“Nothing was the same after that”: Lenny Kravitz on the childhood concert that changed his life


Lenny Kravitz was only five years old when he went to his very first concert – a concert that would change the course of his life forever.Kravitz was in first grade and his father Sy Kravitz, an NBC news producer in New York City, picked him up from school and took him to Madison Square Garden, not telling him who they were going to see.

The group was the Jackson Five.

“My mind was blown away when they took the stage. Nothing was the same after that, ”Kravitz said in an interview with q host Tom Power.

“The next day I put my rubber galoshes at knee height pretending those were the funky boots they were wearing. I would go to my mom’s closet to get scarves and stuff and pretend to be in Jackson 5. ”

Even half a century later, listening to a snippet of Jackson’s classic 5 I want you to come back always excites.

“It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s amazing to hear that through the phone’s little speaker. It always blows up, ”Kravitz says, adding that the group has combined the best Motown writers, the best producers, the best musicians and the best arrangers.

But it wasn’t just the musicality that appealed to Kravitz.

“I identified with the sound and also with the visuals, because they looked like me. I saw myself in it. We had the same hair, we had basically the same skin tones, ”Kravitz recalls.

“Their performance on stage was impeccable, their choreography, their movements, everything. It was on the same level as seeing the Beatles. Something different, but the same vibe. “

Let love speak

The vignette is just one of the moments in Kravitz’s memories Let love speak, named after the artist’s groundbreaking debut album in 1989 that mixed R&B, soul, folk and rock on guitar, and produced several hits, including the title track, I’m building this garden for us and Mr. taxi driver.

Since those beginnings, Kravitz has won several Grammys, sold over 40 million albums worldwide, played the Super Bowl and the Gray Cup, and was named an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters in France.

And decades after their release, successes including Let love speak, It’s not over until it’s over, Will you follow my path, Always on the run, as well as his cover of the Canadian classic American woman, are still pillars of radio and cinema soundtracks.

He has also starred in high profile films including The hunger Games and Hunger Games – Catching Fire, and landed a recurring role in the Fox series Star.

Another artist who had a profound impact on Kravitz as a child was Stevie Wonder – especially his 1973 album. Innervisions. For young Kravitz, it was the first album where he really took note of all the parts.

“I studied it. I found the album fascinating and deeply spiritual. Now, what did I know that was deeply spiritual at that age? But I felt something in me, in my mind, ”he says.

“I always say that Innervisions It seems to me that Stevie was sitting in the palm of God’s hand when he made this record, that God was just holding it, ”says Kravitz, who remembers putting the record on the turntable in his family’s apartment and having listened to it over and over again.

“And [I would] beat the drums and listen to the Moog and the pianos and the bass and all the orchestrations. It gave me a great education. ”

‘It just happened to me’

Lenny Kravitz’s mother was Roxie Roker, best known for her role as Helen Willis on the hit sitcom The Jeffersons, and Kravitz remembers the family moved from New York to Los Angeles when he was around 10 years old.

In his new memoir, Kravitz discusses how, in a way, his family history mirrored that of Roker’s multiracial family on The Jeffersons.

“It’s very interesting that my mother has been chosen. [Creator] Norman Lear had no idea. In fact, after the audition he sat down with her and said, “Now listen, I want to make sure you’re going to be comfortable, because you’re going to play a white man’s wife, and you “You’re going to have to be close to him, you’re going to have to kiss him, and I don’t know what you think,” Kravitz says.

“And my mom just laughed and took out her purse and showed her a picture of my dad.

The move to Los Angeles was also a key turning point for Kravitz, who later met actress Lisa Bonet, best known for her role in Cosby lounge. The couple separated in 1991 and divorced in 1993, but Kravitz says their relationship helped make him the musician he is.

At the time, Kravitz was playing in other bands, working on other projects, and “would have been nice” to be someone else’s guitarist or drummer. He knew there was something to do, but he wasn’t sure what it was. Then he met Bonet.

The cover of Lenny Kravitz’s new memoir, Let Love Rule. (Henry Holt et Cie)

“Because of our relationship, because of the magic that was being created around us, starting with our love, and the group of people we surrounded ourselves with, it really helped me open up,” Kravitz says. .

“I had moved in with her at her place and put all my instruments in one room. And one day it happened to me. I started to hear the music, ”says Kravitz, who wrote the songs. Fear, then Rosemary, then I’m building this garden for us in rapid succession.

“I just heard it – and I accepted it. I don’t know if this is what I thought I was looking for, but it was what I was given and I grabbed it, ”Kravitz says. “And that was the start for me. This is another time a portal opened.

Kravitz is currently avoiding the pandemic on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, where he was supposed to land for a few days in March, as he traveled from France to New Zealand and Australia for a series of tour dates. But then COVID-19 hit, the tour was canceled and trips stopped, and Kravitz has been there ever since.

It’s a long way from the days when he lived out of his car or slept on people’s sofas, trying to piece together his life as a young musician.

At the time, several major labels offered him deals, but they wanted him to change his style, so he said no thanks – a brave move that ended up cementing his future.

I knew that what they wanted me to do was not me, and that they were trying to change me. And there was a feeling in me when it came time to sign the paper. I felt physically ill. I felt bad. I felt bad. And I kept saying “I can’t do this”.– Lenny Kravitz

“I refuse them, and everyone looks at me like I’m crazy. I don’t know how I got the strength to do this. I hadn’t even found my sound yet, ”Kravitz recalls.

“But I knew what they wanted me to do wasn’t me, and that they were trying to change me. And there was a feeling in me as I signed the paper. I felt physically bad. I felt bad. I felt bad. And I kept saying ‘I can’t do this’, ”he said.

“It was something in me that spoke to me. “

Written by Jennifer Van Evra. Interview conducted by Beza Seife.


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