Agent—Alison Loerke, ALIA Agency, 12258 12th Ave. NW, Seattle, WA 98177.
Village Voice, New York, NY, staff writer. Cofounder of the Black Rock Coalition; musical director of Burnt Sugar.
Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.
Brooklyn Kings: New York City's Black Bikers, Powerhouse Books (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Jessica Morgan and Rob Storr) Ellen Gallagher, Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston, MA), 2001.
Midnight Lighting: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience, Lawrence Hill Books (Chicago, IL), 2003.
(Editor) Everything but the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2003.
A Village Voice staff writer and cultural critic, founding member of the Black Rock Coalition, and musical director of the improvisational group Burnt Sugar, Greg Tate has a great deal of experience in the interplay of race, music, and the wider culture. "He also is an astute observer and chronicler of this post-everything and nouveau-whatever culture nobody has yet fit with a suitable moniker," according to Penny Mickelbury in Africana.
In Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America, Tate brings together forty of his essays on music, art, and literature, an eclectic mixture of subjects from Miles Davis to George Clinton, Don DeLillo to Public Enemy. "Underlying nearly all Tate's work is, uh, you know, the color thing: structural racism in America, its permutations and fallout," observed Nation contributor Gene Santoro. Some essays deal directly with the color divide in such cases as the O. J. Simpson trial, the Central Park jogger rape, and Howard Beach. Others note the curious symmetries, as in Bill Clinton's, and even Lee Atwater's, embrace of black music for political effect. "The political pieces cut to the bone, sparing neither a white power structure that devalues black life nor blacks who cry racism to excuse sexism," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Tate "writes with a laser. And his mixture of straight-up English, street-speak and scholarese can be quite dizzying. But the spin makes you think," wrote Tonya Bolden in Black Enterprise. Santoro further commented on "the fierce beauty, fanned by articulate rage and humor, that flames out from Flyboy. Miss it and you've missed something crucial about the world you are living in and will be."
After contributing essays for books on Ellen Gallagher, an African-American artist who uses stereotypes to undercut them, and the curious world of black bikers in Brooklyn Kings, Tate published Midnight Lighting: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience, "a jumpy, fast-talking take on Jimi Hendrix—the social meaning, the sexual mystery, and the music of a 'musician's musician,'" according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Tate's focus is not the "guitar god" of other Hendrix bios, but his unusual ability to cross the color line with seeming impunity, so much so that Tate conceived of his book as a "Jimi Hendrix primer for black folks" who may have forgotten his black roots. At the same time, "Tate shows how Hendrix's disregard for the race card put him decades ahead in society, as well as in music," explained Library Journal reviewer Eric Hahn. As usual, Tate mixes in academic theory with detailed research and the reminiscences of those who worked and played with Hendrix. "Oftentimes verbose, Tate unapologetically indulges in fits of hyperbolic, hyperanalytical fantasy," commented Black Issues Book Review contributor Malcolm Venable. "It's easy to pardon him, though, since his dead-on logic is intriguing and revealing. Plus, he's got a wicked imagination that he combines with a sense of high humor."
In his next book, Everything but the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture, Tate edited a collection by "a bunch of African-American writers, critics, scholars and other creative types to give their perspectives on white culture's 'sampling' of black culture," explained reviewer Craig Lindsey in the Houston Chronicle. The critic added, "From the way Burden tells it, black people, young and old, have been getting stole on by white folks for quite some time now." Poets, playwrights, musicians, and professors all weigh in on the elusive subjects of race as a social construct, race as a political reality, and race as a cultural given. A number of authors take Norman Mailer's essay, "The White Negro," as a starting point, some with approval, others with sharp dissent. Many focus on the hip-hop culture. Much is autobiographical. There is a great deal of ground to cover, and "the collection's stylistic diversity and idiosyncratic selection of topics create a provocative, if rather trying, reading experience," according to Library Journal reviewer Janet Ingraham Dwyer. Together, the authors explore "the American attraction/repulsion, fascination, adoption, and obsession with the alternative" culture that African Americans have established, wrote Vernon Ford in Booklist. "And for those still wondering why the young people look like they do, Burden may not have the definitive answer, but it definitely will give you something else to think about," concluded Mickelbury in Africana.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Enterprise, December, 1992, Tonya Bolden, review of Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America, p. 14.
Black Issues Book Review, May, 2001, Kira Lynn, review of Brooklyn Kings: New York City's Black Bikers, p. 48; September-October, 2003, Malcolm Venable, review of Midnight Lighting: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience, p. 49.
Booklist, January 1, 2003, Vernon Ford, review of Everything but the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture, p. 814.
Houston Chronicle, June 1, 2003, Craig Lindsey, review of Everything but the Burden, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of Midnight Lighting, p. 668.
Library Journal, December, 2002, Janet Ingraham Dwyer, review of Everything but the Burden, p. 157; June 1, 2003, Eric Hahn, review of Midnight Lighting, p. 124.
Nation, February 15, 1993, Gene Santaro, review of Flyboy in the Buttermilk, p. 206.
Publishers Weekly, April 6, 1992, review of Flyboy in the Buttermilk, p. 56.
Village Voice, July 30, 2003, Miles Marshall Lewis, "Deep Purple," p. 52.
Africana,http://www.africana.com/ (February 4, 2003), Penny Mickelbury, "Culture Vulture: Greg Tate Explains It All."*