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Kravitz, Lenny 1964–

Lenny Kravitz 1964

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

Lived in Two Worlds

Released First Album

Blues-Influenced Songs and Collaborations

Returned to Happiness and Accolades

Selected discography

Sources

Lenny Kravitz has fused a broad range of styles from the 1960s and 1970s to create his own blend of psychedelia, funk, soul, and rock. Initially derided as an unoriginal throwback to the 1960s, Kravitz went on to develop his diverse style, with its strong message of love and peace, earning greater respect and wider popularity with his second and third albums. A mul-titalented musician, Kravitz played almost all the instruments on his first two releases. He went on to collaborate with others in the rock industry, both as a songwriter and producer, on a number of different projects. The product of a widely varied background, Kravitz sought to express the range of his influences through the songs and sounds he created.

From the beginning, Kravitz stood out from his contemporaries. His father, Sy Kravitz, was a producer and assignment editor at NBC-TV. Kravitzs mother, Roxie Roker, was an actress whose best-known role was Helen Willis on the long-running television show The Jeffersons. Of Russian Jewish and Bahamian descent, Kravitz lived with his parents on the wealthy Upper East Side of Manhattan as a child, but he was also close to his mothers relatives, who lived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. He attended both a synagogue in Manhattan and a church in Brooklyn.

Lived in Two Worlds

On weekdays I hung out with my ritzy friends in our ritzy neighborhood in New York. But on weekends I went to my grandmothers house in Brooklynin Bed-Stuywhich is a rough-tough black area, he told the Los Angeles Times. Both sides were completely normal to me. I dealt with it all. In Harpers Bazaar he said, The folks in Bed-Stuy were much more open and sharingeven though they had much less to share. It was just good, down-home black hospitality.

My mother always said I should know who I am, that Im black, Kravitz told the Los Angeles Times. In this country, if you have a drop of black blood, youre black. Theres no confusion about that. Despite this clarity in Kravitzs mind, he discovered as a child that his Jewish-sounding name confused others. Ill never forget my first day of school in first grade, he said in the Times. The teacher called my name and when I answered to Leonard Kravitz, her jaw dropped when she saw this little black kid with a tremendous Afro.

At a Glance

Born Leonard Kravitz, on May 26, 1964, in New York/NY; son of Sy Kravitz (a television executive and free-lance music promoter) and Roxie Roker (an actress); married Lisa Bonet (an actress), 1987 (divorced, 1991); children: Zoe.

Career: Signed with Virgin Records and released debut album, Let Love Rule, 1989; wrote Justify My Love for Madonna, 1990; toured with the Rolling Stones, 1994; produced multi-platinum Grammy winning album 5; put out greatest hits album, 2000.

Awards: MTV Video Award for best male video, 1993; Grammy Award nominations, 1993, for best rock song and best solo rock vocal performance; Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002; American Music Award, 2002.

Address: Agent Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212-1825.

Kravitz was attracted to music early on in life. My mother thought I had a problem when I was a kid, he said. We used to be in church and Id be wriggling my leg like crazy. One day she asked, Do you hear music? I said yeah. She said Thank God. Shed been worried I had some kind of disorder.

Because Kravitzs father was also a free-lance jazz promoter, Kravitz grew up surrounded by rhythm and blues and jazz, in addition to church music. He became familiar with the work of jazz musicians like Cleo Laine, Bobby Short, Count Basie, and Ella Fitzgerald, and later recalled sitting on Duke Ellingtons lap while the jazz legend played the piano. He was also exposed to soul music, learning the work of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and James Brown. My parents were very supportive of the fact that I loved music early on, and they took me to a lot of shows, Kravitz told Harpers Bazaar.

Kravitzs musical background was further broadened and enriched after his family moved to Los Angeles in 1974, where he spent three years singing in the California Boys Choir. As a member of this group, which had a classical repertoire, Kravitz sang with the Metropolitan Opera and took part in a recording of Mahlers Third Symphony conducted by the eminent Zubin Mehta. Kravitz also taught himself how to play guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums.

Kravitz attended Beverly Hills High School, where he experimented with different personae. He went through preppie, punk, and hippie phases, but from the time of his mid-teens on, he knew that he wanted to be a pop star. I was attracted to the cool style, the girls, the rock n roll lifestyle, he told the Los Angeles Times.

After high school, Kravitz adopted the stage persona of Romeo Blue and began producing dance rock in the style of pop sensation Prince. He admitted to Spin magazine that this phase was a phony time for me, so I know what posing feels like. That was when I was really into my David Bowie phase. I wanted to be David Bowie more than anything in the world. The music Kravitz was writing at this time held no appeal for record companies. I was doing this trendy, British thing, and they wanted me to do whatever black radio was doing at the time. I was offered deals but only if I changed my music. I refused, he recalled in the Los Angeles Times. Eventually, Kravitz abandoned Romeo Blue. Even though it was a put-on, it was important for me, he told Harpers Bazaar. Ultimately, it got me back to myself. And when I finally did accept myself for myself, music started flowing out of me.

After moving back to New York, Kravitz entered into a partnership with record producer Henry Hirsch, who ran a recording studio in Hoboken, New Jersey. Like Kravitz, Hirsch championed classic, pre-digital recording techniques. In the late 1980s, Kravitz finally signed with a label, choosing Virgin Records. They didnt categorize me, he told the Los Angeles Times. They wanted me to do the music I wanted.

In December of 1987 Kravitz married actress Lisa Bonet in Las Vegas. Bonet then had a regular role on the situation comedy The Cosby Show, and her high-profile career overshadowed his. In December of 1988 the two had a baby daughter, Zoe. When Kravitz released his first album, in 1989 he got as much attention for his famous wife, who helped him write two of the songs on the album, as he did for his work.

Released First Album

Kravitzs first album, Let Love Rule, was a mélange of musical styles in which he demonstrated his versatility by providing almost all of the instrumental and vocal material on the record. Collaborating with Hirsch, Kravitz worked to master a complicated recording technique. When I put out Let Love Rule in 89, industry people laughed, Kravitz recalled. They said, What are you doing? Nothing sounded at all like it. Now when people try for that sound, they feel that all you have to do is turn the reverb off. They dont understand the whole processgoing from microphone to the amplifier to compressors into e.q. units that have tubes and back to the tape machineits a lost art.

Let Love Rule was hailed as a throwback to the psychedelic era. Kravitz presented himself as a hippie singer, with a gold ring through his nose, who preached peace and love. The main influences evident on the album were artists from the 1960s, such as John Lennon and the Beatles, and soul singer Curtis May-field. People have gotten on me about the hippie stuff, singing about love and optimism, Kravitz told the Los Angeles Times. They say Im unrealistic, that the world is screwed up, so just accept it. But I believe the messages Im putting out. Maybe Im living in a dream world, like the hippies in the 60s. But whats wrong with dreaming? You have to dream about these things first before they ever become a reality.

In taking artists of the 1960s as his primary influences, Kravitz also strayed from the racial segregation of the music industry. Critics suggested that his work was closer to music produced by whites than blacks and noted that Kravitzs album challenged the notion that black artists all had to sound a certain, identifiable way. The appeal of Let Love Rule was primarily to alternative-music radio stations, and the album, with its unexpected sound, was shunned by many black stations, to Kravitzs dismay. Im black, so I want my music on black radio, he told the Los Angeles Times. Later he told Rolling Stones David Wild, Im playing white peoples music. Obviously not really, because black people invented rock and roll. White people took that and made some wonderful things out of it. But black people shouldnt throw their music away.

