to dress. I didn't know how to dress. When they called me on stage, the young ladies, you know, they just went to running and screaming. And then when they saw how I was dressed, they had sort of frowns come over their faces. And Joe got in touch with me and told me, he said, look, here's what you should do. You go here and get your suits made. This is where you get your jewelry and all of that. He hooked me up.

HANSEN: Yeah. You apparently were given some money to go buy a suit, and...

Mr. TATE: Yes.

HANSEN: You know, you put most of it in your pocket and went out and got (unintelligible).

Mr. TATE: Exactly. Well, what happened is they gave me a thousand dollars and said, get something to wear. So you know, I thought a thousand dollars, I don't need to spend a thousand dollars to get something to wear. I went down and bought a pair of $6.95 shoes, and I saw a suit, and it was shiny. It cost $49, I think, and that's all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: I'm going to give you a chance to pick a song you'd like us to end with.

Mr. TATE: "Blue Day," title of the album.

(Soundbite of song "Blue Day")

HANSEN: Howard Tate. His new CD is called "Blue Day." The producer and songwriter is John Tivens, and Howard Tate joined us from our New York bureau. Howard, thanks a lot.

Mr. TATE: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song "Blue Day")

HANSEN: You can hear songs from Howard Tate's latest album, "Blue Day," at nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of song "Blue Day")

Mr. TATE: (Singing) It's not going to be a yellow day. It's not going to be a black day. It's going to be blue, blue day. Going my way. Oh, going to be a blue, blue day. It's going to be blue, blue day.

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