New York, 2010
|Birth name||Lotti Golden|
November 27, 1950|
New York City
|Origin||New York City|
|Genres||Rock, soul, funk, R&B, jazz, electro, hip hop, dance|
|Occupations||Singer-songwriter, songwriter, lyricist, record producer/mixer, session singer, poet, writer, artist|
|Instruments||Guitar, keyboards, vocals|
|Labels||Atlantic Records, GRT Records (U.S. Label)|
|Website||lottigolden.com (under construction)|
Lotti Golden (born November 27, 1950) is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, poet and artist. A cult icon of the late 1960s, Golden is best known for her 1969 debut album, Motor-Cycle on Atlantic Records which "captured women's liberation and motorcycle soul in one psychedelic swoop."
Winner of the ASCAP Pop Award for songwriting and RIAA certified Gold and Platinum awards as a writer/producer, Golden has written and produced Top 5 hits in the US and abroad. Credited for her innovative work in early electro and Hip hop music, Golden is featured in the Rap Attack 3: African Rap To Global Hip Hop by David Toop, and Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: True Life Stories of Women of Pop for her pioneering work as a female record producer.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Recording artist
- 3 Music journalism
- 4 Writer/producer
- 5 Literacy advocacy
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Lotti Golden was born in Manhattan to Sy (Seymour) Golden and Anita Golden (née Cohn), the elder of two daughters. Golden's parents, a strikingly handsome and fashionable pair, were avid jazz aficionados and foreign film buffs. Golden soaked up the sounds of Billie Holiday and John Coltrane from any early age developing a lifelong passion for music and the arts.
Golden grew up in Brooklyn, New York where she attended Canarsie High School, serving as the school's Poet Laureate. Voted Most Likely to Succeed, Golden graduated with honors in 1967, winning the Creative Writing medal, the Lincoln Center Student Award for Academic Excellence, the Scholastic Magazine Award for National Achievement in Art, and a New York State Regents Scholarship. Golden was awarded the National League of Pen Women Prize for poetry and went on to attend Brooklyn College.
1964–1968: Early music career
A birthday gift (a guitar) from Golden's parents at age eleven would chart her future course. Golden studied classical guitar and voice, but soon found her niche as a singer-songwriter, utilizing her abilities as both wordsmith and vocalist. In order to sing her compositions on demo Golden spent hours using a reel to reel tape recorder to perfect her vocal craft: "When women talk of their idols and influences…they tell stories about singing along with records, trying to copy someone's voice…until they can begin to develop their own style." Golden explains: "I would practice singing to Aretha, Ray Charles, and the Marvelettes , till I could sing all of their licks and runs… the girls' bathroom in high school was a great place to try it out."
At the age of fourteen Golden was making forays into Manhattan, singing on demo sessions and peddling her songs to publishers, landing her first cover by Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles. By the time Golden completed high school, she had the beginnings of a musical autobiography about her adventures in New York's East Village and Lower East Side where she was a resident member of the Henry Street Settlement Playhouse, honing her skills as an actress and playwright. This would become the basis of her Atlantic Records debut LP, Motor-Cycle.
1969: Debut LP: Motor-Cycle
Released on Atlantic Records in 1969, Motor-Cycle is an autobiographical account of Golden's immersion in the life of New York's East Village. Written in music & lyrics because, according to Golden, "a book is too flat," Motor-Cycle describes the underground world of the late 1960s counterculture.
Newsweek hailed Golden as a new breed of female troubadour—an artist who not only sings, but writes her own songs: "What is common to them – to Joni Mitchell and Lotti Golden, to Laura Nyro, [and] Melanie... are the personalized songs they write, like voyages of self discovery…startling in the impact of their poetry."
Listed among the most influential albums of the era in The New York Times, "The Best of Rock: A Personal Discography," by music critic Nat Hentoff, Motor-Cycle is a synthesis of stream of consciousness confessional poetry, R&B infused vocals and a "sometimes satiric mélange of rock, jazz, blues and soul" with lyrics that evoke "a Kerouac novel."
