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Highly regarded by soul music cultists and virtually unknown by anybody else, Howard Tate had some minor success with the Verve label in the late '60s. The singer brought a lot of blues and gospel to his phrasing, but what made him palatable to the modern R&B audience (and, to a lesser degree, pop fans) was the Northeast soul production of Jerry Ragovoy, who also wrote much of Tate's material. Howard made the R&B Top 20 three times in the late '60s (with "Ain't Nobody Home," "Stop," and "Look at Granny Run Run"). However, he's most famous to rock audiences as the original performer of "Get It While You Can," which became one of Janis Joplin's signature tunes.
Before establishing himself as a solo performer, Tate sang with the Gainors, a North Philadelphia doo wop group that also included future soul star Garnet Mimms. In the early '60s, he was the vocal frontman for Bill Doggett, the organist famous for the instrumental hit "Honky Tonk." Jerry Ragovoy was urged to check out Tate by a member of the Enchanters, Garnet Mimms' backup singers. He recorded about ten singles with Tate between 1966 and 1969, the first for the small Utopia label, the rest for Verve.
Tate moved on to Lloyd Price's Turntable label, for which he recorded a few singles in the late '60s and early '70s. From there he chalked up a short stint with Atlantic, which saw a few other 45s and a critically well-received album, but again little commercial success. A final 1974 single for Epic was his swan song. Always somewhat of a mysterious figure, he dropped out of the public eye during the early '80s, developed a substance abuse habit, and reportedly spent time in a homeless shelter before becoming a preacher. He made his musical comeback in the early 2000s, having been encouraged by a New Jersey DJ to return to performing. Tate also returned to the studio, issuing Rediscovered in 2003 and A Portrait of Howard three years later. Blue Day followed in 2008 and reestablished Tate's talent as a songwriter.
Although an enduring figure in the soul genre, Tate's music has received its greatest exposure via cover versions: Jimi Hendrix and Hugh Masekela did "Stop," Ry Cooder covered "Look at Granny Run Run," B.B. King recorded "Ain't Nobody Home," and rappers Brand Nubian sampled "Look at Granny Run Run." And of course Joplin (who also raided the Ragavoy catalog for "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," "Cry Baby," and "My Baby") did "Get It While You Can" in a manner closely derived from Tate's interpretation.
Howard Tate (August 13, 1939 – December 2, 2011) was an American soul singer and songwriter.
His greatest success came with a string of hit singles in the late 1960s, including "Ain't Nobody Home" and "Get It While You Can," the latter of which became a hit for singer Janis Joplin. After struggling with drug addiction and falling out of the music business, Tate mounted a warmly-received comeback in 2001.
Early life 
Tate moved with his family to Philadelphia in the early 1940s. In his teens, he joined a gospel music group that included Garnet Mimms and, as the Gainors, recorded rhythm and blues sides for Mercury Records and Cameo Records in the early 1960s. Tate performed with organist Bill Doggett and returned to Philadelphia.
Mimms, leading a group called the Enchanters, introduced Tate to record-producer Jerry Ragovoy, who began recording Tate for Verve Records. Utilizing New York session musicians such as Paul Griffin, Richard Tee, Eric Gale, Chuck Rainey, and Herb Lovell, Tate and Ragovoy produced, from 1966 to 1968, a series of soul blues recordings that are regarded as some of the most sophisticated of the era. "Ain't Nobody Home" (1966), "Look at Granny Run Run" (1966), "Baby I Love You" (1967), and "Stop" (1968) all written or co-written by Ragovoy, were well received by record buyers. "Ain't Nobody Home", "Look At Granny" and "Stop" charted in the Top 20 in the US Billboard R&B chart.
Janis Joplin performed another of Tate's Ragavoy songs, "Get It While You Can", (on Pearl) during this time. Tate's reputation among critics was high. As Robert Christgau wrote in his review of Tate's Verve material, "Tate is a blues-drenched Macon native who had the desire to head north and sounds it every time he gooses a lament with one of the trademark keens that signify the escape he never achieved. He brought out the best in soul pro Jerry Ragovoy, who made Tate's records jump instead of arranging them into submission, and gave him lyrics with some wit to them besides."
Tate, working apart from Ragovoy, made an album called Howard Tate's Reaction that was released in 1970 on Turntable Records. Produced by Lloyd Price and Johnny Nash, it was distributed in small quantities. Christgau wrote, "Tate's voice is potent enough to activate more inert material." The record was reissued, as Reaction, in 2003. Ragovoy and Tate reunited for the 1972 Atlantic Records Howard Tate, which included more songs by Ragovoy, along with Tate's cover versions of Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country" and Robbie Robertson's and Levon Helm's "Jemima Surrender."
After recording a single for Epic Records and a few songs for his own label, Tate retired from the music industry in the late 1970s. He sold securities in the New Jersey and Philadelphia area, and in the 1980s developed a dependence on drugs, ending up living in a homeless shelter. In the mid-1990s, Tate began counseling drug abusers and the mentally ill, and worked as a preacher.
A disc jockey from Camden, New Jersey, Phil Casden, discovered Tate's whereabouts early in 2001, and in spring 2001 Tate played his first date in many years, in New Orleans. He then began working with Ragovoy on the 2003 album Rediscovered,. It included covers of songs by Elvis Costello and Prince, as well as a new version of "Get It While You Can."
At the Roskilde Festival in 2004, he sang "Love Will Keep You Warm" with Swan Lee. The song can be found on Swan Lee - The Complete Collection (2007).
In 2006, Shout! Factory released Howard Tate Live, recorded in Denmark in 2004. Working with producer, arranger and songwriter, Steve Weisberg, Tate recorded A Portrait of Howard, which was released in 2006 on the independent Solid Ground label. It included compositions by Randy Newman, Nick Lowe, Lou Reed and Carla Bley, as well as songs written by Tate and Weisberg. In late 2007, Tate recorded Blue Day in Nashville with producer Jon Tiven, and this was released in 2008.
Tate was also a judge for the 6th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.
2010 saw a release of a limited vinyl only, direct-to-disc live recording from Blue Heaven Studios, with Tate and his touring quartet performing songs from his catalog.
On December 2, 2011, Tate died from complications of multiple myeloma and leukemia, aged 72.