[Hpn] Fwd: Recapturing a Partnership That Was Lost;long lost soul singer, formerly homeless
Morgan W. Brown
Thu, 19 Jul 2001 12:09:23 -0400
Below is a forward of an article about soul and blues performer Howard Tate,
long assumed to be dead, who - as it turns out - had become homeless after
experiencing a major family tragedy and then a divorce, is alive and well,
became a church minister who has been helping people who are poor and
homeless and, has returned to the music business to help pay for building a
sanctuary for his ministry.
Morgan W. Brown
Thursday, July 19, 2001
New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com>
[New York, New York]
Recapturing a Partnership That Was Lost
By NEIL STRAUSS The New York Times
Three decades after a falling out, the working relationship and friendship
between Jerry Ragovoy and Howard Tate has been rekindled.
For soul fans, the work of Jerry Ragovoy and Howard Tate holds its own
against the best of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Joe Tex, thanks in part
to Mr. Tate's melting falsetto and Mr. Ragovoy's mix of classic gospel and
Together, the pair recorded one of the most emotionally powerful, impeccably
arranged soul albums of the 1960's, "Get It While You Can" (Verve). Then,
after a falling out, they stopped collaborating, and Mr. Tate disappeared.
Mr. Ragovoy continued to write and produce songs, but they didn't sound
right to him.
"The problem was that I still had Howard's voice in my head," he said. He
needed to find his old partner, and he began a search that lasted more than
After all, it had been when Mr. Ragovoy met Mr. Tate that his songs seemed
to unfold in directions he had never imagined. Similarly, Mr. Tate had known
he was born with a talent for singing, but it wasn't until he began working
with Mr. Ragovoy that he learned how to control and exploit that talent for
maximum emotional effect. Though Mr. Ragovoy had already been the writer or
cowriter of hits for the Majors, Garnet Mimms and Lorraine Ellison in
addition to future classic-rock hits like "Piece of My Heart" and "Time Is
on My Side," it was his collaboration with Mr. Tate that haunted him most.
"I looked everywhere for him," Mr. Ragovoy said. "I checked all his old
haunts and called anyone who used to know him. But no one knew where he
was." Two years ago, Mr. Ragovoy stopped looking: he had given Mr. Tate up
He wasn't the only person searching for a ghost. Mr. Tate had left an
enormous legacy behind: he had recorded three top-20 rhythm-and-blues hits,
and songs from his albums had been covered by Janis Joplin ("Get It While
You Can"), Jimi Hendrix ("Stop"), B. B. King ("Ain't Nobody Home") and Ry
Cooder ("Look at Granny Run Run," a song later sampled by the rap group
Brand Nubian). As Mr. Tate's albums were rediscovered in the 90's, concert
promoters, record labels and journalists tried to hunt him down. Most came
to the same conclusion Mr. Ragovoy had reached. In a 1995 reissue of Mr.
Tate's Verve sessions, the liner notes stated that the soul singer was
But then a purchasing agent for a Philadelphia-area public housing authority
entered the hunt. His name was Phil Casden, and every Saturday afternoon he
gave vent to his soul, blues and rhythm-and-blues obsession with a radio
show on the New Jersey station WNJC-AM.
"If you can listen to `Get It While You Can' or `Learned It All the Hard
Way' and not be emotionally moved," Mr. Casden said of Mr. Tate's hits,
"then you'd better check your batteries, because you may be dead."
Mr. Casden had read the Verve liner notes and a few articles on Mr. Tate
that described the singer as missing and presumed dead. He also learned that
Mr. Tate was from Philadelphia and decided that the singer must still have
relatives or friends within range of his broadcasts. So every time he played
a song by Mr. Tate, Mr. Casden would preface or follow it with a plea for
information on the singer.
"It wasn't sufficient to leave a story like that open- ended," Mr. Casden
said. "I had to find out: `Is the guy alive? Is he dead?' There had to be
something more than, `He just rode off into the sunset.' "
A few months ago, the phone call came: Ron Kennedy, a former singer with
Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, had bumped into Mr. Tate in a supermarket
and exchanged phone numbers with him. Mr. Tate was alive and well, working
as a minister to a small South Jersey congregation that held services in
Mr. Kennedy put the D.J. in touch with Mr. Tate, who had no idea that anyone
was still listening to his music. Even his congregation didn't know he was a
soul legend. Mr. Casden posted his discovery in an Internet newsgroup
dedicated to soul music, and the word was out. The D.J. even found a lawyer
to help Mr. Tate receive the money he should have been getting all along for
reissues of his music.
Oblivious to this activity, Mr. Ragovoy received a phone call from a
journalist working with a small British blues magazine. Mr. Ragovoy remarked
that it was odd that anyone would want to write an in-depth piece about Mr.
Tate after all these years, and the journalist replied that Mr. Tate had a
dedicated following overseas.
"I've spent years trying to find him," Mr. Ragovoy told the journalist.
"I spoke to him yesterday," the writer said.
And so, after 29 years, a great working relationship and friendship was
rekindled. Mr. Ragovoy called Mr. Tate and arranged a meeting in Manhattan.
"I wanted to see him face to face to see if he was O.K.," Mr. Ragovoy said.
"But I also wanted to verify that he could still sing. I could tell just by
his speaking voice that the strength was still there."
Mr. Ragovoy was excited to discover that there was no significant change in
his former partner's voice. "It's a slight bit huskier," he said. "But other
than that, the tonality, the sonority, the falsetto all that is still
Speaking by telephone from his home in Mount Holly, N.J., Mr. Tate was
equally enthusiastic. "The only thing that persuaded me to come back again
was Jerry Ragovoy," he said. "We go together like hand and glove."
Mr. Tate plans to release a new album, which he has started recording with
Mr. Ragovoy, and to begin performing more regularly. His first show in
Manhattan in nearly 30 years (since an early 70's Apollo bill with B. B.
King and the Temptations) is scheduled for Saturday night at the Village
"I didn't realize that we had become almost like a legend all over the
world," Mr. Tate said. "When they found me, they sent me all kinds of
literature and overseas writing. I really didn't know that my music had held
up over all these years."
Mr. Tate said that he started to get bad feelings about the music business
when he was recording for the singer Lloyd Price's label Turntable and
performing at Mr. Price's club, also named the Turntable, in Times Square.
Outside the Turntable one night, Mr. Price's manager, Harold Logan, was
"When Harold got killed, I said, `That's enough for me,' " Mr. Tate said.
"On top of that, I wasn't getting record royalties. So I became a securities
dealer with Prudential."
After his 13-year-old daughter died in a house fire in the mid-70's and he
divorced his wife of two decades in 1981, Mr. Tate went into a downward
spiral and wandered the streets homeless. Then one day in 1994, as he was
slowly putting his life back together, he was on his knees praying and, he
said, "I had an experience of God."
"He spoke to me," Mr. Tate said.
And so Mr. Tate became a minister, just like his father was, and dedicated
his time to helping the poor and homeless. This is the other reason Mr. Tate
has returned to secular music-making: he says he needs $5 million to build a
sanctuary for his ministry and figures a new album is the quickest way to
"It's better than anything we've done," he said of his new material. "If
it's not top-10 material, I'll stop singing for good."
As for Mr. Casden, having helped rebuild an old friendship between the
producer and the singer is a highlight of his life. "From a fan's
standpoint," he said, "it's like striking up a friendship with George and
Ringo and getting them to talk to Paul again."
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
-------End of forward-------
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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