Life and career
Genya was born in Łódź, Poland. She arrived in the United States in 1947, accompanied by her parents and one sister. She had two brothers, who died. These were the only family members who had survived the Nazi Holocaust in Europe. They did not speak any English.
Genya Ravan was named 'Goldie' by her mother who claimed Genyusha was not American enough. Goldie had the first successful all-girl band, Goldie & the Gingerbreads. The first all-girl rock band in history to be signed to a major label and climb the charts. Her career started in 1962 on a dare in a Brooklyn club called The Lollipop Lounge, which is also the title of her autobiography published by Billboard Books. On a dare in a bar, she jumped up to sing. "That was the first time I ever heard my voice". She was asked to join the band The Escorts, Richard Perry being one of the members. After signing to Decca Coral records and being produced by Henry Jerome, there was some success, they covered "Somewhere" from West Side Story and it went to number 1 in parts of the Mid-West. In 1963 she formed Goldie and The Gingerbreads. Goldie, aka Genya, met Ginger Bianco in a Greenwich Village bar.
While playing New York City's hot spot The Wagon Wheel on 45th Street in Times Square, Mike Jeffries, Eric Burdon, Hilton Valentine, and Chas Chandler spotted them, and wanted them to come to England.
Goldie and The Gingerbreads toured with the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, and Manfred Mann. They reached the charts with their hit "Can't You Hear My Heart Beat" in 1965. The song reached #25 on the UK Singles Chart. The band stayed in London for two years.
Ravan and her two partners Aram Schefrin and Mike Zager formed Ten Wheel Drive in 1969. Ten Wheel Drive lasted three years. They recorded three albums for Polydor Records: Construction number 1, Brief Replies, Peculiar Friends Are Better Than No Friends. They had many fans, but the group did not take off. Genya left the band in 1971.
Genya Ravan was signed by Clive Davis. She made one record for him titled simply Genya Ravan.
In 1987, Ravan had gone on to make more of her trail blazing solo rock & roll records.
In 2011, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum included Goldie and The Gingerbreads in their Women in Music exhibit which travelled from state to state.
Genya Ravan toured in 2013, selling out New York City's Iridium is going back by popular demand.
Genya recently appeared at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, alongside legends like Wanda Jackson, Martha Reeves, Maria Muldaur and Tracy Nelson. She and Reeves discovered a number of connections in that both worked with Richard Perry and were signed by Clive Davis. Further, one of the first songs Genya learned when she came to the US was "What Did I Do to be So Black and Blue," made famous by Fats Waller; a song Martha performed while starring in the road show of Ain't Misbehavin'. The two plan on working on a future project together.
In 2014 she was featured on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon for bearing remarkable resemblance to him in drag.
On arrival in America, her mother nicknamed her daughter Goldie. Goldie kept the name when she joined Richard Perry's band The Escorts as lead singer and later, when she became co-founder (at age 17) of the groundbreaking all-female rock band Goldie & The Gingerbreads.
When Goldie and the Gingerbreads disbanded in 1968, Goldie, now using the name Genya Ravan, became the lead singer of the newly formed and highly respected rock band Ten Wheel Drive.
In 1974, for one of her first solo records, and in honor of her father, she changed her name back to Goldie Zelkowitz. Since then and on any new editions of her earlier releases, she is again Genya Ravan.
Genya Ravan had worked as a producer for multiple record labels. Amongst others, she was responsible for the debut album Young Loud and Snotty by the punk rock band Dead Boys (1977) and the comeback album Siren by Ronnie Spector (1982). She also contributed vocals to the latter album. In 2001 Genya discovered Tripod at CBGBs and produced their demo CD, adding backup vocals to one track.
Ronnie Spector wrote in her book "Genya reminded me of Phil, bossy and controlling "
The Dead Boys Cheetah Chrome said:
"Oh at first we were kind of confused as to why Hilly Krystal recommended Genya as our producer, he was right, she fit right in right from the beginning she had a great attitude. She wasn't you know impressed by us. She wasn't afraid of us at all, it turned out Ravan wasn't just tough, she knew her stuff and was a punk herself.
Having Genya Ravan produce their debut album, Young Loud and Snotty, didn't make much sense to any of the Dead Boys. Stiv knew who she was and was thrilled. He had said to Genya, "I used to read about you in Teen Magazines". Here was this loud nihilistic punk band from Cleveland, trying to make a name for itself in the gritty New York City scene that prided itself on confrontation and frenetic energy, and a girl group veteran from the 60s was going to be the one that extracted that from them? The violent sound they were looking for? No way would that work. Were they surprised. That's exactly what Goldie Genya comes from.
In 2006 Ravan was recruited by Steven Van Zandt to host two monthly radio shows (Chicks and Broads, playing women from the '50s to the present day), and Goldies Garage show of unsigned bands. Genya Ravan says, "So much talent out there and not enough places for them to be heard anymore" on the Van Zandt's Underground Garage radio channel, 21, aired throughout North America on Sirius Satellite Radio, and worldwide on Sirius Internet Radio. She joined a team of hosts that includes original Rolling Stones manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham, whom Genya worked with as Goldie, rock star Joan Jett, punk rock singer Handsome Dick Manitoba, producer/humorist/Beatles historian Martin Lewis, veteran FM radio deejay Kid Leo and rock entrepreneur Kim Fowley.
- Construction #1, Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan, 1969
- Brief Replies, Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan, 1970
- Peculiar Friends, Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan, 1971
- Genya Ravan, 1972
- They Love Me, They Love Me Not, 1973
- Goldie Zelkowitz, 1974
- Urban Desire, 1978 (CD edition 2004 at Hip-O Select)
- ...And I Mean It!, 1979 (CD edition 2004 at Hip-O Select)
- Best of Ten Wheel Drive, 1995
- For Fans Only!, 2003 privately published
- Genya Ravan Live, 2006
- Undercover, 2010 (Collectables Records)
- Cheesecake Girl 2013 Aha Music
- Lollipop Lounge, Memoirs Of A Rock And Roll Refugee, Genya Ravan, 2004, ISBN 0-8230-8362-4
In the movie The Warriors (1979), the song that plays when Cochise, Rembrandt and Vermin are in the Lizzie's HQ is Love is a Fire by Genya Ravan. The song is featured in the soundtrack album.
- Official website
- Genya Ravan at Allmusic
- Genya Ravan YouTube
- Genya Ravan discography at Discogs
- Retrospective appreciation of Ravan's career