Let Love Rule started simply, with Kravitz singing the words to Sittin on Top of the World, accompanied only by a single guitar. Gradually, other instruments joined in, creating a full sound to flesh out Kravitzs emotion-laden vocals. Other songs on the album included the title track, which one critic hailed in People magazine as an extended jam that couldnt be more full-bodied and spiritual if it were sung by an entire church choir. In Mr. Cab Driver, Kravitz reflected on his inability to hail a cab because he was a black man, singing, Mr. Cab Driver wont you stop to let me in/Mr. Cab Driver dont like my kind of skin.

Fear, another song on Let Love Rule, also betrayed an acute social consciousness, addressing the issues of the environment and inner-city blight. I smell the fear that rains inside/the thought of children who must oblige/To tainted dreams in polluted seas/The missing moon and melting trees, Kravitz sang. I Build This Garden for Us and Flower Child continued the hopeful, Utopian theme.

While some critics objected to what they perceived as Let Love Rules insistent political correctness, many hailed Kravitzs debut work. Let Love Rule was deemed stunningly fresh, infinitely listenable, unusually thoughtful, and hopeful and joyous, in People magazine, with intensity, raw edge, [and] soulfulness.

Kravitz embarked on a club tour with a backup band in late 1989 to promote Let Love Rule. He also started to collaborate with other musicians on their projects. In 1990 he wrote Justify My Love for Madonna, which became a controversial hit when the video produced to accompany it was banned by MTV. In addition, Kravitz paid homage to John Lennon by remaking Give Peace a Chance, with the blessing of Yoko Ono, Lennons widow. These projects paved the way for further joint efforts in the early 1990s.

Blues-Influenced Songs and Collaborations

By March of 1991, Kravitz and his wife had split. The singer released his second album, Mama Said, a short while later. This work, a much darker, more blues-influenced album, provided an outlet for Kravitz to express his emotional pain over the turmoil of his marriage. Critics noted the works references to many other pop styles of the past, calling Mama Said a marketing masterpiece that offers smart music that can be interpreted as either pure pop or a cool inside joke, as the New York Times put it. In listing the influences displayed on the release, Peter Watrous of the New York Times wrote, Fields of Joy borrows from the Beatles, Always on the Run from Parliament-Funkadelic, Stop Draggin Around from Jimi Hendrix, What Goes Around Comes Around from both Curtis Mayfield and Sly Stone. Citing Kravitzs recent break-up with Bonet, Watrous said that the singer had written a series of songs about love, loss, and longing that manage to parody 60s confessional rawness. Critical sniping aside, Mama Said produced a hit single, It Aint Over Til Its Over.

As on Let Love Rule, Kravitz performed almost all of the music on Mama Said himself, but he also embarked on another series of collaborations in the wake of this project. Demonstrating his versatility and the wide range of influences on his work, he cowrote material with members of the hard rock group Aerosmith, sang with Rolling Stone Mick Jagger on his new solo album, and wrote, arranged, and produced a record of folk, jazz, and soul music for French singer Vanessa Paradis, as well as taking part in Curtis Mayfield and Kiss tribute albums.

Kravitz moved to expand his musical production when he recruited a guitarist and bass player to take part in half the songs on his third album, Are You Gonna Go My Way, released in 1993. With this work, which he recorded in just three months, Kravitz was hailed as having reached a new, more mature level in his music. The album became Kravitzs most successful, selling more than two million copies and winning two Grammy nominations, for best rock song and best solo rock vocal performance, and an MTV Video Award for best male video. In his appearance at the MTV Music Awards ceremony, Kravitz played Are You Gonna Go My Way, backed by Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and wearing a reflective jumpsuit and platform shoes.

With the respect he earned for Are You Gonna Go My Way, Kravitz attempted to lay to rest the accusations that he was too heavily influenced by the 1960s, a shallow and all-inclusive practitioner of pastiche, rather than an artist in his own right. Sure, Im all about love, unity, and togetherness, he told Harpers Bazaar. But when people started to say those peace and love things about me, it was derogatory; they werent saying those things in a nice way. They were too busy looking at my clothes to listen to what I was really saying.

With Are You Gonna Go My Way, Kravitz turned to soul, funk, and reggae as his predominant inspiration. Relying again on classic recording techniques and live instrumentsa production style that had returned to vogue by thenKravitz produced a sophisticated blend of musical traditions in songs that focused on his favorite themes of love and peace. In tracks such as the psychedelic Believe, Sister, in which an acoustic guitar mimicked a mandolin, or Eleutheria, a reggae-influenced number, Kravitz demonstrated mastery of his craft.

The respect Kravitz had won with his third album was demonstrated in the summer of 1994, when he was asked to open several East Coast concerts for the Rolling Stones. At the time, Kravitz was writing material for two new albums, one to deal primarily with the issue of God, and one directed specifically at the black community, which he had so far largely failed to reach. I have things I want to say to the youth of the black community, he told the Detroit Free Press. To do that, I will go after it another way, and speak in a language that they might hear. Ive got to express my views. Something positive needs to be said. Similarly he explained in Rolling Stone that I have issues to speak about to the black community because I am a black personor whatever I am. In planning this album, Kravitz anticipated a raw and funky sound, a real basement record, as he told the Detroit Free Press. This became his darkest album, Circus, influenced by the passing of his mother and the pressure of the music industry. And in turning to yet another musical style and tradition to express his core message, Kravitz demonstrated once again his versatility and command of the elements of popular music.

Returned to Happiness and Accolades

The music industry wondered if Circus would be the end of Kravitzs career, considering that it only produced one real single and didnt sell well over all. The industry would have to wait another three years for Kravitz to hit the studio again, but when he returned he was three things he had not been on his last album: happy, focused., and clear. With the release of 5 in 1998, Kravitz returned to his happier view of the world with songs such as Fly Away, and If You Cant Say No. 5 rocketed Kravitz back onto the Billboard charts as well as onto the MTV-VH1 video circuits. Kravitz believed the success of the album came from his priorities as he told Tracey Pepper of Interview, I was just feeling good. The last record was a very tedious process. It was not fun was under the impression that for the last few years, its been so chic for everyone to be miserable. Like if youre in with the cool crowd, you cant be happy. I let all of that go and tried to promote the fact that I enjoy life and making music. Kravitz won a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for Fly Away. In 2000 Kravitz won his second Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for his remake of the Guess Whos classic American Woman for the Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack, a track that was later added to 5. He also put out his first greatest hits compilation album simply entitled Greatest Hits. Like most compilation albums, Greatest Hits included a few new songs to entice buyers to purchase the album. Unlike many compilation albums, Kravitzs new song Again made Greatest Hits one of the best selling compilation albums to date. Again was such a huge success that it earned Kravitz a coveted third Grammy in 2001 in the Best Male Rock Vocal Performance category. This made him the only artist in history to have ever won this award three years in a row and tying him with rock great Bruce Springsteen for most wins in this category.

