Talking with pioneer artist Genya Ravan: Rock n' Roll priestess came back better and lovely than before

"My philosophy is…if you want it, go for it. If you fall, get up, if you work hard and you will get it…picture it, if you can see it, you can be it."

Genya Ravan: Priestess of Rock n' Roll 

Genya Ravan was part of the first successful all-girl band, Goldie and the Gingerbreads Ravan hosts two shows in Little Steven’s “Underground Garage.” Ravan’s singing career started in 1962 on a dare in a Brooklyn club called the Lollipop Lounge. She was asked to join the band The Escorts about a week after her Lollipop Lounge performance. In 1968, Ravan joined Ten Wheel Drive. Ravan's eponymous Columbia solo debut dropped in 1972. She moved on to the Janus label with the album Goldie Zelkowitz in 1974.

"If I didn’t have music, I would be in trouble in jail... or I would have been a prostitute."

Ravan worked as a producer in the late 1970s. Following health struggles in the 1980s and 1990s, Ravan launched her own Web site. Ravan's autobiography, “Lollipop Lounge, Memoirs of a Rock and Roll Refugee,” was published in 2004.

Genya Ravan aka Goldie (born Genyusha Zelkowitz, in Łódź, Poland) is a rock ’n’ roll pioneer.  She has single-handedly busted down the male-dominated walls of every facet of the record industry. Being part of the first successful all-girl band, Goldie and the Gingerbreads, she paved the way for bands like Fanny, The Go-Go’s and The Bangles. She went on to front the powerful horn band Ten Wheel Drive, and she has many production credits, including Ronnie Spector and The Dead Boys, and she started her own record label.

The roads Genya took were twisted, tortured and rocky. While she sometimes was down, she was never out. Her fiery determination wouldn’t let that happen.  She always came back bigger and better than before. 

Interview by Michael Limnios Photos from Genya Ravan's archive

When was your first desire to become involved in the music and from whom have you have learned the most secrets about the music?

It was very early, when I sat on a motorcycle in 1959 going from NYC to LA, on a Harley singing in my guys ear all the way, his name was Ralph, that’s why in one of my songs, the lyric is ‘I met a guy and his name was Ralph, jumped on his chrome and started my life’

What do you learn about yourself from the music and art? How has the music and painting art changed your life?

If I didn’t have music, I would be in trouble in jail... or I would have been a prostitute.

"All people loving my music. My new CD ‘Cheesecake Girl’ is my autobiography put to music. This is the dream. The nightmare is nobody loving my music."

How do you describe Genya’s philosophy about the music, art, and life?

My philosophy is…if you want it, go for it. If you fall, get up, if you work hard and you will get it…picture it, if you can see it, you can be it.

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician, songwriter, artist; and person?

That’s a loaded question, a good musician, does not make a good person, however, if you can get angst out of playing the drums, you might not become a serial killer.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

The best in my career was from the day I started singing, to today. The worst was when I was climbing the charts and 20th century records decided to bury the record dept. and my career went down after that.

Tell me about Jerry Schatzberg’s party for Baby Jane Holzer, what are your experiences in “The Mods and Rockers’ Ball” of 1964?

Well, to me it was just another gig. Seeing the Stones didn’t turn me on, what turned me on was that the party looked like a Federico Fellini’ movie.

Are there any memories from early 60s Brit tour with Animals, Stones, Beatles; and Yardbirds, which you’d like to share with us?

Not really, you need to read my book the hard copy and eBook … is available on Amazon. The title of my book is Lollipop Lounge

What is the “feeling” you miss most nowadays from 60s, Atlanta Pop Festival, and Fillmore’s era?  

That feeling of real people, real music lovers.

(Photo: Ten Wheel Drive were a fusion jazz blues rock band that existed from 1968 to 1974)

Which memory from Ten Wheel Drive’s years makes you smile?

The Fillmore East. Because that was our first gig (big one) and all the boys were so nervous. I had painted stars on my breasts, and come out with no top on and no bra.

Of all the people you’ve meeting, who do you admire the most? Which of historical personalities would you like to meet?

Well, it’s too late to meet the great Ray Charles. He is what I come from, he is who I listened to for my guidance.

Some music styles can be fads but the blues rock is always with us. Why do think that is?

It’s the only real music that hits a nerve…all the time, not just a fad, down in the soul

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

GO AFTER IT.

You have met people from Zappa and Diddley to Ertegun and Janis. It must be hard, but which meets have been the biggest experiences for you?

They all have been great experiences; you see these artists had something to say. I had ears and heart to listen

What is your music DREAM and NIGHTMARE? What turns you on? Happiness is……

All people loving my music. My new CD ‘Cheesecake Girl’ is my autobiography put to music. This is the dream.

The nightmare is nobody loving my music.

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why? When did you last laughing (and cry) and why?

I am always laughing I know how life can be very short. I had cancer once and they told me I have 3-6 months to live…that was 1990 so that’s why today I laugh.

"I speak the truth. I am a method actor in life; I try to be real all the time."

Do you believe that there is “misuse”, that there is a trend to misappropriate the name of blues/rock?

No it’s right on…blues rock …you can’t go wrong with these words they have been around especially the blues, since before we were around.

What are the reasons to become your legendary generation that left it mark through the years until now?

Longevity, persistence, and respect from other people like you.

Do you know why Genya Ravan is connected to the avant-garde, bohemian, politicized and underground culture?

Because I speak the truth. I am a method actor in life; I try to be real all the time.

You have sung (and worked) all kind of music. From the musical point of view is there any difference and similarities between the blues, rock, jazz, punk, and hip hop?

Big time…that would take too much of this page up. All are similarities, for me. Because I have been around.  I love all kinds of music from Buddy Guy to Donald Byrd.

Which incident of your life you‘d like to be captured and illustrated in a painting?

Stage and being lost in the ether of the slow song.

Genya Ravan - Official website

 

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