Albert 'Lenny' Kravitz (born May 26, 1964) is an American
singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and arranger,
whose 'retro' style incorporates elements of rock, soul, R&B, funk, reggae,
hard rock, psychedelic, folk and ballads. In addition to singing lead and
backing vocals, Kravitz often plays all the guitar, bass, drums, keyboards
and percussion himself when recording. He is known for his elaborate stage
performances and music videos.
Kravitz has had multiple number 1 hits on the US Top Singles Charts, though
none by himself on the Hot 100, and many more worldwide. He won the Grammy
Award for 'Best Male Rock Vocal Performance' four years in a row from 1999
to 2002, breaking the record for most wins in that category and most
consecutive wins in one category for a male. He has been nominated and won
other awards, including American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, Radio
Music Awards, BRIT Awards and Blockbuster Entertainment Awards. On December
1, 2011, Kravitz was made an Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Kravitz will play the role of Cinna in the upcoming film The Hunger Games.
Kravitz was born in New York City on May 26, 1964, the son of Roxie Roker,
an actress known for her character Helen Willis in the 1970s hit television
sitcom The Jeffersons, and Sy Kravitz, an NBC television news producer.
Kravitz's father was of Russian Jewish descent and his mother was of
Bahamian and African-American descent. Kravitz was named after his uncle,
PFC Leonard Kravitz, who was killed in action in the Korean War at age 20
while defending against a Chinese attack and saving most of his platoon; he
was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Kravitz grew up
spending weekdays on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with his parents,
attending P.S.6 for elementary school and weekends at his grandmother Bessie
Roker's house in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Kravitz
began banging on pots and pans in the kitchen, playing them as drums at the
age of three. At the age of five, he wanted to be a musician. He began
playing the drums and soon added guitar. Kravitz grew up listening to the
music his parents listened to: R&B, jazz, classical, opera, gospel, and
blues. 'My parents were very supportive of the fact that I loved music early
on, and they took me to a lot of shows,' Kravitz said. Around the age of 7,
he saw The Jackson 5 perform at Madison Square Garden, which became his
favorite group. His father, who was also a jazz promoter, was friends with
Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie,
Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Short, Miles Davis and other jazz greats.
Ellington even played 'Happy Birthday' for him one year when he was about 5.
He was exposed to the soul music of Motown, Stax,
Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Gladys
Knight, The Isley Brothers and Gamble and Huff growing up, key influences on
his musical style. Kravitz often went to see New York theater, where his
mother worked. His mother encouraged his dreams of pursuing music.
In 1974, the Kravitz family relocated to Los Angeles when Kravitz's mother
landed her role on The Jeffersons. At his mother's urging, Kravitz joined
the California Boys Choir for three years, where he performed a classical
repertoire, and sang with the Metropolitan Opera. He performed in Mahler's
Third Symphony at the Hollywood Bowl. It was in Los Angeles that Kravitz was
first introduced to rock music, listening to Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Aerosmith,
Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Cream, and The Who. 'I was attracted to the cool
style, the girls, the rock 'n' roll lifestyle,' Kravitz said. Kravitz's
other musical influences at the time included Fela Kuti, Bill Withers,
Marvin Gaye and Miles Davis; John Lennon and Bob Marley proved later to be
influential as well. Kravitz attended Beverly Hills High School. Maria McKee
and guitarist Saul Hudson (better known as Slash) were his classmates. In
1978, Kravitz was accepted into the school's well-respected music program.
He taught himself to play piano and bass, and made friends with Zoro who
would later become his long-time collaborator. Kravitz wanted to be a
session musician. He also appeared as an actor in television commercials
during this time.
1989–1990: Virgin Records and the career debut With record labels still telling him his music wasn't 'black
enough' or 'white enough,' Kravitz decided to record an album on his own.
