LENNY KRAVITZ: Born to Rock
I am not trying to change the world. I am just offering my gift that God gave me, and if somebody is moved by it, that’s beautiful.” –Lenny Kravitz
Leonard Albert “Lenny” Kravitz is an American Rock star who intermingles 1960s and 1970s soul, reggae, funk, hard rock, and pop to create a unique music style that is all his own. His style is appealing to all music tastes because each song he sings has a different sound. Songs such as “Lady” and “American Woman” are upbeat Rock hits, filled with catchy instrumentals, while songs such as “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” and “Believe” are slow and sultry ballads. With inspirations as varied as Alternative Singer David Bowe, Classic Rocker Jimi Hendrix, R&B/Pop Group The Jackson 5, and Pop Singer Prince, it is easy to see why this talented musician refuses to settle into one category.
Kravitz was born in NYC on May 26, 1964. His mother Roxie Roker was a Bahamian actress known for her character “Helen Willis” in the 1970s sitcom, The Jeffersons. His father Sy Kravitz was a Jewish television producer. The successful couple had an assortment of elite colleagues and friends whom they introduced to their son throughout his life. As a boy, Kravitz met jazz legends such as Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, leading him to have a deeper interest in music.
At age five, Kravitz set his mind on becoming a musician. He took an initial interest in R&B and Soul but moving to LA in 1974 expanded his musical horizon to the world of Rock & Roll. California brought Kravitz a completely different lifestyle than that of NYC. In an interview with the The Guardian, a popular British newspaper, Kravitz explained how he first encountered bands such as Led Zeppelin, Kiss, and Pink Floyd.
“It was a culture shock. New York had been an urban R&B world, and in Santa Monica it was surfers, blonde kids smoking pot and taking mushrooms. Radio stations would play sides of records back then, and they would have ‘Get the Led Out’ afternoons where they would play them for hours. It was just the thing: Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.”
In 1982, Kravitz graduated from Beverly Hills High School and made his first demo under the stage name Romeo Blue. His new rock influences, combined with the Funk/ Soul favorites of his past gave his music a diverse sound, but record labels did not embrace his originality. Kravitz’s music was deemed not “black enough” or “white enough” by several labels but he refused to conform to their standards. It was 1989 when Virgin Records finally signed the musician and encouraged him to drop his stage name.
Under the label, Kravitz has released a total of eight albums, all of which have been certified platinum or multi-platinum. Each of his albums has received tremendous support in Europe, North and South America as well as numerous awards and recognitions. From 1999 to 2002, he accomplished an amazing feat by winning four consecutive Grammy awards in the category of “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.” With this winning streak Kravitz set a record for the most wins in the “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance,” category.
In 2003, he received a fifth Grammy nomination in the category “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance” for his single “If I Could Fall In Love.” The song is included on his sixth studio album, Lenny.
The talented singer not only provides soulful vocals for his music but also writes or co-writes his songs as well as songs for other artists. In 1990, Kravitz co-wrote and produced the song “Justify My Love” for Pop Legend Madonna. Additionally, in 1993 the artist wrote “Line Up” for Aerosmith’s Lead Singer Steven Tyler.
His creativity does not end with his singing and songwriting abilities; Kravitz is also a multi-talented musician. He plays drums, percussion, guitar, bass, sitar, and keyboard.
In the past decade Kravitz has expanded his talents into other realms of the music industry and into other fields of artistry. In 2003, the artist teamed up with Warner Bros. Records for the production of his own record label Roxie Records, named after his mother. He has also founded a design company entitled Kravitz Design in 2003. Kravitz Design is based in New York; the company specializes in commercial and residential design, product development, and branding. The company has accomplished several high-concept projects such as the interior design of a recording studio, an elite hotel lounge, and several private residences. The design company also creates beautiful custom furniture including a chandelier for the Swarovski Crystal Palace Collection and elegant bedroom and living room pieces.
Kravitz is also establishing himself as an actor. The artist has made cameo appearances in movies such as Zoolander in 2001 and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in 2007. He also acted in the award-winning movie Precious in 2009. In the movie he played the character of Nurse John, in this role, he was nominated for a NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.” Kravitz has had an interest in acting for years. He hasn’t accepted a detailed role until recently due to the type of characters he’s been offered in the past. Kravitz explains, “I’ve always been into films. I’ve been offered lots of films but they’ve always been these very stereotypical roles. They wanted me to play some gangster or street guy, or pimp, drug addict.”
Kravitz aims to inspire others through his art; he does not settle for mediocrity. The artist has used his individuality to his advantage even when others have tried to suppress it. He has embraced his diverse background and used it to create a unique sound that caters to every race and musical taste. Truly an original, Kravitz refuses to be confined into a category. In the words of the artist himself, “I’ve been compared to hundreds of artists, which just goes to show you that I’m not any one thing at all.”
Be on the look out for Kravitz’ ninth album, Black and White America in 2011.