On an album of "restlessly epic roadhouse suites" Golden uses the story-based format, featuring a cast of archetypal characters while playing the part of "emcee" of her own "aberrant cabaret." Golden's coming of age saga is likely the first rock concept album by a female recording artist.
Music critic Path, of Tiny Mix Tapes, explains how Motor-Cycle plays like a musical, transporting the listener to the late 1960s underground: "Golden gets help on Motor-Cycle from an impeccably arranged Atlantic Records session band… with a flawless, swinging rhythm team. Then, at key moments, the curtain goes up and they've got rows of saxes, trumpets, vibes…and you begin to realize that this is not the same song and dance… it's as if The Velvet Underground recorded for Motown." Golden writes of a "season in hell " she somehow manages to survive. "It's an extraordinary evocation of a life-style… and one girl's plunge into and out of it."
1968–69: The making of Motor-Cycle
Golden signed a publishing deal as a staff writer with Saturday Music during her junior year of high school. One afternoon as Golden was leaving a demo session, the company's owner, writer/producer Bob Crewe heard her singing in an elevator. Golden told Crewe she was working on material for her own album. Intrigued, Crewe set up a meeting: "When Lotti brought her material to Crewe in 1967, he exclaimed, 'Good God, who are your friends?'" Golden waited one year while Crewe cleared his schedule, and in 1968 began recording an autobiographical album, Motor-Cycle, "a synthesis of funky singing and honest hip lyrics about urban teenage trauma." Atlantic Records moguls, Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun bought the [demo] tapes after one hearing, with Wexler "modestly telling his staff Golden would be the greatest single pop artist since Aretha Franklin."
The release of Motor-Cycle in 1969 generated media interest in Golden. Look magazine described Golden's songs and poetry as "rich in metaphor and starkly descriptive of people and places," stating: "Even in her musically precocious generation, she [Golden] stands out as a singer composer of phenomenal power and originality." In addition to features in national publications, Golden was identified as a fashion trendsetter by Vogue, making several appearances in the magazine. Though Golden made no TV appearances, she is referenced in the cultural commentary on television The Glass Teat. Still, Golden had concerns about the business side of her career, which she voiced in an interview: "The easy part is to sit down and create. The hard part is trying to make yourself heard, the promotion." Although Motor-Cycle wasn't marketed commercially, the album achieved cult status and continues to gain in popularity on the Internet "thanks to the unusual persistence of her [Golden's] art, and the power of listeners' preferences."
Side One: 1."Motor-Cycle Michael", 2."Gonna Fay's", 3."A Lot Like Lucifer (Celia Said Long Time Loser)". Side Two: 1."The Space Queens (Silky Is Sad)", 2."Who Are Your Friends", 3."Get Together (With Yourself)", 4."You Can Find Him". All songs written by Lotti Golden except "Who Are Your Friends" (written with Bob Crewe).
2003: Golden's spoken voice on "Gonna Fay's" (Motor-Cycle) is the centerpiece for "What a Bringdown" on I Am the Messiah (Spin-ART) by MC Honky, "widely considered to be Mark Oliver Everett (or "E") of Eels." 2006: Golden's African inspired drumbeat on "Motor-Cycle Michael" (Motor-Cycle) appears on Beat Konducta Vol 1–2 Movie Scenes (Stones Throw Records) on the track "Gold Jungle (Tribe)," by hip hop artist Madlib.
