Imagine someone starting their career with an R&B band in the mid-60s. Then they got swept away on a late '60s peace/love psychedelic trip. Managing to survive that with their minds still relatively intact they find themselves nearly a decade later in the Bowery playing Punk at CBGBs. Of course, no such person ever existed - the timeline, not to mention the philosophical and emotional leaps, are too daunting. Yet that's exactly what Lenny Kravitz sounds like. He compresses these diverse and often contradictory influences into a potent sound.
Kravitz came from a showbiz family. His mother was an actress appearing on "The Jefferson's" TV series and his dad worked at NBC. Kravitz appeared in various commercials, Burger King among them, and TV shows, including a Bill Cosby special). Along the way Kravitz taught himself guitar, piano, bass and drums while developing a growing appreciation for Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin.
His first CD hit in '90 following his marriage to "Cosby kid" Lisa Bonet. "Let Love Rule" didn't do much but it contained the title track, which was released as a single, with a cover of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey" on the B-side. Aside from covering John Lennon, Kravitz also recorded a version of "Deuce" for "KISS My Ass," and locked on the Guess Who's "American Woman."
"Let Love Rule" nailed Kravitz a spot on Tom Petty's tour. On the downside side, Kravitz co-wrote Madonna's hit "Justify My Love." But it got worse. From the second album, "Mama Said," Kravitz had his first major hit, a weak retro-Soul ballad aimed at his now ex-wife Bonet, "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over."
After writing a song for Aerosmith ("Line Up") with Steve Tyler and Joe Perry, Kravitz really showed what he could do with his third CD "Are You Gonna Go My Way." The title track was a riveting riff-driven Rocker that would have made Hendrix proud. And though the song had an obvious late-60s influence, Kravitz provided the punch to make it contemporary.
"Circus," issued in '95, was successful. "5" rolled out in '98. The CD possessed his best song to date, the irrepressible "Fly Away." The album stayed on the Billboard charts for over two years. "Greatest Hits" arrived two years later. But Kravitz wasn't done. The relatively subdued '01 release "Lenny" was followed by "comeback" album "Minister Of Rock 'N Roll" in '04.
"We've all got our voice," said Kravitz discussing his 8th eighth album, "It Is Time For A Love Revolution." "And if I have this gift to play music, then I'm gonna talk about love." The '08 set contained the singles, "Bring It On," with Anoushka Shankar's (Ravi's daughter) sitar and "I'll Be Waiting."
A couple bouts with bronchitis caused the cancellation of shows in Canada, Mexico, Italy and South America. However, Kravitz was honored in Milan for his work with the United Nations Millennium Campaign to end world poverty.
Kravtiz was selected to open a handful of U2 shows on the second North American leg of their 360 Tour. But U2's frontman, Bono, suffered a back injury that postponed the tour.
In the meantime, Kravitz began work on his 9th album. The '11 set was tentatively titled "Funk," but renamed "Negrophilia," before finally becoming "Black And White America."
His calendar included a part in the Hunger Games as Cinna, the creative stylist for Katniss, the lead character. The film was released in '12.
Kravitz was also made an Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by French cultural minister Frederic Mitterrand in Paris. The other American recipients were director Martin Scorsese, actor George Clooney, and Bob Dylan.
'14's "Strut," released on Kravitz's on his own Roxie Records, was next. "This record brought me back to what I love so much about music, back to the feelings I had when I was in high school," he explained.
1989 Let Love Rule
1991 Mama Said
1993 Are You Gonna Go My Way
2008 It Is Time For A Love Revolution
2011 Black And White America
Lenny Kravitz is a mixture of Hendrix, Funk and a near lethal dose of pop, who's blessed with the ability to kick it out.
"Greatest Hits," released in '00, is just that and is a good place to catch Kravitz's stylistic range through the '90s.