Coming off of the success of Greatest Hits, Kravitz continued to put out more music in 2001 with the release of sixth original studio album, Lenny. The album produced hits such as Dig In and Yesterday is Gone, both of which Kravitz have called, a return to the upbeat feeling and meaning of rock. Lenny, like Kravitzs previous two albums gained its own respect from critics and also earned Kravitz an unprecedented fourth Grammy in the Best Male Rock Performance as well as the American Music Award in the favorite pop/rock male artist category. On a more personal note, Kravitz gained custody of his daughter Zoe in 2001 and said in a Jet interview that he is trying hard to not be any one thing, but be everything, including a father, a musician, and a better person.

Kravtiz has gone from a retro-throw back to a full-fledged rock artist in a decade and he has the awards to prove it. But for Kravitz, it is not about the recognition as much as it is about being true to himself and the music that he has been able to produce. He told Jet magazine, I feel quite blessed. Ive always stayed true to myself and never compromised. Im still in the game, still on the top of my game. Thats an amazing blessing.

Selected discography

Let Love Rule, 1989.

Mama Said, 1991.

Are You Gonna Go My Way, 1993.

Circus, 1995.

5, 1998.

Greatest Hits, 2000.

Lenny, 2001.

Sources

Billboard, August 12, 1995 p.9-11; October 14, 2000, p. 14.

Detroit Free Press, August 28, 1994, pp. 16, 76.

Harpers Bazaar, March 1993, p. 308.

Interview, July 1998, p. 106-110.

Jet, March 25, 2002, pp. 58-61.

Los Angeles Times, September 27, 1989.

New York Times, April 21, 1991; February 23, 1992; September 9, 1993, p. C13.

People, October 9, 1989.

PR Newswire, February 28, 2001.

Rolling Stone, November 17, 1994, p. 60.

St. Petersburg Times (FL), October 8, 1993, p. 18.

Elizabeth Rourke and Ralph Zerbonia

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Kravitz, Lenny 1964—

Lenny Kravitz 1964

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

Lived in Two Worlds

Released First Album

Influenced by the Beatles

Selected discography

Sources

Lenny Kravitz has fused a broad range of styles from the 1960s and 1970s to create his own blend of psychedelia, funk, soul, and rock. Initially derided as an unoriginal throwback to the 1960s, Kravitz has developed a diverse style, with a strong message of love and peace, earning great respect and wide popularity.

A multitalented musician, Kravitz played almost all the instruments on his first two releases. He went on to collaborate with others in the rock industry, both as a songwriter and producer, on a number of different projects. The product of a widely varied background, Kravitz sought to express the range of his influences through the songs and sounds he created.

From the beginning, Kravitz stood out from his contemporaries. His father, Sy Kravitz, was a producer and assignment editor at NBC-TV. Kravitzs mother, Roxie Roker, was an actress whose best-known role was Helen Willis on the long-running television show The Jeffersons. Of Russian Jewish and Bahamian descent, Kravitz lived with his parents on the wealthy Upper East Side of Manhattan as a child, but he was also close to his mothers relatives, who lived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. He attended both a synagogue in Manhattan and a church in Brooklyn.

Lived in Two Worlds

Kravitz grew up in two worlds. On weekdays I hung out with my ritzy friends in our ritzy neighborhood in New York. But on weekends I went to my grandmothers house in Brooklynin Bed-Stuywhich is a rough-tough black area, he told the Los Angeles Times. Both sides were completely normal to me. I dealt with it all. In Harpers Bazaar he said, The folks in Bed-Stuy were much more open and sharingeven though they had much less to share. It was just good, down-home black hospitality.

Despite the dichotomy of his life, Kravitz maintained a strong sense of self. My mother always said I should know who I am, that Im black, Kravitz told the Los Angeles Times. In this country, if you have a drop of black blood, youre black. Theres no confusion about that. But even with such clarity in his mind, Kravitz discovered as a child that his Jewish-sounding name confused others. Ill never forget my first day of school

At a Glance

Born Leonard Kravitz, on May 26, 1964, in New York, NY; son of Sy Kravitz (a television executive and free-lance music promoter) and Roxie Roker (an actress); married Lisa Bonet (an actress), 1987 (divorced, 1991); children: Zoe.

Signed with Virgin Records and released debut album, Let Love Rule, 1989; wrote Justify My Love* for Madonna, 1990; toured with the Rolling Stones, 1994.

Awards: MTV Video Award for best male video, 1993; Grammy Award nominations, 1993, for best rock song and best solo rock vocal performance.

Addresses: AgentCreative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 902121825.

in first grade, he said in the Times. The teacher called my name and when I answered to Leonard Kravitz, her jaw dropped when she saw this little black kid with a tremendous Afro.

Kravitz was attracted to music early on in life. My mother thought I had a problem when I was a kid, he said. We used to be in church, and Id be wriggling my leg like crazy. One day she asked, Do you hear music? I said yeah. She said Thank God. Shed been worried I had some kind of disorder.

Because Kravitzs father was also a free-lance jazz promoter, Kravitz grew up surrounded by rhythm and blues and jazz, in addition to church music. He became familiar with the work of jazz musicians like Cleo Laine, Bobby Short, Count Basie, and Ella Fitzgerald, and later recalled sitting on Duke Ellingtons lap while the jazz legend played the piano. He was also exposed to soul music, learning the work of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and James Brown. My parents were very supportive of the fact that I loved music early on, and they took me to a lot of shows, Kravitz told Harpers Bazaar.

Kravitzs musical background was further broadened and enriched after his family moved to Los Angeles in 1974, where he spent three years singing in the California Boys Choir. As a member of this group, which had a classical repertoire, Kravitz sang with the Metropolitan Opera and took part in a recording of Mahlers Third Symphony conducted by the eminent Zubin Mehta. Kravitz also taught himself how to play guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums.

Kravitz attended Beverly Hills High School, where he experimented with different personae. He went through preppie, punk, and hippie phases, but from the time of his mid-teens on, he knew that he wanted to be a pop star. I was attracted to the cool style, the girls, the rock n roll lifestyle, he told the Los Angeles Times.

After high school, Kravitz adopted the stage persona of Romeo Blue and began producing dance rock in the style of pop sensation Prince. He admitted to Spin magazine that this phase was a phony time for me, so I know what posing feels like. That was when I was really into my David Bowie phase. I wanted to be David Bowie more than anything in the world. The music Kravitz was writing at this time held no appeal for record companies. I was doing this trendy, British thing, and they wanted me to do whatever black radio was doing at the time. I was offered deals but only if I changed my music. I refused, he recalled in the Los Angeles Times. Eventually, Kravitz abandoned Romeo Blue. Even though it was a put-on, it was important for me, he told Harpers Bazaar. Ultimately, it got me back to myself. And when I finally did accept myself for myself, music started flowing out of me.

After moving back to New York City, Kravitz entered into a partnership with record producer Henry Hirsch, who ran a recording studio in Hoboken, New Jersey. Like Kravitz, Hirsch championed classic, pre-digital recording techniques. In the late 1980s, Kravitz finally signed with a label, choosing Virgin Records. They didnt categorize me, he told the Los Angeles Times. They wanted me to do the music I wanted.

In December of 1987, Kravitz married actress Lisa Bonet in Las Vegas. Bonet then had a regular role on the situation comedy The Cosby Show, and her high-profile career overshadowed his. In December of 1988, the two had a baby daughter, Zoe. When Kravitz released his first album, in 1989, he got as much attention for his famous wife, who helped him write two of the songs on the album, as he did for his work.