Lotti Golden's eponymous sophomore offering was released on GRT Records (U.S. Label) in 1971. In a live performance for industry executives at NY's Playboy Club, Golden was described by Cash Box as "GRT's Lotti: Incredible." Although elements of Golden's confessional approach remained (Billboard labeled one song "biographical") for the most part, Golden's self-titled LP moved away from the innovative format of Motor-Cycle. Writer Mitchell Shannon characterizes the shift: "Second time around, her music was more conventional and approachable, but lacked that initial compelling insistence of the previous release." Music critic, Robert Christgau, though not a fan of Golden (or Laura Nyro) thought the GRT record could take off with the proper promotion: "He [Christgau] wrote: 'Golden's egregious overstatement registers as a strength.' If you know about Christgau, you'll take that as an honest compliment." Shortly after Golden's album was released, financial problems caused the GRT label to go out of business.
In the 1970s Lotti Golden wrote rock journalism, primarily covering her musician friends. In a Crawdaddy! feature story Golden provides unique perspective on the genius of Mike (Michael) Bloomfield chronicling her 1972 San Francisco visit with the legendary guitar player and in Rolling Stone, Golden explores the making of keyboardist (and co-founder with Bloomfied of Electric Flag) Barry Goldberg's first solo LP. Golden's articles have appeared in Creem, Circus and other publications.
1980–85: Electro/hip hop
In the early 1980s Lotti Golden transitioned from artist to writer/producer. Golden's 1982 international dance hit I Specialize in Love co-written with musician Richard Scher, enabled her to move into record production: "The success gave [Golden] the freedom to demand production rights to her songs." In an interview for the anthology, Signed, Sealed and Delivered-True Life Stories of Women in Pop, Golden stated that performing live was OK, but she preferred the recording studio, "that wonderful world of sound [where] anything was possible."
As a writer/producer, Golden gained artistic control of her work, becoming a major progenitor of electro and early hip hop. UK music historian Kevin Pearce describes Golden's transition from artist to producer: "I can still remember the delight at reading [David] Toop's "Rap Attack" and realizing that the Lotti Golden involved as part of electro pioneers Warp 9 in the early 1980s was the same Lotti Golden recording for Atlantic in 1969… with Bob Crewe producing the fantastic Motor-Cycle, one of the greatest and criminally rarest records ever". Golden, with co-writer/producer Scher, wrote and recorded under the moniker Warp 9, a production project at the forefront of the electro movement, to which they eventually added live personnel. Warp 9's electro classics Nunk (1982) and Light Years Away (1983) a sci-fi tale of ancient astronaut visitation, characterize the science fiction, afrofuturist aspect of electro as "the perfect instance of hip hop's contemporary ramifications." The records are ranked among the most iconic of the electro hip hop era.
Golden and Scher were among the early production teams utilizing the Roland TR-808 drum machine creating a brand of "electo hip hop records with gorgeous textures and multiple layers." Newsweek's "Language Arts & Disciplines" highlighted Warp 9's experimental use of vocoders in the sci-fi influenced "Light Years Away." DJ Greg Wilson, the first to embrace electro in the UK, including Warp 9, calculates its influence on art and culture as huge, ushering in the computer age, hip hop, and generating "a whole new approach to popular music." Golden's legacy with Warp 9 continues on electro compilations, such as Crucial Electro, Absolutely the Very Best of Electro and The Definitive Electro & Hip Hop Compilation as well as remix albums such as DJ Kicks Chicken Lips.
Warp 9's hits brought Golden to the attention of Island Record's chief Chris Blackwell, resulting in a world-wide publishing deal with Island Music. Golden (with Scher) went on to write and/or produce/remix artists including Diana Ross' hit single Dirty Looks from her Red Hot Rhythm & Blues album and TV Special, Patti Austin, Jennifer Holliday (Say You Love Me), The Manhattans, Brenda K. Starr (I Want Your Love featuring guest rapper Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys), Nina Hagen and Jimmy Cliff.
