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Farewell Letter to a Juju Genius, Greg Tate

by Paul r. Harding

Even if it is dark all over the world there is light somewhere. Until beginning of this past December I always believed that there is no such thing as nowhere. No such thing as silence. But this world has been so much quieter despite the screaming tornadoes, voting and women’s rights, since a brilliant heart of a writer/musician left us. So much quieter since you have left. Gone. Where(?)- into the sound of light.

All this leaving to the unknown going.

Dear Greg, I won’t ask but do see and will project unto that light. Your illumination. One of a few real Juju brothers I have crossed starry pages with. Bumped into you in that darkness where there is a light. Tradition of new light. Ink light. Your understanding of bumping light. Of pages being leaves and sounds of memories. Now you- a bookmark counting off where you celestially appeared in Soul Power.

Your pages too good to end! Where I first bumped into in the pages of Flyboy. Wherein I heard a brother finally project James Brown as the vital giant musician he was! I am a strip of flypaper in a 1960s Hot Summer barbershop waiting- but not knowing it- on your light. But the shop is gratefully quiet for your presence. Your brown. Your smile, scarfs Autumn in August colors, tones, rhythms: organic vocabulary. The language of place, time, and motion that cut through categories and labels making you unique in compassion and cultural justice pursuits. Journalism of positive light I bumped into reading Village Voice decades ago. Licks of fire and laughter, funk, and freedom, conjuring your own lights and tints of the English language. Every essay made the VV like a bandstand I bumped into once a week.

The first bump in person: I think you’d missed your flight in Seattle and needed some safe, cool space until the next morning. I was asked if I knew who Greg Tate was; laughed and said something like “If half the cats writing on The Music scene read him, they’d stop trying to be hip. His eulogy of Michael Jackson, alone, is genius!” Had a gig that night and left you at my crib with food, music, and poetry. By the time I’d returned in wee hours you read, heard, and ate everything. We became friends. So many moons of pages later I moved back to NYC only to be invited to a Burnt Sugar studio session. You took me and my sons out to eat that night. We talked moons and suns about The Music in many a bump since. Loved talking to you about Miles. Loved being in Coon Bidness (along with Aubrey Harding’s B-Flat comic). Loved bumping into you in Birth of the Cool. Loved bumping into you in the film noir quiet and the art. The Baldwin to Hendrix. (*No other would touch Hendrix when it came to the black audience except for your brave ink.) You are what the gifted Charleen Hatcher Polite called: “Living literature”- and I am richly blessed due to bumping into you in those the juju nights… in the middle of the unpromised day.

Bumping into your celestial library a few minutes ago as I looked up into the nowhere of somewhere and heard the stars screaming between your bookmark and The Blues. The bumping binding lives of dreams and gifts into organic drumskin that is all yours! Your pen a guitar, brother, beautiful and generous as Black beauty. Yeah, I understand the real witness-protection program and it is in light (Butch Morris Milky Way) that your matchless, funky conduction, continues a suite of love way past the bookmarks.

Paul r. Harding

*His books:

Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience

Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America

Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader

Paul r Harding with Greg Tate, courtesy of Paul r Harding


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