Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Music contributions: She was the leader of the first all-female rock band (Goldie & the Gingerbreads) signed to a major label (Decca in 1963). They toured for several years, opening for The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, the Hollies, and the Yardbirds. She started the Jazz-Rock band Ten Wheel Drive in the late 60s, which put out three influential albums. In the 70s she became the first independent female producer hired by a major label, producing the Dead Boys’ first album, Young, Loud and Snotty along with Ronnie Spector’s solo album, Siren.
Biographical Highlights: Born Genyusha Zelkowitz, her and her parents were the only members of her family to survive the Holocaust, they came to the United States in 1947 when she was seven years old. She was independent from the start partly due to loneliness. In Poland they had a lot of family and her parents entertained quite often. Being Jewish in America at that time set them apart and left her mother, especially, terribly lonely. Her mother started calling her Goldie because she thought it sounded more “American.” In the early 50s while attending summer camps, Goldie found what made her happy: performing. She could be someone else on stage. Desperate to get out of her parent’s apartment she agreed to an arranged marriage at the age of 16. The marriage was short lived and soon Goldie was doing cheesecake modelling and living with various friends. All of that changed in 1960 when her and a friend when to the Brooklyn Paramount to hear some live groups. The moment that changed her life was when Lillian Briggs came out and sang “I Want You to Be My Baby.” She was blown away by her singing and the alto sax solo she played afterwards. “That was it for me. I saw my destiny that night.” In 1962 she and a friend were at the Lollipop Lounge in Brooklyn to see the Escorts. Her friend dared her to get up and sing with them. After pestering the lead singer enough, he finally relented and let her sing with the band. The audience loved her and within a couple of months she was the new lead singer for the Escorts. While performing with the Escorts, she met drummer Ginger Panabianco. They struck up a friendship and together launched the idea of an all-girl band. Before they even had a band, they had come up with a name: Goldie & The Gingerbreads. This came about because Genya thought they both had fairytale names (Goldilocks and the three bears, the gingerbread house, etc). It took some time to put the band together but by late 1962 they were performing around New York City and had landed the opening spot for a Chubby Checker tour of Germany & Switzerland.
In 1963 they were signed by Decca records, becoming the first all-female band to be signed by a major label. For the next few years, the band toured the U.S. and Europe opening for the Hollies, the Kinks, the Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones. Read Genya’s memoir for the juicy details. For more about the band visit: https://www.goldieandthegingerbreads.co/
After the band broke up, Goldie decided to rename herself. Her given name was Genya so she went back to that. Her partner at the time thought she sounded black when she sung, so suggested she name herself after something black, like Raven or something. She liked it but wanted to change the spelling, and thus, Genya Ravan was born.
By 1969 she had started a new venture: Ten Wheel Drive. The band was truly genre-bending and highly influential. Genya was inspired to start the band after hearing the first album from Blood, Sweat & Tears, starring Al Kooper. The three albums the band made with her are too diverse for much commercial success, though the creativity and blending of genres from country to jazz to rock is remarkable.
While working with Ten Wheel Drive, she also released her own self-produced solo albums. She became disillusioned with trying to make it on her own, and turned to producing, becoming the first independent female producer. In 1978 she produced the Dead Boys’ Young, Loud, and Snotty. The album is one of the seminal punk albums of the 70s. She also produced Ronnie Spector’s solo album as well as becoming the producer for CBGB Records. In the succeeding years she has continued making music and producing as well as having two radio shows on Sirus/XM (“Chicks and Broads” and “Goldie’s Garage”). In 2016 she wrote the music and lyrics for her first off-Broadway musical, Rock and Roll Refugee. She continues to perform, even releasing a new album in 2020, Live at CBGB.
(All quotes are from her memoir, Lollipop Lounge: Memoirs of a Rock and Roll Refugee.)
To learn more about Genya Ravan visit her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Genya-Ravan-Official-Fan-Page-117325458286473/
Also check out my review of her book in the Books & Articles page.