Kravitz had met recording engineer/keyboardist/bassist Henry Hirsch in 1985
when recording a demo at his Hoboken, New Jersey recording studio. The two
shared an interest in using real instruments and vintage recording
equipment, as well as a love of R&B, jazz, and rock. Kravitz would go on to
collaborate with Hirsch on most of his albums. Kravitz began working on his
debut album with Hirsch over the next year and a half, with Kravitz's father
paying for the studio time. Kravitz met saxophonist Karl Denson and invited
him to play on the song, 'Let Love Rule'. Kravitz was so impressed with his
playing that Denson played on much of the album. Denson toured with Kravitz
for the next 5 years. In October 1988, after completing most of the
recording, Kravitz approached friend Stephen Elvis Smith who had served as
the Music Supervisor on Lisa Bonet's spin-off of The Cosby Show, 'A
Different World'. Smith had also worked with Kravitz' mother Roxie Roker, on
the hit sitcom 'The Jeffersons'. Kravitz urged Smith to manage his career
and assist him in finding a record deal. In less than a month of shopping
the recordings, five labels (Warner Bros, Elektra, Geffen, Capitol and
Virgin) were in a bidding war for Kravitz. Eventually a deal was made with
Virgin Records in January 1989, and signed by Virgin A & R executive Nancy
Jeffries. The label was excited about the music he was making, music
inspired by his relationship with wife Bonet and their new daughter. On
Smith's urging, Kravitz dropped the name Romeo Blue and reclaimed the Lenny
Kravitz moniker. About his time as Romeo Blue, Kravitz said, 'Ultimately, it
got me back to myself. And when I finally did accept myself for myself,
music started flowing out of me.'
Kravitz released his debut album Let Love Rule on September 6, 1989, a
combination of rock and funk with a general 1960s vibe. Music critics were
mixed: some felt Kravitz was a gifted new artist, others felt he was
overpowered by his musical influences. The album was a moderate success in
the United States, but became an instant hit outside of the US, especially
in Europe. Lisa Bonet directed the debut music video for the title track,
'Let Love Rule'. Stephen Smith signed Kravitz with talent booking agency
CAA, who soon were fielding offers for Kravitz, first on a club tour, and
then in opening slots for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Bob Dylan and David
Bowie. Having played essentially all of the instruments on the album,
Kravitz had to quickly assemble a touring band to support the Let Love Rule
release. They included a childhood friend, Zoro on drums (formerly of Bobby
Brown's band), Adam Widoff (guitar), Lebron Scott (bass guitar, recruited
out of Curtis Mayfield's band after seeing them perform in a NYC club),
Kenneth Crouch (keyboards) and Karl Denson on saxophone.
In May 2009, a 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of 'Let Love Rule' was
released worldwide by Virgin. The double disk includes a booklet with rare
photos, and 18 additional demos, bonus tracks and live recordings. Kravitz
launched a LLR(20) tour of Europe and the United States in support of the
1991–2001: Popularity established
In 1990, Kravitz co-wrote with Ingrid Chavez and produced the song 'Justify
My Love' for Madonna. The song, which appeared on her greatest hits album
The Immaculate Collection and created controversy because of its explicit
video, went to #1 for two consecutive weeks. When MTV banned the video, the
video was quickly made available for sale at record stores, and immediately
sold over 500,000 copies. Kravitz separated from Lisa Bonet in 1991, amid
rumors of an affair between him and Madonna. Kravitz has denied any
infidelity. Kravitz and Bonet divorced in 1993.
In 1991, Kravitz produced the self-titled album Vanessa Paradis for French
singer and actress Vanessa Paradis. He played most of the instruments and
co-wrote most of the songs on the album. He also released his second album,
Mama Said, which was his first album to reach the Top 40. The songs on the
album were about Bonet and dedicated to her, documenting his depression over
their breakup. Kravitz's biggest single yet, 'It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over',
went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single 'Always on the Run', a
tribute to his mother, featured Slash on guitar. 'Stand By My Woman' and
'What Goes Around Comes Around' followed. Sean Lennon co-wrote and played
piano on the song, 'All I Ever Wanted'. In 2001, Kravitz participated in a
benefit auction for the Red Hot Organization, in conjunction with Amazon.com
to increase public AIDS awareness, which ran from February 28 until April
11, 2001. The event featured rare RHO memorabilia and the work of Rolling
Stone photographer Mark Seliger.
In 1993, Kravitz wrote 'Line Up' for Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, and appeared
on Mick Jagger's solo album, Wandering Spirit, in a cover of the Bill
Withers' soul classic, 'Use Me'. That year Kravitz also got to work with
idols Al Green and Curtis Mayfield.
In 1993, Are You Gonna Go My Way was released, reaching #12 on the Billboard
200 and Kravitz earned a BRIT Award for best international male artist in
1994. The title track won a MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video for
the video produced by Mark Romanek, in which Kravitz slung his dreadlocks
and wore high-heeled platform boots. During the presentation of the MTV
Video Music Awards, he performed the song with John Paul Jones of Led
Zeppelin on bass. Several singles from the album would follow including,
'Believe', 'Is There Any Love In Your Heart', and 'Heaven Help/Spinning
Around Over You'. This album was the first to feature guitarist Craig Ross,
who has also played on all his subsequent albums. One song, 'Eleutheria',
was influenced by the island Eleuthera in The Bahamas where Kravitz built a
house and recording studio at that time. In 1993, he also released the EP,
Spinning Around Over You, which included four live tracks from his
'Universal Love Tour'. A feature documentary about his 1994 tour entitled
'Alive From Planet Earth' was directed by Doug Nichol and released.
