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October-December 2010
Interview Lotti Golden: Then and Now Print E-mail
Written by Cara Mae McGuire   

 

lotti golden  1Emerging from the depths of the 60s counter-culture is Lotti Golden, a fiery poet of harmonious proportions whose 1969 LP, Motor-Cycle, captured women‘s liberation and motorcycle soul in one psychedelic swoop.   

Hailing from New York, Lotti began channeling her musical roots at a young age where she found inspiration through her parents’ jazz collection by belting out the likes of Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane and Billie Holiday. Recognizing their daughter’s natural vocal talent, Golden’s family gifted her a guitar at age 11 thus launching her musical journey.  She began writing her own songs and fearlessly hit the streets of Manhattan to push her demos to publishers and producers on the scene. Her determination finally rewarded when Patty Labelle and the Bluebelles recorded one of her songs, “Dance to the Rhythm of Love.” Lotti was only sixteen. Throughout the rest of her teenage years, she continued to write poetry, play music and took to theatre, which helped her develop the drama woven into many of her lyrics.  By the time she finished high school she was equipped with enough street creds and moxy earned from the progressive streets of New York’s East Village to produce the poetic material which became what is now known as her epic opus, Motor-Cycle (Atlantic, 1969). The LP hit the air waves with an autobiographical twist of blues, jazz, big band and funk boogie all infused together relating the peculiar story of Lotti and her pals, likely the first rock concept album by a female recording artist.  In an effort to capitalize on any momentum from Motor-Cycle, Golden’s next record label, GRT, quickly needed a new release from this rising star. Her second self-titled LP, Lotti Golden (GRT, 1971), was written and recorded in “a blink of an eye” much to the dismay of Golden.

But her journey didn’t end there. She found a new path, another avenue to share her voice, this time behind the scenes as a rock Recording studio 1982, Photograph by Patricia Batesjournalist writing for Rolling Stone, Creem, Circus and numerous other Industry publications. In the early 80s with her recording and journalistic experiences under her belt, Golden transitioned from artist to writer/producer garnering a 1982 international dance hit, “I Specialize in Love,” co-written with Richard Scher. This success provided the empowerment she needed to embrace artistic control over her songs. With this newfound ambition, Golden went on to work with famed artists such as Diana Ross, The Manhattans and Brenda K. Starr, culminating in the latter part of the 80s with a Top 5 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Every Beat of My Heart” sung by Taylor Dayne. Throughout the 90s, Golden branched out to write and produce songs for TV shows such as Beverly Hills 90210, while simultaneously making waves in the British scene with the 4X platinum album, Always & Forever, by R&B girl band Eternal. Other career highlights include a collaboration with Al Green on the Your Hearts in Good Hands release, which debuted his much-anticipated comeback to secular music. And in recent years, Lotti achieved accolades in the land down under co-writing the second hit single by Australian girl group, Bardot. 

Today, she turns focus on her community. In 2000 Golden, together with the 92nd Street Y’s Educational Outreach Program, designed a songwriting program for the advancement of literacy for public school children in East Harlem called the “Lyrics & Literacy/Words are Power.”  While she gives back to others, Lotti also relishes in the current resurgence of her own popularity evident on the Net. She looks forward to catering to this online revival that showcases her poetic license of self-discovery. Her words transcend time -- speaking to women about the issues that still pertain to us today.

 

HH is thrilled to feature an interview with Lotti Golden as she breaks her silence on life, music and motorcycles for the first time in decades.

 

LOOK Magazine 1969, Photograph by Baron WolmanHH: You’ve managed to keep a well sealed private life akin to the glamorous Greta Garbo but without any of her reclusive psychosis despite remaining in the music biz. To quote you from a past interview in LOOK magazine, “I’ve got to keep moving, but at the same time, I need peace.” How were you able to achieve this balance? 

LG: Life was getting hectic at the time I gave that interview. There was a tremendous buzz building around Motor-Cycle. In fact, the same article states “Lotti Golden thinks a lot about her poet’s temperament these days because she’s on the verge of becoming significant.” That’s what I was referencing in the quote. There was a lot of media attention-- a cover story in Newsweek, photo shoots for Vogue, talk of a movie, that kind of thing. You want to give it your best, but you don’t want to compromise your integrity. You don’t want to get eaten by the fame machine. It is difficult to comment further, because the quote exists in the context of its time and place.

HH:  We all want to know, did you marry, have kids, a white picket fence or did you dedicate your life to the music industry? Or is it a mix of both? 

LG:  Women artists have it harder than men when it comes to managing career and family. It’s a simple fact (or accident!) of biology. If the woman artist wants a family at some point, she’s aware of the biological clock ticking. Decisions can be difficult—Joni Mitchell gave up her child for adoption and I recall reading Emmylou Harris had to juggle touring with raising her children. Lady Gaga, in response to Larry King’s question about wanting children, said she feared having a baby would ruin her creativity, which I totally understand. (That was odd, I thought. Would the question have been posed if Britney Spears hadn’t reset expectations by having children so early in her career?) Timing and luck are important factors; I transitioned into writing & producing, so touring wasn’t an issue. And by replacing the proverbial white-picket fence with a state-of-the-art home recording studio, I was able to manage family and career.

