Punk Professor bound for Oz

American academic and musician Vivien Goldman is one of the international guests at FOJAM.

VIVIEN Goldman grew up in an Orthodox home in London, the daughter of Berlinborn father Max, who escaped the Holocaust by moving to Britain in the 1930s. Early on music was a part of her life with the family singing along around the piano as Max played the violin.

“Growing up, I was the person who liked standing up and singing and talking out aloud, being the centre of attention,” Goldman told The AJN by phone from New York on the eve of her first visit to Australia to appear at the inaugural Festival of Jewish Arts and Music (FOJAM) to be held at the Melbourne Recital Centre on September 8.

Goldman, 65, recently discovered that she has relatives living in Sydney.

“Our family in Germany was separated by the Holocaust – instead of coming to England, like my father did, they came to Sydney, so Australia is embedded in my Diaspora story.”

After studying literature at Warwick University, Goldman embarked on a career in journalism and music public relations, working closely with reggae singer Bob Marley and later writing his biography titled Soul Rebel, Natural Mystic.

Towards the end of the 1970s, Goldman was part of the punk group the Flying Lizards, which had the hit song Money, and made a name for herself writing for various musical publications and sharing a flat with The Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde. Goldman decided to move to Paris, turning her attentions to being a musician rather than writing about them.

Album by the Flying Lizards, which Vivien Goldman was a member of in the 1970s.

She formed the new wave duo Chantage, which became well known in France and released an EP, Dirty Washing, in 1981 which was produced by John Lydon – better known as Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten.

In the early 1980s, Goldman changed careers again, returning to London to make documentaries for the BBC’s newly formed Channel Four.

She then moved to the US where she continued to work in music, journalism and television, while also becoming a lecturer in punk and reggae at universities including Berkeley, Boston and Rutgers.

She earned the nickname the Punk Professor when she took up a post at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music in 2005 where she now is adjunct professor of punk and reggae.

“I create the courses on punk and the students are drawn to it and become very involved, so I have had some great teaching experiences,” she said. At FOJAM, Goldman will take part in two panel sessions, perform as part of a musical tribute to Lou Reed and deliver a keynote address titled “Jews and The CounterCulture”.

“Traditionally there has been a streak of counter-cultural subversion in Jewish creativity with people,” she said, citing Lenny Bruce and Allen Ginsberg as examples.

“There’s a long tradition of Jews telling the system where to get off. Jews played a remarkable role in England and America – places that I know best – because we have frequently been in a skewered power relationship with the system.

“I like to think of punk as a religion-free zone, but if we look at it through that lens, the ideology was promulgated by Jews.” In the one-hour musical tribute to Lou Reed, Goldman will join performers including Deborah Conway, Chris Cohen, Emily Lubitz and Gabriella Cohen in performing songs from his iconic album, Transformer.

Reed was a formative figure among Jewish musicians in the New York punk scene and according to Goldman was a typical counter-culture Jew.

“In Judaism you are meant to follow a lot of rules and one of the rules is to ask a lot of questions. There is a great tradition in us Jews to question the establishment and to put forward our point of view, especially with humour,” she said.

Three years ago, recordings of Goldman’s work from the late 1970s to the early 1980s with the Flying Lizards, Public Image Ltd, the Raincoats and the Slits were released on the album Resolutionary. “A music producer in Europe approached me about putting together my old music,” she explained.

“I had been a member of the Flying Lizards and had sung with Johnny Rotten, but had dropped out of music for a variety of reasons – at the time I was getting a lot of work in the world of independent television which was really exciting.

“That idea turned out to be life-changing for me. The album opened up new fans. Now I am even doing live performances, which is something I never did with the Flying Lizards as we were a studio-based band.

“Punk is breaking down barriers and is meant to be anti-ageist. People have a lifelong allegiance in their heart to the youth culture that formed them. Once a punk always a punk!”

Goldman’s latest book, Revenge of the She-Punks, described as a feminist music history since the 1970s was published in May by the University of Texas and will be released in Australia later this year.

At one of Goldman’s Manhattan launches, held in a bookstore, she sang a punk song, read excerpts and signed autographs.

Goldman has just recorded her first album, provisionally titled Next is Now, after being approached by musician Martin Glover, founding member of long-established British punk band Killing Joke.

The Festival of Jewish Arts and Music (FOJAM) is at the Melbourne Recital Centre on September 8. Bookings: fojam.com