Released First Album

Kravitzs first album, Let Love Rule, was a mélange of musical styles in which he demonstrated his versatility by providing almost all of the instrumental and vocal material on the record. Collaborating with Hirsch, Kravitz worked to master a complicated recording technique. When I put out Let Love Rule in 89, industry people laughed, Kravitz recalled. They said, What are you doing? Nothing sounded at all like it. Now when people try for that sound, they feel that all you have to do is turn the reverb off. They dont understand the whole processgoing from microphone to the amplifier to compressors into e.q. [equalizer] units that have tubes and back to the tape machineits a lost art.

Let Love Rule was hailed as a throwback to the psychedelic era. Kravitz presented himself as a hippie singer, with a gold ring through his nose, who preached peace and love. The main influences evident on the album were artists from the 1960s, such as the pop group the Beatles and soul singer Curtis Mayfield. People have gotten on me about the hippie stuff, singing about love and optimism, Kravitz told the Los Angeles Times. They say Im unrealistic, that the world is screwed up, so just accept it. But I believe the messages Im putting out. Maybe Im living in a dream world, like the hippies in the 60s. But whats wrong with dreaming? You have to dream about these things first before they ever become a reality.

In taking artists of the 1960s as his primary influences, Kravitz also strayed from the racial segregation of the music industry. Critics suggested that his work was closer to music produced by whites than blacks and noted that Kravitzs album challenged the notion that black artists all had to sound a certain, identifiable way. The appeal of Let Love Rule was primarily to alternative-music radio stations, and the album, with its unexpected sound, was shunned by many black stations, to Kravitzs dismay. Im black, so I want my music on black radio, he told the Los Angeles Times. Later he told Rolling Stones David Wild, Im playing white peoples music. Obviously not really, because black people invented rock & roll. White people took that and made some wonderful things out of it. But black people shouldnt throw their music away.

Let Love Rule started simply, with Kravitz singing the words to Sittin on Top of the World, accompanied only by a single guitar. Gradually, other instruments joined in, creating a full sound to flesh out Kravitzs emotion-laden vocals. Other songs on the album included the title track, which one critic hailed in People magazine as an extended jam that couldnt be more full-bodied and spiritual if it were sung by an entire church choir. In Mr. Cab Driver, Kravitz reflected on his inability to hail a cab because he was a black man, singing, Mr. Cab Driver wont you stop to let me in/Mr. Cab Driver dont like my kind of skin.

Fear, another song on Let Love Rule, also betrayed an acute social consciousness, addressing the issues of the environment and inner-city blight. I smell the fear that rains inside/ the thought of children who must oblige/ To tainted dreams in polluted seas/The missing moon and melting trees, Kravitz sang. I Build This Garden for Us and Flower Child continued the hopeful, utopian theme.

While some critics objected to what they perceived as Let Love Rules insistent political correctness, many hailed Kravitzs debut work. Let Love Rule was deemed stunningly fresh, infinitely listenable, unusually thoughtful, and hopeful and joyous, in People magazine, with intensity, raw edge, [and] soulfulness.

Kravitz embarked on a club tour with a backup band in late 1989 to promote Let Love Rule. He also began collaborating with other musicians on their projects. In 1990 he wrote Justify My Love for Madonna, which became a controversial hit when the video produced to accompany it was banned by MTV. In addition, Kravitz paid homage to John Lennon by remaking Give Peace a Chance, with the blessing of Yoko Ono, Lennons widow. These projects paved the way for further joint efforts in the early 1990s.

Influenced by the Beatles

By March of 1991, Kravitz and his wife had split. The singer released his second album, Mama Said, a short while later. This work, a much darker, more blues-influenced album, provided an outlet for Kravitz to express his emotional pain over the turmoil of his marriage. Critics noted the works references to many other pop styles of the past, calling Mama Said a marketing masterpiece that offers smart music that can be interpreted as either pure pop or a cool inside joke, as the New York Times put it.

In listing the influences displayed on the release, Peter Watrous of the New York Times wrote, Fields of Joy borrows from the Beatles, Always on the Run from Parliament-Funkadelic, Stop Draggin Around from Jimi Hendrix, What Goes Around Comes Around from both Curtis Mayfield and Sly Stone. Citing Kravitzs recent break-up with Bonet, Watrous said that the singer had written a series of songs about love, loss, and longing that manage to parody 60s confessional rawness. Critical sniping aside, Mama Said produced a hit single, It Aint Over Til Its Over.

As on Let Love Rule, Kravitz performed almost all of the music on Mama Said himself, but he also embarked on another series of collaborations in the wake of this project. Demonstrating his versatility and the wide range of influences on his work, he cowrote material with members of the hard rock group Aerosmith, sang with Rolling Stone Mick Jagger on his new solo album, and wrote, arranged, and produced a record of folk, jazz, and soul music for French singer Vanessa Paradis, as well as taking part in Curtis Mayfield and Kiss tribute albums.

Kravitz moved to expand his musical production when he recruited a guitarist and bass player to take part in half the songs on his third album, Are You Gonna Go My Way, released in 1993. With this work, which he recorded in just three months, Kravitz was hailed as having reached a new, more mature level in his music. The album became Kravitzs most successful, selling more than two million copies and winning two Grammy nominations, for best rock song and best solo rock vocal performance, and an MTV Video Award for best male video. In his appearance at the MTV Music Awards ceremony, Kravitz played Are You Gonna Go My Way, backed by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and wearing a reflective jumpsuit and platform shoes.

With the respect he earned for Are You Gonna Go My Way, Kravitz attempted to lay to rest the accusations that he was too heavily influenced by the 1960s, a shallow and all-inclusive practitioner of pastiche, rather than an artist in his own right. With Are You Gonna Go My Way, Kravitz turned to soul, funk, and reggae as his predominant inspiration. Relying again on classic recording techniques and live instrumentsa production style that had returned to vogue by thenKravitz produced a sophisticated blend of musical traditions in songs that focused on his favorite themes of love and peace. In tracks such as the psychedelic Believe, Sister, in which an acoustic guitar mimicked a mandolin, or Eleutheria, a reggae-influenced number, Kravitz demonstrated mastery of his craft.

The respect Kravitz had won with his third album was demonstrated in the summer of 1994, when he was asked to open several East Coast concerts for the Rolling Stones. At the time, Kravitz was writing new material. I have things I want to say to the youth of the black community, he told the Detroit Free Press. To do that, I will go after it another way, and speak in a language that they might hear. Ive got to express my views. Something positive needs to be said. In planning a new album, Kravitz anticipated a raw and funky sound, a real basement record, as he told the Detroit Free Press. And in turning to yet another musical style and tradition to express his core message, Kravitz demonstrated once again his versatility and command of the elements of popular music.

Selected discography

On Virgin Records

Let Love Rule, 1989.

Mama Said, 1991.

Are You Gonna Go My Way, 1993.

Circus, 1995.

Sources

Detroit Free Press, August 28, 1994, pp. 16, 76.

Harpers Bazaar, March 1993, p. 308.

Los Angeles Times, September 27, 1989.

New York Times, April 21, 1991; February 23, 1992; September 9, 1993, p. C13.

People, October 9, 1989.

Rolling Stone, November 17, 1994, p. 60.

St. Petersburg Times (FL), October 8, 1993, p. 18.

