At 45 years old, UK drum 'n' bass pioneer Goldie (real name Clifford Joseph Price) has done more living and working than most men will do in a lifetime. He's graffiti-ed the Midlands. He's dated supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Stella Tennant. And in addition to his massive musical output (28 singles, LPs, and mixtapes since 1994), ol' Goldielocks has starred in James Bond films, Guy Ritchie movies, and a ton of British reality TV shows. So how does someone maintain balance while juggling all those flaming glow sticks? His answer: "Bikram yoga! Look it up."
Born in the industrial town of Walsall, England, Goldie's biological parents put him up for adoption when he was three years old. His mother was a Scottish pub-rocker. His father, Clifford Price Sr., was a Jamaican factory worker, and Goldie wasn't the only child to inherit his dad's name — in keeping with the tradition of having an heir and a spare.
When Goldie's father left, mum decided to turn her boy over to the state. And he bounced from foster home to foster home, spending his preteen years in Whitmore Reams, a small town of less than 10,000 residents. It was there — and in the greater Wolverhampton area — that he began hanging out with b-boy crews.
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In a town where most kids grew up to work in the construction or aerospace industries, Goldie found himself running the streets with a spray-paint can in his hand, tagging everything in sight and courting a life of crime. He and his crew spread their name all over West Midlands County. And by chance, U.S. hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa saw the work they'd done in Birmingham and featured it prominently in his classic graffiti documentary Bombing.
Without any guidance, Goldie felt an urge to create — be it music or art. And just like the thousands of kids across the pond in New York City who would eventually take over our radio waves, he was silently laying groundwork for a future in music production. In fact, he was already making tracks for his friends. He'd listen to "breaks that were looped. We used to call them break tapes. We also used to record WPLS and Kiss FM on really dodgy cassettes."
During the late 1980s, Goldie was drawn across the ocean by the burgeoning American hip-hop scene. He even lived in Miami for a few years. To make money, he sold gold grills at Flea Market USA at NW 79th Street. And while peddling his soon-to-be-trademark gold teeth, Goldie was also soaking up the heaviest stateside sounds he could find. "Miami was always about the clubs. I used to go to Bayside and Scratch Club, which were massive," he remembers. "Miami bass was dominant with Luke Skyywalker [and others]. But I was more into the New York sound with EPMD and Kool G Rap and [DJ] Polo. I always remember 'I'm Fly,' which sent me nuts."
By the early '90s, Goldie returned to England, set to spearhead the UK's drum 'n' bass movement. Armed with charm and a golden smile, he broke out of break beats and into the spotlight with his appropriately named 1995 debut Timeless. Hailed as groundbreaking, the record redefined both jungle and drum 'n' bass. It was a crossover success, with lavish orchestral arrangements, thick beats, and soulful female vocals. Even today, it doesn't sound like Nintendo 64's idea of the future. It's just as fresh as it was 16 years ago.
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But while Timeless cemented Goldie's place in the electronic music pantheon, his personal life remained volatile. A man who grew up without a proper family, he started a few families of his own, fathering five children with multiple mothers. And it was his relationship with experimental pop icon Björk that helped drive her stalker, South Florida's own Ricardo Lopez, into a final dangerous frenzy, spouting racial slurs against Goldie and sending Björk a mail bomb before finally killing himself.
Last year, Goldie's private turmoil continued when his son Jamie Price was sentenced to life in prison for a murder that appears to have been gang related. Sadly, sometimes street life isn't a prelude to an artistic career.
Through it all, Goldie's musical output has sometimes stalled, but he has never stopped working. In the late '90s, he scored occasional acting gigs in films such as The World Is Not Enough and Snatch. And over the last decade, he has starred in a series of somewhat random British reality TV shows, including Celebrity Big Brother UK, Olympic-style competition The Games, quiz-show Celebrity Mastermind, and Strictly Come Dancing.
Some of his reality TV ventures haven't come entirely out of left field, though. He was right at home and nearly won first place on Maestro, a show where celebrities are trained to be orchestra conductors. For the instinctually musical Goldie, it was an interesting experiment, honing his natural skills under the tutelage of an established professional conductor. And immediately following his tenure on Maestro, he harnessed his sharpened skills and composed a piece based on his song "Timeless" called "Sine Tempore." It was later performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra and the London Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall on his own television special, Classic Goldie. Goldie's career was recharged after that appearance. His latest offering, Memoirs of an Afterlife, is full of symphonic sounds, melancholic memories, and his trademark massive beats. "[I] just wanted to do what I do naturally," he says. Which means, as Goldie's life has shown us: Keep moving, keep hustling, keep creating, and rise above it all.