After weeks of speculation, the Office of Student Life announced on Tuesday that Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will perform at this year’s Yardfest. The concert, which will take place this Saturday in Tercentenary Theater, will feature two unnamed opening acts in addition to the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor of African and African American Studies.
“We are delighted to announce that Henry Louis Gates will headline Yardfest,” the statement from OSL read. “As a distinguished researcher, generational icon, and overall class act, Gates exemplifies Yardfest’s core values.”
While Yardfest typically attracts big music names that have included Sam Adams and Far East Movement, this year’s festival organizers opted to “mix things up” according to the statement. Though some event organizers expressed their concern over the choice, the professor himself had no doubts of his own.
“Why did they choose me?” Gates told The Crimson, cracking his knuckles. “I don’t know. Maybe because I’m a beast.”
While Gates is a leading scholar in his field, he acknowledged that his music career was somewhat more obscure. Interested in music from an early age, Gates didn’t break into the entertainment scene until last April, when he began street performing in Harvard Square with the breakdancing group W.E.B and The Boys.
“I was their hypeman,” Gates remembered fondly, his eyes beaming. “I was responsible for running around and getting the crowd amped.” He reclined in his chair and spent a moment reminiscing. “Man, those were the days.”
However, Gates’s time with the group was short-lived; the group kicked Gates out after learning the 61-year old couldn’t remain standing for more than 30 minutes at a time.
“That was kind of a setback,” Gates muttered, his tone hitting a sudden grave note. “Punks.”
Never one to give up, Gates pursued his solo career street performing in front of Au Bon Pain. With a voice best described as a combination of Justin Timberlake’s and Yoko Ono’s, Gates lifted the Cambridge community with his soulful rendition of “My Humps.”
“I was absolutely mesmerized,” remembered Jane R. Baker ’14, founder of the Facebook group “Bring Alphonse Fletcher University Professor of African and African American Studies Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to Yardfest.” Though the group stood at 17 members strong as of press time, Baker insisted she was the biggest fan. “He even signed my copy of Wonders of the African World.”
While Gates admitted that he didn’t know what exactly he would perform at Yardfest, he did have a few ideas. “The usual stuff, plus I might throw in some Cher or Ying Yang Twins. It really depends on what the crowd is asking for.”
Gates is confident in his abilities. “The kids are in for a real treat,” he promised The Crimson. He winked, adding, “Just don’t blame me if we get in a little trouble.”