Elizabeth Rourke

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Kravitz, Lenny

Lenny Kravitz

Singer, songwriter

One of the first rock superstars to emerge at the start of the 1990s, Lenny Kravitz made a name for himself by producing a string of thunderous, hook-laden, multiplatinum albums. Beginning with his 1989 debut Let Love Rule, Kravitz displayed a deft ability to blend aggressive, guitar-driven rock with smooth R&B rhythms and anthemic lyrics, which proved to be a consistent hit-making combination. Kravitz's versatile vocal style and psychedelic-tinged "flower child" persona mixed the sensuality of classic soul singers with echoes of John Lennon and other 1960s-era rock icons. His lyrics frequently conveyed idealistic and spiritual sentiments, while his musical direction invited comparisons with the likes of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix.

A multiple Grammy winner, Kravitz was still going strong 20 years after recording his first album. As a multi-instrumentalist, Kravitz wrote, produced, played, and arranged the songs on his albums, taking personal responsibility for each detail. Along the way, he became a master at creating "timeless" songs with a retro rock feel. In 2008 Kravitz released his eighth studio album, It Is Time for A Love Revolution. Rolling Stone reviewer David Fricke called it "the best album Lenny Kravitz has ever made—a visceral, expertly tailored blend of late-Sixties and early-Seventies classic-rock paraphrases with just enough modernizing to justify the record's copyright date."

Discovered Guitar Early On

Born on May 24, 1964, Kravitz embraced show business as something of a birthright. The only child of NBC television news producer Sy Kravitz and actress Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on the TV sitcom The Jeffersons, Kravitz lived an idyllic city life while growing up in Manhattan's rich cultural atmosphere. As a child, he was introduced to many famous jazz and R&B musicians; he recalled sitting on Duke Ellington's lap while the legendary composer played the piano. In 1974 he moved to Los Angeles with his parents, where he joined the California Boys' Choir, with whom he recorded under the supervision of conductor Zubin Mehta. Kravitz studied music diligently during his teenage years, teaching himself to play guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums.

Speaking to the London Observer, Kravitz recounted his early fascination with guitar: "My father had a guitar and played it around the house when I was really small. I was just captivated by it; I touched it all the time and loved the sound it made. My guitar influences were Jimi Hendrix, Curtis Mayfield, Jimmy Page and George Benson. … I admired the whole package: their song-writing, what they played, how they performed and their charisma." Drawn to a music career while a high school student, he left home at 16 and began to circulate demo recordings under the name Romeo Blue. After an initial deal with IRS Records fell through, Kravitz se- cured a contract with Virgin Records under his own name in early 1989 and was still recording for the label two decades later.

From the start of his recording career, Kravitz's penchant for tapping into the sounds and clothing styles of his childhood stirred critical debate. Rolling Stone reviewer Anthony DeCurtis described Kravitz's first album as symptomatic of an untested generation "trying to capture the sound of young America sifting through the fragments of postmodern culture and creating childlike musical collages of no particular point." Spin critic Christian Wright appeared more sympathetic when he speculated that "maybe Lenny Kravitz is a new hippie with an old soul or maybe his neo-Bohemia is the supreme pretense. Either way he's convincing." The argument over whether Kravitz was an artist of substance or merely a facile revivalist began anew with the release of each new album.

Favored Songs about Love, Peace

When his Let Love Rule album appeared in late 1989, Kravitz was more widely known as the husband of actress Lisa Bonet than as a musician. But the swift success of his first album established Kravitz as a media figure in his own right. Let Love Rule featured Kravitz as the sole vocalist and instrumentalist on every track. His recording methods were deliberately antiquated, utilizing vintage tube amplifiers and favoring analog over digital technology. Though the album's title track only reached number 89 on the American singles charts, frequent touring and television appearances boosted Kravitz's profile in the United States and Europe. He enjoyed his first great breakthrough in 1990 as the co-writer of Madonna's "Justify My Love," which went on to become a number one single.

In 1991, in response to the United States' impending conflict with Iraq in the Gulf War, Kravitz recorded a new version of John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance" in tandem with Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, and other luminaries, and the single rose to number 54 in the United States. He was quickly on the charts again with "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over," the initial single from his second album, Mama Said. The album eventually earned platinum certification.

Amidst his rising success as an artist, Kravitz found time to produce an album by French singer Vanessa Paradis in 1992, and the following year he teamed with Mick Jagger on "Use Me." Kravitz also co-wrote "Line Up" for Aerosmith's Get A Grip album. Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993) went on to reach double platinum status. He continued to tour frequently, and a renewed interest in sixties fashion and music around this time made Kravitz's backwards-looking style seem up-to-date.

Kravitz's next solo release, Circus (1995), quickly reached gold certification. A move toward more contemporary sonic ideas, the album yielded the chart singles "Rock And Roll Is Dead" and "Can't Get You Off My Mind," though critical reaction to Circus remained somewhat mixed.

For the Record …

Born May 24, 1964, in Brooklyn, New York; son of Sy Kravitz (an NBC television news producer) and Roxie Roker (an actress); married Lisa Bonet (an actress; divorced); children: a daughter, Zoe.

Began musical career as Romeo Blue, c. 1980; signed with Virgin Records, 1989; released debut album, Let Love Rule, 1989; co-wrote "Justify My Love," a number one single for Madonna, 1990; released Mama Said, 1991; recorded with Mick Jagger, released Are You Gonna Go My Way, 1993; released Circus, 1995; released 5, 1998; released single "American Woman" from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (soundtrack), 1999; released Greatest Hits, 2000; released Lenny, 2001; founded Roxie Records, 2003; released Baptism (Virgin), 2004; released It Is Time for A Love Revolution, 2008.

Awards: MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video, 1993; Grammy Award, Best Male Rock Performance, for "Fly Away," 1998; Grammy Award, Best Male Rock Performance, for "American Woman," 1999; Grammy Award, Best Male Rock Performance, for "Again," 2000; Grammy Award, Best Male Rock Performance, for "Dig In," 2001; American Music Awards, Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist, 2002.

Addresses: Record company—Virgin Records America, Inc., 5750 Wilshire Blvd., No. 300, Los Angeles, CA 90036. Web site—Lenny Kravitz Offical Web site: http://www.lenny-kravitz.com.

Snagged Multiple Grammy Awards

Weathering the death of his mother in December of 1995, Kravitz took part in the 40-city H.O.R.D.E. American concert tour during the summer of 1996 before beginning work on his next album. Recording during an eight-month period, he embraced sampling and drum loops for the first time and steered his sound in a distinctly modern R&B direction. In a Virgin Records press biography he commented, "‘Digital’ used to be a dirty word for me. But by working instrument by instrument, building up the sound, I was able to construct [5] like a puzzle. I was listening to a lot of New York hip-hop. I like that technique, the sparseness, the groove, the rhythm."

Released in 1998, 5 brought Kravitz another platinum album. Its single "Fly Away" reached number 12 on the pop charts and earned a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Performance of 1998. In addition, his version of the Guess Who's 1970 hit "American Woman" was featured on the soundtrack of the popular 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The song was included on later pressings of 5, and went on to become a high-charting single, winning him another Grammy.

In 2001 Kravitz released Lenny, his sixth studio album. The album single "Dig In" reached the top 40 and gave him his fourth consecutive Grammy Award in the category of Best Male Rock Performance. "I'm honored knowing that I've done this four times," he told Jet's Margena A. Christian shortly after winning the award. "To be an African American and to get a Grammy for rock means a lot for those who paved the way and invented it but didn't get the props."