In 1994, Kravitz recorded a funk-rock version of the song 'Deuce', for the
KISS cover album KISS My Ass: Classic KISS Regrooved. The track featured
Stevie Wonder on harmonica and background vocals. This song was one of three
radio singles from the album, and was also the album's lead-off track.
Roxie Roker, Kravitz's mother, died in California on December 2, 1995 of
breast cancer at the age of 66.
In 1995, Lenny Kravitz released the album Circus, which went to number 10 on
the Billboard chart on the back of his past achievement. However, the album
only had two hit singles: 'Rock and Roll Is Dead' and 'Can't Get You Off My
With 5 (1998), Kravitz embraced digital technology such as Pro Tools and
samplers for the first time. 5 introduced his music to an even wider
audience thanks to the hit single 'Fly Away' being featured prominently in
both car manufacturer and airline commercials. 5 would reach #28 on the
Billboard 200, with 'Fly Away' reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1
in the United Kingdom. He would win the first of his four consecutive Grammy
for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards of 1999. Other
hits from the album included 'If You Can't Say No', that was also remixed by
dance producer Brian Transeau, and 'I Belong to You'. For the I Belong to
You video Lenny can be seen without his signature dreadlocks. In 1999 he
produced and sang with Cree Summer on her solo album Street Faerie.
Lenny Kravitz's 1998 multi-platinum release 5 that earned him his first two
His cover version of The Guess Who's hit 'American Woman' won him another
Grammy at the Grammy Awards of 2000 and helped The Guess Who's song reach a
new audience. Kravitz's version of the song originally came from the
soundtrack of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and was added to 5 as a
bonus track in 1999.
Lenny worked on two songs for Michael Jackson's Invincible album released in
2001; a snippet of 'Another Day' has leaked, and the full version was
officially released on the album Michael in 2010 .
Kravitz released a Greatest Hits album in 2000. It proved to be his most
successful album, reaching #2 on the Billboard 200 and selling nearly 11
million copies worldwide and ultimately becoming one of the most
commercially successful albums of the decade. The single 'Again' earned him
his third consecutive Grammy for the Best Male Rock Vocal in the Grammy
Awards of 2001 and peaked at number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Kravitz
also co-wrote the song 'God Gave Me Everything' with Mick Jagger in this
period, appearing on Jagger's 2001 solo album Goddess in the Doorway and in
the film Being Mick.
2001–05: Lenny and Baptism
Kravitz released his sixth album Lenny in October 2001. The album was
recorded in Miami. Kravitz wrote the song 'Bank Robber Man' after the Miami
Police Department detained and cuffed him while walking to the gym with his
trainer because police stated that he matched the description of a bank
robber. Kravitz did not have any identification with him at the time and the
police on the scene did not believe that he was indeed Lenny Kravitz. The
bank teller who was robbed was then brought to the scene and said Kravitz
was not the bank robber. Miami Police later sent officers to Kravitz's home
to apologize for the detention. When asked if he thought the incident was a
case of racial profiling, Kravitz said he wasn’t sure although some of the
lyrics in the song suggest otherwise. The first single from the album, 'Dig
In', went to number 1 in Argentina and the top 10 in Italy and Portugal. The
video for 'Dig In' was originally supposed to be shot at the top of the
Empire State Building on September 12, 2001 but the terrorist attacks on the
World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 caused the location to be moved.
The video was later shot off the coast Miami. He won his fourth Grammy in
2002. 'Stillness of Heart', 'Believe in Me', and 'If I Could Fall In Love'
were subsequent singles from the album.
Kravitz was the subject of a photo book by former chief photographer for
Rolling Stone, Mark Seliger. Published in November 2001, Seliger captures
Kravitz on tour, with family, with friends and in posed portraits.
Jay-Z invited Kravitz to appear on the track 'Guns and Roses' on his 2002
The Blueprint˛: The Gift & the Curse. Kravitz would also join P. Diddy,
Pharrell and Loon on the track 'Show Me Your Soul' from the Bad Boys II
In September 2002, Kravitz appeared alongside other rock stars in the
episode 'How I Spent My Strummer Vacation' of The Simpsons. In early 2003,
Kravitz released the track 'We Want Peace' as a download-only track as a
protest against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he performed this alongside
famous Iraqi singer Kazem Al Saher at Rock The Vote. The track reached #1 on
the world internet download charts and MP3.com download chart. Kravitz also
appeared on Unity, the official album of the 2004 Athens Olympics, and
performed a cover of 'Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)' on the
album Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
In late 2004, Kravitz dated actress Nicole Kidman and reportedly dedicated
his hit song 'Lady' to her. They split in 2005.