HH:  You have a new cult following running rampant on fan blogs, forums and music reviews all buzzing and contemplating your long-awaited next project. Feeding that frenzy is a big teaser “Coming Soon” posted on LottiGolden.com. So what’s in store for fans? 

LG:  There will be lots to excite viewers when my website hits. In addition to interesting archival material, there’ll be a personal bio with very cool tidbits, i.e. you heard it here first. A blog will appear on a regular basis as well as postings of works in progress, live video podcasts and more.

HH:  In the same LOOK article you alluded to a Blood Ring album, did this ever come into fruition? Is it lying in wait? 

LG:  In a sense, as the album that never got made, it could be lying in wait. That is because artistically, Blood Ring was meant to follow Motor-Cycle. It’s the direction my work would have taken—a concept album, with a story line, poetry, and music that crosses genres. That’s still the kind of record I’d like to make.

HH:  It’s well known your Motor-Cycle album is an autobiographical outward reflection of your life in the late 60’s, in contrast to Lotti Golden Moto-Cycle LPthe second self-titled LP, which seems more emotionally introspective, like two sides of a stone: one, a big band funk-psychedelic; the other hints of a darker smoky blues soul. What’s your insight on each style, and why do you think they complement each other so uniquely? 

LG:  Motor-Cycle, from start to finish took almost three years. Because the album was autobiographical, the lyrics were distilled from journals and poetry. I worked on the songs (music and lyrics) for about a year and a half, and then waited one year for the producer (Bob Crewe) to clear his schedule so we could make the record. We were very prepared when we went into the studio. I was totally focused on the kind of record I wanted to make. And because the preparation was so good, we had the luxury of spontaneity, which can be heard in the final recording of Motor-Cycle. The second album (I don’t like to talk about it) happened in the blink of an eye, written and recorded in months. The record company ran out of money; it was a rush job and I don’t recall being happy with it. Soon after the label went out of business. The album should never have been released. Recently, the record has surfaced on the Internet and most of what I’ve heard sounds very strange—as if it’s been pirated—or it’s some kind of corruption of the original, sped up and/or slowed down. It doesn’t even sound like or represent me. That said, I really couldn’t compare the two because it’s not a level playing field.

HH: Your song, “Motor-Cycle Michael,” contains the phrase “…he let me ride his motorcycle…” reveals the social norms back when it was a rarity for women to ride their own. As you take this look back, how do you see women riders then and now? 

LG:  Yes, “Motor-Cycle Michael” contains the lyric “he let me ride” and my choice of words was deliberate. Now it happened that Michael really did have a motorcycle-- and I really did ride. But the reason I chose “let me” wasn’t because I needed permission to ride in the literal sense. It’s because the motorcycle is a perfect metaphor for a spiritual journey. Michael was my guru. I was the student. If you aren’t ready, a master won’t take you on or "let" you in the class. Motor-Cycle is about self-discovery, an awakening: “we took a motorcycle trip into the wind…and he was me and I was him.” The word “trip” in that lyric can mean a physical journey, an experience, or the LSD kind. (Of course, Michael morphs into Lucifer as the plot thickens, but you have to hear the album or read the lyrics to find out what happens next.) So it really wasn’t first and foremost a sexual thing—but that certainly can be implied. Thank goodness there were pioneering women, long before the 60’s, like Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, Dot Robinson and the Van Buren Sisters paving the way for the female bikers of today. The goal of a bike of one’s own has been within reach for more women in our time. And finally manufacturers are working on designs that are compatible with the female physique.

 

LOOK Magazine 1969, Photograph by Baron WolmanHH:  The most iconic image out on the Net is a striking black and white picture of you donned in leather sitting on a BMW. Did you ever go on to get your own motorcycle or were you resolved to ride “Michaels?” Intrigue us with any of your two-wheel adventures.  

LG:  Long before my Motor-Cycle odyssey, I started riding as a young girl—but not motorcycles. My sister, an accomplished equestrian, turned me on to horseback riding. We would gallop along the beaches and marshlands in Brooklyn. I loved feeling the wind and breathing the sticky sea air. I rode until the day I was almost thrown from a bucking horse. It was scary, but worse, was watching the collective expression of horror on the faces of my fellow riders. The experience spooked me and I quit riding horses. So when Michael showed up on his motorcycle, I hopped on without a thought. It was thrilling, there’s no denying. Perhaps it reminded me of the power and thunder I felt on horseback. “To ride a horse is to ride the sky,” (author unknown) describes the sensation I had rediscovered--on a motorcycle. Good old horsepower and torque! I rode a bit on my own, but keeping a bike in New York City wasn’t easy. To date, my greatest adventures have been played out on two feet (mostly). For me Motor-Cycle is the ultimate expression of life’s journey. I’d never pretend to be in the league of women who ride their own. Women bikers are my heroes.

Click here for an exclusive photo gallery of Lotti Golden.  Click here for Lotti Golden's Wiki page.

Coming soon: LottiGolden.com and Facebook.

 

  
Photo credits:
 
Lotti Golden, New York City, 2010
LOOK Magazine 1969, Lotti head shot with sunglasses and Lotti on BMW motorcycle by Baron Wolman
Lotti Golden in recording studio 1982 by Patricia Bates
Album cover by Atlantic Records

 


 
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