In 2003 Kravitz formed his own label, Roxie Records, named in honor of his mother. He remained signed to Virgin, however, and released Baptism in 2004, which contained contributions from rapper Jay-Z. Around the time Baptism was released, Kravitz was having a tough time getting in sync with Virgin executives. Many of the primary people Kravitz had worked with in the beginning of his career had moved on, and the label failed to put forth much effort in marketing Baptism, thus missing out in tapping into the digital market, which was starting to boom. "They just didn't take advantage of the new ways people were beginning to discover music," Capitol Music Group president Lee Trink told Billboard's Susan Visakowitz. "Lenny realizes now he really lagged behind other artists of his stature in staying connected with his fans." Baptism sold just 550,000 copies, unusual for a follow-up by a platinum-selling artist. There were no radio hits, either. Discouraged, Kravitz withdrew from the music world. Around this time, he started dating Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman, though they later split.

Launched Revolution

Within time, there were staff changes at Virgin, and the record company's new head worked hard to rekindle the label's relationship with Kravitz. The retro rocker started working on another album, releasing It Is Time for A Love Revolution in 2008. It was the longest break between albums Kravitz had ever taken. Love Revolution peaked at number four on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart. The disc fused soul, funk, blues, and jazz grooves atop a solid base of rock 'n' roll. With this album, however, Kravitz strove to do more than just entertain, hence the use of "revolution" in the title. Speaking to the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Jon Bream, Kravitz discussed the album. "It's all about life and love and change. It's a very positive record. It deals with what's going on in the world right now.… We will never be able to change things and improve things unless we decide collectively as a global community that we're not down for the way things have been going on."

The album included the fist-pumper "Back in Vietnam," which was reminiscent of 1960s rock protest songs, drawing parallels between the Iraq and Vietnam wars. The piano-tinged ballad "A Long and Sad Goodbye" discussed Kravitz's late father. The album's most popular song, "Bring it On," was featured in television promotions for the CBS hit Survivor. All in all, the album was packed with strong, emotion-jerking lyrics. "He really dug deep on this record and you can hear the difference," Capitol Music Group CEO Jason Flom told Billboard. "He found that place inside himself that allowed him to recapture what made him a star in the first place."

In conjunction with the album's release, Kravitz held a contest on the social networking site MySpace, in search of ten lucky winners who were given the opportunity to hit the road with Kravitz on his "Get On the Bus with the Love Revolution" tour. Winners traveled with Kravitz in a customized 1970s-era Love Revolution tour bus. As part of his official road entourage, contest winners attended his live concerts with full backstage access. The bus tour was filmed and posted on the Web, and was just the start of an extensive tour commitment that would take Kravitz across the United States and Europe.

Selected discography

Let Love Rule, Virgin, 1989.

Mama Said, Virgin, 1991.

Are You Gonna Go My Way, Virgin, 1993.

Circus, Virgin, 1995.

5, Virgin, 1998.

Greatest Hits, Virgin, 2000.

Lenny, Virgin, 2001.

Baptism, Virgin, 2004.

It Is Time For A Love Revolution, Virgin, 2008.

Sources

Books

DiMartino, Dave, Singer-Songwriters,, Billboard Books, 1994.

Larkin, Colin, editor, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze, 1998.

Periodicals

Billboard, November 24, 2007.

Jet, March 25, 2002, p. 58.

Musician, October 1995.

Observer (London), May 11, 2008, p. 60.

Rolling Stone, September 7, 1989; June 24, 1993; September 21, 1995; June 11, 1998.

Spin, July 1990.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), January 24, 2008, p. 1E.

Stereo Review, June 1993.

Online

"Lenny Kravitz," Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/album/18066474/review/18137397?utm_source=Rhapsody&utm_medium=CDreview (June 18, 2008).

Additional information for this profile was provided by Virgin Records publicity materials.

—Barry Alfonso and Lisa Frick

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Kravitz, Lenny

Lenny Kravitz

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

One of the first rock superstars to emerge at the start of the 1990s, Lenny Kravitz built his success out of elements of pop musics recent past. From his 1989 debut album Let Love Rule onwards, his deft ability to matched aggressive guitar-driven rock with smooth R&B rhythms proved to be a consistent hitmaking combination. His versatile vocal style and psychedelic-tinged flower child persona mixed the sensuality of classic soul singers with echoes of John Lennon and other 1960s-era rock icons. His lyrics frequently conveyed idealistic and spiritual sentiments, while his musical direction invited comparisons with the likes of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.

From the start of his recording career, Kravitzs penchant for tapping into the sounds and clothing styles of his childhood stirred critical debate. As quoted in Contemporary Musicians, Volume 5; Rolling Stone reviewer Anthony DeCurtis described his first album as symptomatic of an untested generation trying to capture the sound of young America sifting through the fragments of postmodern culture and creating childlike musical collages of no particular point as if the world were a kind of shopping mall in which this kind of music can be blended with that regardless of the inherent integrity of any particular genre. Spin critic Christian Wright appeared more sympathetic when he speculated that; Maybe Lenny Kravitz is a new hippie with an old soul or maybe his neo-Bohemia is the supreme pretense. Either way hes convincing. The argument over whether Kravitz was an artist of substance or merely a facile revivalist began anew with the release of each new album.

Born May 24, 1964, Kravitz embraced show business as something of a birthright. The only child of NBC television news producer Sy Kravitz and actress Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on the TV sitcom The Jeffer-sons, he lived an idyllic city life while growing up in Manhattans rich cultural atmosphere. As a child, he was introduced to many famous jazz and R&B musicians; on one occasion, he recalled sitting on Duke Ellingtons lap while the legendary composer played the piano. In 1974, he moved to Los Angeles with his parents, where he joined the California Boys Choir, with whom he recorded under the supervision of conductorZubin Mehta. He also studied music dilligently during his teenage years, teaching himself to play guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. Drawn to a music career while a high school student, he left home at 16 and began to circulate demo recordings under the name of Romeo Blue. After an initial deal with IRS Records fell through, Kravitz secured a contract with Virgin Records under his own name in early 1989.

When his Let Love Rule album appeared in late 1989, Kravitz was more widely known as the husband of

For the Record

Born May 24, 1964 in Brooklyn, New York; son of Sy Kravitz (NBC television news producer) and Roxie Roker (an actor); married Lisa Bonet (divorced); children: one daughter.

Began musical career as Romeo Blue, c. 1980; signed with Virgin Records, 1989; released debut album Let Love Rule, Virgin, 1989; co-wrote Justify My Love, a number one single for Madonna, 1991; released album Mama Said, Virgin, 1991; recorded with Mick Jagger, released album Are You Gonna Go My Way, Virgin, 1993; released Circus, Virgin, 1995; released 5, Virgin, 1998; released single American Woman from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (soundtrack).

Awards: MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video, 1993; Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Performance, 1998.

Addresses: Record company Virgin Records, 338 North Foothill Road, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

actress Lisa Bonet than as a musician. But the swift success of his first album established him as a media figure in his own right. Let Love Rule featured Kravitz as the sole vocalist and instrumentalist on every track. His recording methods were deliberately antiquated, utilizing vintage tube amplifiers and favoring analog over digital technology. Though the albums title track only reached number 89 on the American charts as a single, touring and television appearances boosted Kravitzs profile in America and Europe. He enjoyed his greatest break-through in 1990 as the co-writer of Madonnas Justify My Love, which went on to become a Number One single.