During the early 1980s Golden began a longstanding collaborative relationship with producer Arthur Baker, co-writing the Latin Freestyle music classic "Pickin' Up Pieces" by Brenda K Starr and co-producing Jennifer Holliday's Billboard Hot 100 hit, "Hard Times For Lovers" (Geffen). Golden contributed background vocals/arrangements for many of Baker's projects including the Goon Squad's "Eight Arms to Hold You," featured on The Goonies: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Golden worked with Baker on Artists United Against Apartheid, Sun City, and is among the sixty-one artists (including Lou Reed, Bono, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan and Gil Scott Heron) who participated in what rock critic Dave Marsh describes as "the most diverse line up of popular musicians ever assembled for a single session." Golden appears in the video.
Lotti Golden relocated to Los Angeles in 1985 establishing herself in LA's booming songwriting scene, signing a worldwide publishing deal with MCA Music (later renewing and extending her contract with David Renzer, Chairman/CEO of the Universal Music Publishing Group). In 1986, MCA Creative Director Carol Ware introduced Golden to writer/producer Tommy Faragher, "on a hunch that the two young writer/producers would click as a team." The pair quickly gained a reputation for "richly produced, finely crafted urban dance music." By 1987 Golden was working almost exclusively with Faragher, telling Cashbox: "We have a gold record [The Jets] our first year working together." Golden returned to New York's Upper West Side with Faragher, building a state-of-the-art recording studio, "decorated with archival black and white photos of John Coltrane, Billy Holliday, [and] Lester Young, souvenirs from Lotti's jazz-fan parents."
On Valentine's Day, 1988, Golden & Faragher were featured in the Business Section of the New York Daily News. The article disclosed the pair feared romantic involvement would ruin their working relationship, but they took the chance, got married and formed their own production operation. In fact, the production on their own material was "so good they were invited in to produce tracks they didn't write," which included the R&B Pop group, the Jets' LP Magic on MCA (1987), certified RIAA Platinum, followed by Brenda K. Starr, certified RIAA Gold, yielding the single "You Should Be Loving Me," which appeared on the soundtrack and film She's Out of Control. In 1988, Golden and Faragher were enlisted by A&M to write and produce EG Daily's sophomore effort Lace Around the Wound (1989), featuring the single "Some People." Although the album never got the promotional push it deserved, several songs were later covered by Celine Dion and appeared on the hit TV show California Dreams.
The real breakthrough for Golden in her partnership with Faragher came in 1989, when producer Arthur Baker phoned, announcing that Clive Davis was looking for a hit single to launch Taylor Dayne's sophomore LP. By the time Baker arrived, Golden had a working chord progression and title. The three completed the song in one session and Baker left with the demo in his pocket, vocals by Golden, resulting in the Top 5 Billboard Hot 100 hit, "With Every Beat of My Heart," the lead single from Dayne's Certified RIAA 3X Platinum Can't Fight Fate (Arista) album.
Lotti Golden was honored with the ASCAP Pop Award for songwriting in 1991. Golden's first hit single of the decade, "If You Lean on Me" from Canadian artist Colin James's Sudden Stop LP was featured in the 1991 action film, Run. Golden and Faragher's work with the O'Jays, fused urban R&B with their classic soul sound, coming "closest to accomplishing that fusion with the smoking, politically charged "Something For Nothing" [by Golden & Faragher]." The album won the O'Jays their first American Music Award in 1991. Dubbed "luminous tunesmiths and veteran popsters" in Billboard, the team's 1993 international hit, The Right Kind of Love (Giant Records) co-produced with Robbie Nevil (Billboard Top 15) featured on Fox's hit TV series Beverly Hills, 90210 (listed by Entertainment Weekly at #20 of the top TV shows of the past 25 years) also appeared on the Beverly Hills 90210: The Soundtrack.