Kravitz's seventh album Baptism was released in May 2004. The first single
was 'Where Are We Runnin'?'. The single 'California' failed to be
commercially successful, but 'Storm', featuring Jay-Z, reached the charts.
'Calling All Angels' was successful in various countries and a huge hit in
Brazil, however it was 'Lady' that became the album's surprise hit, making
the US Top 30 and propelling Baptism to gold status. Also in 2004, he
appeared on N.E.R.D's album Fly or Die. From March 2005, Kravitz toured all
over the world with the tour Electric Church, which ended at the Brixton
Academy, London in July 2005. Kravitz served as the opening act for
Aerosmith who are long term friends of Kravitz on their fall 2005 tour. The
tour began on October 30 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville,
Connecticut. The night before that tour started, October 29, 2005, Lenny's
father TV Producer Sy Kravitz died. During that first show, Lenny broke the
news to the stunned crowd and stated it was not a time to be sad but rather
a time to celebrate because he is now in Heaven. Lenny then dedicated Let
Love Rule to his father. That tour was so successful that it was extended
through February 25, 2006 and ended in Anaheim, California.
2006–2009: Live Earth, charity work, and It Is Time for a Love Revolution
In January 2006, Kravitz contributed 'Breathe' to absoluttracks, a project
sponsored by Absolut Vodka. This song was re-mixed by ten musical producers
and distributed via the internet.
Kravitz appeared in the audience of Madonna's Confessions Tour (2006) during
numerous shows. He would later join Madonna live on stage to play guitar on
the song, 'I Love New York,' at the last of four Paris shows.
Lately, Kravitz has founded a design firm named Kravitz Design, stating if
he hadn't been a musician he would have been a designer. Kravitz Design,
focused on interior and furniture design, has designed residential spaces,
as well as a chandelier for the crystal company Swarovski, named 'Casino
On July 7, 2007, Kravitz performed at the Brazilian leg of Live Earth in Rio
de Janeiro, making him one of three major international rock stars to
perform two huge free concerts at the world-famous Copacabana Beach along
with Macy Gray and the Rolling Stones. Kravitz had already played there on
March 21, 2005, drawing 300,000 people on a concert of his own. The Live
Earth concert, with eight other acts on the bill, including Pharrell and
Macy Gray, took 400,000 to the beach.
Also in 2007, Kravitz released a version of 'Cold Turkey' by John Lennon on
the charity CD Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save
Darfur. Kravitz also spent time recording his latest album, It Is Time for a
Love Revolution, released February 5, 2008.
On September 25, 2007, the Fats Domino tribute album 'Goin' Home ; A Tribute
To Fats Domino' was released. Kravitz was on the song 'Whole Lotta Lovin''
along with Rebirth Brass Band, Troy 'Trombone Shorty' Andrews, Fred Wesley,
Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker.
Kravitz performed at the Grey Cup halftime show in Toronto at the Rogers
Centre on November 25, 2007, where the Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the
Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19.
The original video for 'I'll Be Waiting' was shot in Central Park in New
York City with Marc Webb directing but that video was later shelved and a
new version, which Kravitz co-directed with Philip Andelman, was filmed in
Lenny's New York City recording studio. The video premiered on VH1's Top 20
Countdown at number 3.
On January 17, 2008, Kravitz embarked on a 9 city mini-tour to promote his
new album It Is Time for a Love Revolution. The tour started in Santa
Monica, California and ended in New York City on February 1. The tour was
done in association with Myspace and called the 'Get on the Bus' tour. At
each stop on the tour, they would pick up one contest winner and their guest
and they rode on the 'Love Revolution' bus until the end of the tour. Steven
Tyler of Aerosmith, a close friend of Lenny's would appear at The Orpheum
Theater in Boston. The New York City winner, Tyrone Good was presented a
train ticket from Penn Station to travel to Philadelphia and rode with the
tour the rest of the way starting in Philadelphia (The Electric Factory),
Boston (The Orpheum Theater), and finally New York City (The Hammerstein
Ballroom). The winners were featured in the YRB February Edition alongside
Lenny Kravitz in a magazine pull-out. The photo shoot took place at the
Electric Factory in Philadelphia on stage. The winner's pull out was
featured in another issue of YRB which had Lil' Wayne on the cover.
