Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Greg Tate

This was one of many pieces collected by NPR for Greg Tate, after his death.

In some respects, the loss Greg's most parallels is that of Lester Bangs in April, 1982, when I was editing both of them for the Voice's Riffs section, although Greg didn't move up from D.C. until around then and I doubt they ever met. More than any other rock critic ever except R. Meltzer, both were masters of highly personalized wildstyles, to borrow a graffiti term, and this loosened up younger writers--who imitated him at their peril, don't get me wrong, so it's fortunate that most of them were too smart to try. I had always encouraged unconventional stylistic and structural ploys in Riffs, but it was Bangs and Tate above all who rendered that principle inspiring and alluring. The most impressive tribute to Tate's influence I've encountered this week was by Rob Sheffield, now the lead voice of Rolling Stone, a writer so fluid he somehow had his 1400-word tribute up at 4:06 p.m. December 7, mere hours after Tate's death became public. If Sheffield has any flaw as a critic, it's that he doesn't write much about Black music. Yet on Tuesday he told the world that for decades he's had a 1992 Chaka Khan review by Greg Tate taped above his desk.

NPR, Dec. 11, 2021