In response to Americas impending conflict with Iraq, Kravitz recorded a new version of John Lennons Give Peace A Chance in tandem with Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and other luminaries, which rose to number 54 in the U.S. in March, 1991. He was quickly on the charts again with It Aint Over Til Its Over, the initial single from his second album, Mama Said. This soulful tune reached numbertwo in the United States, helping Mama Saidlo eventually earn platinum certification. A number of the songs on the album dealt with the break-up of Kravitzs marriage to Bonet, and benifitted from a tougher rock-oriented sound overall. A second single from Mama Said, Stand By My Woman, charted at number 76 in late 1991.

Amidst his rising success as an artist, Kravitz found time to produce an album by French singer Vanessa Paradis in 1992 and, in the following year, teamed up with Mick Jagger on Use Me. He also co-wrote Line Up for Aerosmiths Get A Grip album. 1993 saw the release of his Are You Gonna Go My Way album, which went on to reach double platinum status. He continue to tour frequently, and had the honor of having one of his musical heroes, ex-Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, open shows for him in Europe. A renewed interest in sixties fashion and music around this time made Kravitzs backwards-looking style seem up-to-date. He commented to Rolling Stone writer Kim Neely that When I came out with Let Love Rule, everybody was trippin on the way it sounded and what I was talking about. They said I was this sweet little child, talking about love and understanding. You know, You cant say those things, thats childish. Now, theyre ready to accept it, so all of a sudden / am more mature. When actually Im the same musician.

Kravitzs next solo release, Circus, was released in 1995 and quickly reached gold certification. A move towards more contemporary sonic ideas, the album yielded the chart singles Rock And Roll Is Dead and Cant Get You Off My Mind. As usual, critical reaction to Circus was mixed. Reviewing the album for Musician, Mac Randall praised Kravitz for his ability to conjure up a magical late 60s/early 70s sonic world that never quite existed but should have and hailed the album as yet another demonstration of a classic equation: blistering rock guitar plus bruising funk rhythms equals excitement. On the negative side, Rolling Stone reviewer Mark Kemp opined that Flagrant appropriation has been a hallmark for Kravitz since Let Love Rule, but on most of Circus tracks, it finally becomes redundant, rendering the guilty pleasures few and far between.

Weathering the death of his mother in Decemberof 1995, Kravitz took part in the 40-city H.O.R.D.E. American concerttour during the summer of 1996 before beginning work on his next album. Recording over an eight-month period, he embraced sampling and drum loops for for the first time and steered his sound in a distinctly modern R&B direction. No tape, this time, he said of his recording methods in a Virgin Records press biography. And Digital used to be a dirty word for me. But by working instrument by instrument, building up the sound, I was able to construct the record like a puzzle. I was listening to a lot of New York hip-hop. I like that techniquethe sparseness, the groove, the rhythm.

Released in 1998, 5 brought Kravitz yet another platinum album. Its single Fly Away reached number 12 on the pop charts and earned him a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Performance of 1998. He was also fortunate enough to have his version of the Guess Whos 1970 hit American Woman featured on the soundtrack of the hugely popular 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. American Woman was included on later pressings of 5 and went on to become a high-charting single as well.

Whatever the sources of his music may be, Kravitz demonstrated artistic staying powerthroughout the nineties. For his part, he seemed not be overly concerned about issues of originality. Do I have to make up a new form of music?, he asked in a Rolling Stone interview. Is that my job? Everythings been done I just play what comes out of me. Whether Im innovative or not, Im doing whats true to me, whats natural. Maybe someday Ill do something that no ones heard, I dont know. But at least Im doing what God put in me to come out.

Selected discography

Let Love Rule, Virgin, 1989.

Mama Said, Virgin, 1991.

Are You Gonna Go My Way, Virgin, 1993.

Circus, Virgin, 1995.

5, Virgin, 1998.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, Volume 5, Gale Research, Inc., 1991

DiMartino, Dave, Singer-Songwriters, Billboard Books, 1994.

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze, 1998..

Periodicals

Musician, October 1995.

Rolling Stone, September 7, 1989; June 24, 1993; September 21, 1995; June 11, 1998.

Spin, July 1990.

Stereo Review, June 1993.

Additional information was provided by Virgin Records publicity materials.

Barry Alfonso

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Kravitz, Lenny

Lenny Kravitz

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

When Lenny Kravitz, an unknown, unsigned, and unrecorded musician began showing up in gossip columns in 1987 as the new husband of actress and Cosby Show beauty Lisa Bonet, celebrity watchers understandably scoffed with skepticism at his professional credibility. Here, they thought, was just another freeloader trying to advance his career by marrying somebody famous. As Peoples Steve Dougherty wrote of Kravitz, Better known for his mate than his musicdetractors called him Mr. Bonethe seemed just the sort of dreadlocked ring-through-the-nose hipster who would take a merciless needling from playful [Cosby Show character] Cliff Huxtable.

But that kind of sneering suddenly quieted in 1989 with the release of Kravitzs first album, Let Love Rule, a hard-rocking blend of soul and psychedelia that left critics and music fans comparing Kravitz to superstars like John Lennon and Prince. Ironically, at the same time, Bonets career seemed on the wanea nude photo in Rolling Stone and an X-rated love scene with actor Mickey Rourke in the film Angel Heart somewhat sullied her reputationwhich forced her back to the relative safety of The Cosby Show. Suddenly, the dynamics of one of Hollywoods most glamorous young couples had done an about-face, leaving Kravitz as the partner most likely to succeed in the long term.

Although Kravitzs musical style is eclectic and ever-shifting, Rolling Stone reviewer Anthony DeCurtis aptly described it as symptomatic of an untested generation trying to capture the sound of young America sifting through the fragments of postmodern culture and creating childlike musical collages of no particular point as if the world were a kind of shopping mall in which this kind of music can be blended with that regardless of the inherent integrity of any particular genre. The consolation for living in a time when social problems are pushing our nation to the point of collapse is the freedom to play aimlessly among the ruins. Kravitzs approach, DeCurtis continued, is one that courts artistic disaster by continually evoking his betters. But what saves him, oddly enough, in this brave, new postmodern world, is a tried-and-true rock & roll virtue: This boy can ignite a groove.

If Kravitz relies more heavily on any one style of music above others, it is probably the psychedelic sounds of the late 1960s and early 1970s. If he is merely posing as a kind of throwback flower child of that era, however, he has certainly fooled critics like Spins Christian Wright, who speculated, Maybe Lenny Kravitz is a new hippie with an old soul or maybe his neo-Bohemia is the supreme pretense. Either way hes convincing. He even uses crystals to cure his headache. The message that comes across in Kravitzs music, on songs

For the Record

Born c. 1964 in New York, N.Y.; son of Sy Kravitz (television news producer) and Roxie Roker (actress); married Lisa Bonet (actress), 1987; children: Zoe.

Solo recording artist, 1989.

Addresses: Home New York, NY. Record company Virgin Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

like Flower Child, My Precious Love, and Let Love Rule is so idealistic and upbeat that it almost sounds naive in an age run over by cynicism. It is idealistic, Kravitz told Spin, but youve got to try. I mean, why do the good things that you do? I believe in peace. I believe in getting along, all of us being as one, and looking at this place as a planet instead of separate little places. When youre up in a spaceship and look at the world, its one place. Im into the world coming together, if that ever happens. Maybe itll take a great tragedy first.