On February 11, 2008, Kravitz was admitted to Miami Hospital suffering from
severe bronchitis. He had been suffering from a series of severe respiratory
tract infections since mid-January, and the illness developed into
Kravitz's illness had forced him to postpone Canadian dates and his trip to
Europe to promote his album It Is Time for a Love Revolution. On March 19,
2008 he canceled the South American part of his tour due to the same
illness. The decision affected planned concerts in Colombia, Mexico, Brazil
and Argentina. In Argentina Kravitz had a performance in the biggest rock
festival there, Quilmes Rock Fest.
On July 15, 2008, Lenny was honored in Milan, Italy with the key to the city
in a special toast ceremony for his work with the United Nations Millennium
Campaign to end world poverty.[dead link]
Kravitz made his feature film acting debut in Precious which premiered at
the Sundance Film Festival in January 2009.
During the Italian leg of his 53 date Let Love Rule (20)09 European tour,
Kravitz had been instructed to cancel some shows due to a bad bout of
bronchitis. Under strict orders from his doctor, the singer was told to rest
so that he could make a quick recovery and return to the stage for the rest
of his tour. Shows scheduled for Rome on June 5 and Brescia on June 6 were
postponed to late July.
2009–present: U2 tour and Black and White America
Kravitz's next album, tentatively titled Funk, was tentatively re-titled
Negrophilia and was due out sometime in 2010. This is believed to be a
project that Kravitz has been working on since 1997. Some of the original
tracks for Funk were recorded while he was in New Orleans at Allen
Toussaint's studio while taking a break for several months from recording in
New York City. A video on Kravitz's Twitter page shows him working on one of
the songs for the album, called 'Super Love', in his GTS studios in the
Bahamas. Another video shows him working on another track titled 'Life Ain't
Never Been Better Than It Is Now' in his GTS Studios. On his Twitter page,
Kravitz said that the album title was Negrophilia but then 'felt like
something else'. Eventually the album was later named Black and White
America. The album is set for August 22, 2011 in Europe and August 30, 2011
in the U.S.[dated info] On February 20, 2011 the first single 'Come on Get
It' was released. On June 6, 2011 the second single 'Stand' was released.
It was announced that Kravitz would be supporting U2 on their highly
successful 360 Tour on the second North American leg in 2010. Kravitz agreed
to support them for four shows. Though the shows were postponed until 2011,
Kravitz remains committed for four of the shows.
In June 2010 it was announced that Kravitz would guest star on an episode of
the upcoming season of Entourage.
On May 23, 2011, Lionsgate announced that Kravitz will be joining the cast
and crew of The Hunger Games as Katniss' creative stylist, Cinna.
On December 1, 2011, Kravitz was honored with one of the highest cultural
awards in France when he was made an Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des
Lettres by French cultural minister Frederic Mitterrand in Paris. Kravitz
stated he was 'particularly touched' to receive the award in France as his
success in the country pre-dated his success in the United States and still
enjoys great record sales in the country today. Kravitz joins other American
recipients such as Martin Scorsese, George Clooney, and Bob Dylan.
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In 1985, Kravitz's parents divorced, which had a profound impact on him. His
relationship with his father became extremely strained. Kravitz focused on
his music to help him get through this period. That year, Kravitz met
actress Lisa Bonet backstage at a New Edition concert. Bonet worked on The
Cosby Show, the number one rated show on television. They were close friends
for two years before falling in love. Kravitz moved back to New York City
where The Cosby Show was produced in 1987, moving in with then girlfriend
Bonet. Kravitz and Bonet eloped on November 16, 1987, her 20th birthday, in
a Las Vegas ceremony. Kravitz, still known as Romeo Blue at the time,
suddenly found himself in the headlines of tabloid newspapers. They had a
daughter, Zoë Isabella Kravitz, born on December 1, 1988. Kravitz and Bonet
divorced in 1993. In 2002, Adriana Lima claimed she was engaged to Kravitz
sporting a diamond ring, although he denied that.
Kravitz identifies himself as a Christian, 'through choice but I'm also a
Jew, it's all the same to me'. During another interview Kravitz stated, 'I'm
half Jewish, I'm half black, I look in-between.' He also notes that
spirituality 'has been an important issue in my growth', given his
upbringing by parents of different faiths. Such spirituality is prominently
featured on many of his songs, such as the lyrics on his album Baptism, and
having his back inscribed with a tattoo stating, 'My Heart Belongs to Jesus