Michael Goldwasser ’93 Saw “So Many Great Shows”

Michael Goldwasser 93 headshot


Michael Goldwasser ’93 is a record producer, songwriter, musician and record company executive who has produced many top artists including Jason Mraz, Kelly Clarkson and Janelle Monáe. His label, Easy Star Records, is considered one of the leading independent reggae labels in the world; Goldwasser’s production of Easy Star All-Stars’ Dub Side of the Moon, a reggae reinvention of the Pink Floyd classic, was named the #2 cover album of all time by Mojo Magazine. Many of Goldwasser’s productions have hit #1 on the Billboard reggae chart, and his R&B/soul/funk solo album, Goldswagger, was #1 on the U.K. soul chart.

Goldwasser’s latest production, Ziggy Stardub, takes on the iconic David Bowie album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and features Macy Gray, Steel Pulse, Maxi Priest, Fishbone, Vernon Reid (Living Colour) and Alex Lifeson (Rush). Rolling Stone called it a “must-hear” album. Ziggy Stardub will be available on all major streaming services and at all major music retailers on April 21; to celebrate, Goldwasser and the Easy Star All-Stars will perform a release show at Sony Hall in Manhattan on April 20 with special guests Sister Carol and the Cannabis Cup Band.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I had a full beard and no one believed I was a first-year! I was excited to stay in NYC, where I grew up, so that I could continue my musical pursuits, and gravitated toward other students who were into music. But I also was a bit shy and lacking self-confidence — my high school girlfriend had just dumped me (great timing) and for some reason I had my wisdom teeth out a few weeks before school started (more great timing) so I wasn’t feeling too great that first week.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

It was great — I met so many amazing people on the 11th floor of John Jay and had a lot of fun with them. I was in one of the corner semi-singles, kind of sharing a room, which wasn’t bad except that my roommate was on the crew team and he’d inadvertently wake me up early when he left for practice, passing through my room to get to the door. Being a city boy, I didn’t even know what crew was until I came to the College and some people on my floor asked me if I was “going out for crew.” There was no way that I was voluntarily entering the Hudson or East River, having lived around them for years and seeing what the water looked like.

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

This may sound trite, but I really enjoyed Lit Hum and CC — delving into literary classics and the development of philosophy, trying to understand the relevance, and getting to discuss with other people my age. I still think about some of the things that we read and the ideas behind them. I was actually just helping one of my daughters study for a test on Greek civilization and was excited to see names like Aristophanes, Aeschylus and Sophocles, though I must admit that I can’t remember the details of most of their works (except for Oedipus Rex — kind of hard to forget that one). I guess I need to dig up some of those classics and read them again.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

I loved Wollman Auditorium. I feel like I saw a movie there every week, and I also saw so many great shows in many different musical genres, from Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers to the Sun Ra Arkestra to A Tribe Called Quest. Best of all, my band, Special Request, got to play there, including a show opening for Digable Planets at the height of their popularity. Ladybug from that group told me that she liked what we were doing but I was either too shy or too shortsighted to try to get her number for future collaboration. I was not “cool like dat”!

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

Wait — I can get a do-over?! Sometimes I do wish that I could have worked less and spent more time just hanging out on campus (or napping!) — I worked over at Metropolitan Hospital in East Harlem to help pay for school, generally scheduling my classes in the morning so that I could jump on a bus to get to work in the afternoon. My regular lunch was a Snickers bar and a can of Coke that I’d grab on the way to the bus stop, which is funny to me because now I never eat that way, but it explains why college was the only time in my life that I had cavities.

But the main thing that I’d do differently would be to be more outgoing and open to new experiences. I was very focused on — and maybe too serious about — my music and building a career in that lane, which did work out for me, but I could have gotten involved in more activities outside of music. I met a lot of interesting people at the College, including some that I’m still good friends with, and I know that I could have met even more had I expanded my outlook.

I think that I would have benefited from starting college when I was slightly older and more mature, and actually, I think that most people could benefit from that. But if the entire Class of 2027 decides to take a gap year and that messes things up for Columbia, ummm, I never said that.