Golden and Faragher made music history in 1993, producing the British R&B girl band Eternal, the first female group to reach one million units (album sales) in the UK. Eternal's debut LP, Always & Forever (EMI), certified 4x Platinum by BPI paved the way for other female UK groups like All Saints and the Spice Girls. Golden's experience as a vocalist helped shape Eternal's vocal sound on the four songs she co-produced and wrote with Faragher, including the international hit single "Oh Baby I...", which topped the UK Singles Chart at #4. The first UK girl group with six singles to reach the Top 15 on the UK charts from their debut LP, Eternal went on to become one of Britain's most successful girl groups achieving both international and domestic success.
In 1994, Golden co-wrote Keep on Pushing Love for veteran soul singer Al Green. The four way collaboration (Golden, Green, Baker & Faragher) resulted in "one of [Green's] finest recent releases." The single appears on Green's 1995 LP, Your Heart's in Good Hands, "a solid project that approaches the Rev. Green's classic work with Hi Records." In 1993 and 1994, Golden and Faragher reached #1 on Billboard's Jazz Charts, with Soul Embrace by Richard Elliot and Diane Schuur's Heart To Heart album, (GRP) featuring "Freedom" performed by blues legend, BB King.
Throughout the 1990s Golden and Faragher continued to write and produce international hits that appeared on the UK Singles Chart and UK Albums Chart for artists including Dana Dawson the group Montage and Arthur Baker. In 1998, Golden & Faragher introduced UK R&B artist Hinda Hicks with the Top 25 hit, "If You Want Me" propelling her debut album, Hinda (Island Records) to #20 on the UK Albums Chart, winning two 1999 Brit Awards nominations.
Golden's partnership with Faragher continued for over a decade. An interview in the "Music Connection" provides insight into the collaborative methodology that made the pair a successful team: "I get involved in a lot of technical things, working out the arrangement and stuff like that," Faragher states, "[and] Lotti works on the complete feeling." Describing how songwriters can sometimes get too close to their work, becoming unwilling to modify or delete sections, Faragher pointed out, it was Golden, the iconoclast, who was willing to scrap work she felt wasn't up to par: "I might be attached to a certain section we worked so hard getting, and Lotti would say, 'Maybe we should throw this part out.' I go, 'Oh, no, you're kidding. I'm shocked-[but] she's right. She's absolutely right."' By the close of the decade, Golden's professional partnership with Faragher ended in divorce; they have one child.
In 2000, Golden's "I Should've Never Let You Go" co-written with Faragher, was the second hit single from the Australian girl group Bardot's #1 debut album, Bardot, certified 2× Platinum by ARIA, from the Popstars reality TV show. Golden continued working into the early 2000s, but because her recording studio was lost in the divorce process, she could no longer artistically justify writing songs without creative control. An earlier interview revealed just how important the production aspect of songwriting had become for Golden: "Golden & Faragher's pursuit of songwriting and production seems eons beyond the days of a cluttered Brill Building office with an upright piano. What environment does a songwriter need today? Golden: 'This one.' (She gestures towards the conglomeration of keyboards, computers and recording equipment)."
In collaboration with the 92nd Street Y's Educational Outreach Program, Golden designed a songwriting workshop for the advancement of literacy, engaging New York City public school children in the art and craft of songwriting. The classroom based program, "Lyrics & Literacy/Words are Power" was formulated in accordance with the New York State Learning Standards for the Arts and implemented in East Harlem by Golden and the 92nd St. Y.
A 2009 article suggests Lotti Golden is contemplating a return to her artist roots: "There are strong hints that she is around, and may be planning a re-emergence." In a 2010 interview, Golden intimates she is working on material for an LP. A previously unreleased portrait of Lotti Golden appeared in the 2011 publication "The Rolling Stone Years," by rock photographer Baron Wolman, who was responsible for all of the photos in Golden's 1969 Look magazine article. Writer John Scott G notes: "You’ll have your own personal favorites... Johnny Cash looking like he's daring the world to intrude, Grace Slick staring straight at you... But on page 154 is his portrait of Lotti Golden, an artist who is unknown to me but who appears interesting, intriguing, and important because of Wolman's great photograph."
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