The only child of NBC television news producer Sy Kravitz and actress Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on the TV sitcom The Jeffersons, Kravitz lived an idyllic city life while growing up in Manhattans rich cultural atmosphere. In 1974 Kravitz moved to Los Angeles with his parents. He got his first musical experience there as a member of the California Boys Choir. He also studied musical instruments diligently during these years, teaching himself to play guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. As a student at the exclusive Beverly Hills High School, Kravitz went through the identity crises typical of adolescence, assuming the role of rich preppie before shucking it in favor of first punk, then hippie, and finally settling briefly on a completely new personathat of the free-wheeling, hard-partying Romeo Blue. The period was a phony time for me, Kravitz told Spin. So I know what posing feels like. That was when I was really into my [pop singer] David Bowie phase. I wanted to be David Bowie more than anything in the world.

But there was also a different, more idealistic side of Kravitz evolving at this time. When he was just 17, he told Spin, he helped a young prostitute escape her pimp and her dreary street life by actually hiding her in his house, under his bed, where he fed her, and kept the whole thing secret from his parents. She was so pretty and so sweet and we were talking and she started crying. She told me the whole thing. I was that kind of guy. My parents always said, Youre always doing things for everybody except yourself.

Kravitzs involvement with Bonet began with a chance meeting backstage at a 1985 concert of the pop-soul group New Edition. Though both were seeing other people, they immediately became fast friends; the relationship slowly evolved into something more. Finally Kravitzs car broke down and he moved in with Bonet so that he could borrow hers. If my car had been working during that time, I probably wouldnt be married to her, Kravitz told Spin. It started to be this thingevery day, wake up, take her to work, pick her up. Wed have dinner and then I guess it was one day we realized like we couldnt be apart or something. They made a quick trip to Las Vegas to get married and before long their first child, Zoe, was born.

The couple then moved to Manhattan where Kravitz worked on his first album and Bonet continued taping The Cosby Show. Let Love Rule was recorded at Henry Hirschs Hoboken, New Jersey, studio. Hirsch described the rather unique recording session for People: Lisa was there almost every day, sometimes with the baby, while Kravitz took the subway out every morning. It was very un-rock and roll. Even more singular was that Kravitz recorded all the instrumental and vocal tracks on Let Love Rule by himselfa la Princethough for his first tour he recruited a band, the members of which lived at his home while they rehearsed. Its like a commune. Its cool, Kravitz told Spin, adding that he tries to be as democratic as possible in leading other musicians. Obviously there has to be a leader, a band leader, but I dont like that sort ofa lot of musicians get that tyranny attitude, you know, but its really equal. When it comes to rehearsing music, obviously theyre playing my music so its got to be, but as far as living at home were all equal. And judging by Kravitzs remarks to Peoples Dougherty, he seems levelheaded enough to make it in music forthe long haul. Im not in it for the stardom, he said. I just want to continue to write great songs, make great records. This is only the beginning.

Selected discography

Let Love Rule, Virgin, 1989.

Sources

People, November 6, 1989.

Rolling Stone, September 7, 1989.

Spin, July 1990.

David Collins

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Kravitz, Lenny

LENNY KRAVITZ

Born: New York, New York, 26 May 1964

Genre: Rock

Best-selling album since 1990: Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993)

Hit songs since 1990: "Fly Away," "Stand by My Woman," "Let Love Rule"


Lenny Kravitz grew up in Los Angeles in a show-business family; his father was a top television producer and his mother was a well-known actress. From a young age he came in contact with a range of music celebrities who were friends of his parents. Some of his peers at Beverly Hills High School also became big names in the rock and pop world. His early enthusiasm for performing and recording led him to produce a number of demos, which he completed in 1987.

Kravitz's career as one of America's leading rock artists began at the end of the 1980s with a recording contract from Virgin and a debut album, Let Love Rule (1989), which sold half a million copies in the United States and then reached the Top 60 in the United Kingdom By 1990 the hit single "Let Love Rule" had become successful in the United Kingdom. On the album, Kravitz's style is retro with blatant quotations from the music of Curtis Mayfield, John Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix. Kravitz makes no attempt to conceal his longtime admiration of these stars, whose influence struck many critics as the reason for the derivative sound of his work.

Following a successful tour, he went on to produce his next album, Mama Said, released in 1991. This album instantly placed him in a different category from the first. The songs are bolder and more passionately performed, in part because of his collaboration with the guitarist Slash from Guns N' Roses on the funk-rock track "Always on the Run." The influence of other artists such as Curtis Mayfield is evident on this album, especially in the soul ballad "It Ain't Over Til It's Over." This is a warmly intimate love song with a gentle melody that Kravitz milks to the fullest. His abundant musical talent radiates through the polished production.

All eleven songs on Kravitz's third album, Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993), became hits, with every song charting. The three songs that stand out are "Heaven Help," "Believe," and "Are You Gonna Go My Way." Aside from drawing directly on the work of many 1960s artists, Kravitz also shapes a fresh contemporary rock sound with a vocal expression that is inimitable and instantly recognizable. The album spent six months on the U.K. charts while gaining him his first gold disc in the United States.

Almost two years later the album Circus elicited a lukewarm critical reaction. For many it was a disappointment, with Kravitz's performance too imitative and unfocused. As a result he attempted to experiment more in his next album, 5 (1998), by turning to digital technology and electronic dance styles. More funk-oriented than his previous material, the album is an exercise in showmanship. The hit "Fly Away" is one of his most successful songs to date, a favorite cover song for bands and singers all over the world. In addition to the superb production and arrangement, the musical performance, instrumentally and vocally, is brashly compelling. It is worth noting that most of the work invested in this song and the others is all Kravitz, who often writes all the songs and plays all the instruments on the recording. With the huge success of "Fly Away," Virgin reissued 5 with a number of bonus tracks. This release was directly followed by the "best of " set, Greatest Hits, in 2000, and, one year later, his sixth album, Lenny. Kravitz has worked with numerous artists, as a producer, songwriter, and musician, including Madonna, Mick Jagger, Aerosmith, and the French singer Vanessa Paradis.

His 2001 release, Lenny, consists of songs skillfully performed and produced in a blend of classic rock, soul, and hipster pop. The gracefulness of his ballad writing, along with his lyrical control and deft instrumental textures, places this album on a level with the best of his earlier work. The following year he released If I Could Fall in Love (2002).

Kravitz's musical style is a pastiche composed of the influences of his most-admired forerunners. In particular, his adoration of Prince is obvious in his musical idiom, which centers on tightly controlled rhythmic and harmonic riffs that define funk and rock. Despite the strong influence of his predecessors, Kravitz has managed to shape his own musical identity.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Let Love Rule (Virgin, 1989); Mama Said (Virgin, 1991); Are You Gonna Go My Way? (Virgin, 1993); Circus (Virgin, 1995); 5 (Virgin, 1998); Lenny (Virgin, 2001); If I Could Fall in Love (Virgin, 2002).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

M. Seliger, Lenny Kravitz (Santa Fe, NM, 2001).

stan hawkins

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"Kravitz, Lenny." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Kravitz, Lenny." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/kravitz-lenny