Rock's First Lady | Music | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Rock's First Lady 

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 3:38 pm

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On the heels of the glowing praise for the Dead Boys album, Ravan inked a deal with RCA subsidiary 20th Century Records and recorded the pair of self-produced return-to-form LPs that are the high-water mark of her solo canon: 1978’s Urban Desire, which crosses classic R&B with piano-laced, Springsteen-esque drama and the energy then coming off the Bowery, and sports full-force Ravan lung-busters like “Cornered” (check YouTube for a powerful live clip of this song) and a guest vocal by Lou Reed; the second release, 1979’s …And I Mean It!, is less raw but features glam gods Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson. “By that time, I’d fully blossomed as an artist,” she says. “But those albums didn’t get enough airplay, I was told, because radio wasn’t ready for hard-rock women then.”

Inspired by famed British indie Stiff Records, Ravan’s next move was to start her own label, Polish Records (“polish as in shine”). With Ravan as in-house producer the imprint signed several acts, including another pioneering female rocker, Ronnie Spector. But during the recording and marketing of her 1982 Siren album, the legendarily unstable ex-Ronettes singer fell out with her new label and almost immediately quashed whatever commercial success the record might have had. Ravan, however, wasn’t long for the label, either; although she was something of a drug guzzler herself at the time, she eventually realized that her partner in Polish, a known cocaine dealer whose profits were funding the entire enterprise, might well prove a liability. She grabbed the tapes of Spector and some other artists and quit.

Ravan began taking trips in 1984 to visit weekending friends in Palenville, and fell in love with the area’s simple solitude. She soon purchased her own getaway home in the town, commuting to her New York apartment during the week. But, as they are wont to do, the struggles of drug and alcohol addiction continued to follow her to wherever she was. “I was getting sicker and sicker every day,” she writes in Lollipop Lounge. “And broker and broker.” In 1990, she finally decided to get straight when she got some truly sobering news: She had lung cancer. “The voice of my addiction said ‘You’re going to die anyway, why not have fun?’,” she recalls. “But my ‘angel’ voice said, ‘Do you want to go out in the light, or do you want to go out in the dark?’ If I didn’t have much time remaining I [decided that I] needed to live it in the light as much as I could.”

Thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous, the caregivers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Ravan’s own undefeatable inner chutzpah, she’s kept both diseases at bay for the last 18 years. For a time she lived in Florida with her sister (who recently passed away) and then in New York again, but returned to the Hudson Valley in 1995. She’s also been back in the studio lately to work on new material and has even returned to the stage, recording a 2006 live album at CBGB. Besides the wonderful new man in her life, Ravan has found another new love: the colorful paintings that adorn her sunny home. “That’s just something I do for myself,” she says. “Though a few friends have asked to buy them.” To benefit Sloan-Kettering’s cancer research program she’s auctioning some of her Goldie & The Gingerbreads and Ten Wheel Drive stage apparel, and there’s also talk of a film based on Lollipop Lounge.

But what keeps Ravan busiest these days are the two shows she hosts on Sirius Satellite Radio: “Chicks & Broads,” which features music by female artists past and present; and “Goldie’s Garage,” which presents tracks by 12 unsigned bands each episode. “It’s a lot of fun, being a DJ,” Ravan says. “It’s like therapy or something.”

“Genya is not just a good friend and an amazingly entertaining radio personality,” says Little Steven Van Zandt, whose Little Steven’s Underground Garage Channel carries Ravan’s shows. “She also continues to be an inspiration to the unprecedented number of young girls starting and joining garage bands that we proudly play non-stop in the Underground Garage.” The E Street Band guitarist, erstwhile Sopranos star, and syndicated radio host is currently lobbying for Goldie & the Gingerbreads’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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