The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 22–JAN 23

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DEC 22–JAN 23 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: Music

32. 1940 to the present, Łódž, Poland; New York; the U.K.; Saugerties, NY 

Some Facts: 

Where she was born: Łódž, Poland.

What happened in Łódź two months before her birth: the Germans forced 160,000 Jewish and Roma inhabitants into an area of the city—a new ghetto—far too small for that many people.

What happened in Łódź the month she was born: the Germans sealed the ghetto shut with wire and wood fencing.

Prevailing conditions in the Łódź ghetto: hard labor, overcrowding, starvation.

Early memories: “If you’re asking for good memories, forget it. None, none in Poland.”

Number of her siblings lost in the Shoah: two (her brothers).

Number of other relatives lost in the Shoah: impossible to count.

Age at arrival in New York: seven.

First home: 202 Rivington Street on the Lower East Side.

How she learns English: listening to doowop stations on her transistor radio.

Early interests: boys, music, motorcycles.

Relationship with her parents: difficult, very.

Age when dropping out of school: 16.

Chief source of income at 16: being a “cheesecake” model at $100 an hour.

Something she says to herself around this time: “Nobody is going to tell me what the fuck to do in my life again, ever!”

What happens when, slightly drunk, she jumps on stage at a Brooklyn club to sing with a band: they fire their previous singer and hire her.

Defining characteristic of the first band she forms in New York: all women (drummer, guitarist, bassist, singer).

Some of the groups her band opens for as they tour the U.K. and Europe: The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Animals, The Yardbirds and The Hollies.

Her explanation for why this all-girl rock band is unable to capitalize on its hit single: “The black stations wouldn’t play us because they knew we were white girls, and the white stations wouldn’t play us because we were too R&B.”

Two key components of her life: alcohol and drugs.

Orientation of the next band she forms: jazz fusion.

What the major label that signs her a few years later think they are getting: a rock singer.

What the label does after one solo album: drops her.

What she does next: begins producing other musicians and starts her own record label.

What dooms that label: such excessive “drug activity” that the DEA begins surveilling her office.

Title of a legendary punk album she produces around this time: Young, Loud and Snotty.

What she tells the band’s drummer: “If he didn't take the swastikas off his drum set, he wasn't going to have a producer.”

The drummer’s response: “I don't even know what they mean!”

What she finds herself doing in her 40s: bottoming out.

What she is diagnosed with at 50: lung cancer.

What she does: survives.

How she supports herself: buying and selling real estate in upstate New York, hosting music shows on satellite radio.

What she eventually becomes: sober.

What is for many years impossible for her to do sober: sing on stage.

Her current age: 82.

(Genya Ravan, née Genyusha Zelkovicz, a.k.a. Goldie)


Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the New York-based author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). Excerpts from his recently completed book Libraries of Sand about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès have appeared in BombThe Fortnightly Review and 3:AM Magazine. In January 2023, Bloomsbury Academic will publish a collection of his writing titled Negative Work: The Turn to Provisionality in Contemporary Art. Since 2008 he has been Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 22–JAN 23

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