Artist Profile: Lenny Kravitz

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By Tiffany Carbon

I first discovered Lenny Kravitz when I heard the song "Fly Away" in Coyote Ugly. As the years went on, I continued to hear his songs and became enamored with seeing and hearing a black rock artist. Lenny Kravitz’s music career has proven to be impressive since it started in 1989. From working with many rock legends to hit singles and four Grammy awards, he's proven his incredible, long-lasting talent.

Musical Origins

Lenny Kravitz was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1964. Both his parents were in creative fields, his father being a TV producer and his mother an actress. So, he wasn't a stranger to fame. Kravitz grew up surrounded by the sounds of legendary black artists. His parents introduced him to jazz legends like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and more from a very young age. They also exposed Kravitz to Stevie Wonder, Al Green, James Brown and other honored soul singers.

Kravitz and his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a teen. Continuing his love for music, he joined the California Boys Choir and learned several different instruments, including guitar. It wasn’t until he lived in LA that Kravitz got exposed to rock & roll. He explored the works of The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, The Who, and more rock groups who have made their marks in the genre. In high school, he taught himself piano and bass and continued to expand his knowledge of as many forms of music as possible.

Early Career

Lenny wished to start off his music career right after graduating high school. He avoided riding off of his parents’ fame and wanted to make it on his own. He rented a car that he often found himself sleeping in, and hit the road. Like most other artists, Kravitz ran into many roadblocks at the beginning of his career. Producers didn’t like his sound or how he presented himself. They needed Kravitz to choose a style, but he preferred dabbling in as many of the genres out there as possible. Virgin Records loved his sound as he grew more comfortable with his own craft, and they eventually signed him in 1989.

His debut album, Let Love Rule, was released in 1989. He stuck with the mixing of genres as the album dipped into rock and funk. The album wasn’t as well-received as Lenny’s peer's debut records and didn't see much commercial success. Yet, Kravitz continued on as he went on to tour with David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty. Despite not seeing worldwide fame like others, Kravitz kept making the music he wanted. Many critics would've preferred if he fit in one box, but he never listened. He just continued mixing and blending various styles of music to his pleasure.

Kravitz saw massive success and recognition after working with Madonna on the controversial “Justify My Love.” Following that success, Kravitz released his sophomore album Mama Said in 1991. The album told the story of the love he shared with his ex-wife, actress Lisa Bonet, and for their daughter, actress & singer Zoë Kravitz. He didn’t incorporate as much funk or psychedelic styles like on Let Love Rule. He instead chose to focus on more rock and soul elements. His early soul music influences were very evident on the album’s lead single “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over.” The single became a hit, reaching No. 2 and grabbing the attention of those who weren’t aware of Kravitz before. To this day, it’s still one of Kravitz’s most beloved tracks. Mama Said showed critics that the world did want to hear from Lenny Kravitz.

Recent Work

Following Let Love Rule and Mama Said, Lenny Kravitz has gone on to release 9 other albums. He had a small role in the 2009 movie Precious before releasing his 9th album, Black and White America in 2011. He returned to funk with this album, which was a direct rebuttal to the rampant racism in the country. Following that, Kravitz took a break from music to star in The Hunger Games Movies from 2012-2013. After exploring acting, he returned with his tenth album Strut, which was released by his own independent label. After more than twenty years in the industry, Strut served as a sign of his confidence and growth.

Most recently, Kravitz released Raise Vibrations. He stuck to his favorite blend of sounds - rock and soul. Whether it’s rock, hard rock, soul, funk, reggae, or more, there’s a variety of options to choose from Kravitz’s discography. He may not be as huge of a name as Steven Tyler, Jimi Hendrix, or David Bowie, but Lenny Kravitz sure is as talented. To Lenny, it’s all about his music and his creativity, not the number of his awards or fame. He is a "low-key legend" that hopefully continues to combine and mix different genres.

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