Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz, Singer, NYC


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Lenny Kravitz

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Leonard Albert "Lenny" Kravitz (born May 26, 1964) is an American Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and arranger whose "retro" style incorporates elements of rock, soul, funk, reggae, hard rock, psychedelic, folk, and ballads. In addition to singing lead and backing vocals, he often plays all the guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and percussion himself when recording. He won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance four years in a row from 1999 to 2002. He was ranked #93 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock".

Biography

Kravitz was born in New York City, the son of Ukrainian-Jewish American NBC television news producer Sy Kravitz, and Bahamian American actress Roxie Roker, best known as her character Helen Willis on the hit 1970s television sitcom The Jeffersons (a spin-off of All in the Family). Kravitz was named after his uncle, Pfc. Leonard Kravitz, who was killed in action on March 6, 1951 near Yangpyeong, Korea at the age of 20. Pfc. Kravitz fearlessly defended against a surprise Chinese Army attack, saving most of his platoon; he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military decoration of the United States Army.

Kravitz grew up spending weekdays on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with his parents, and weekends at his grandmother's house in the Bed-Stuy 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. He saw The Jackson 5 perform at Madison Square Garden, which became his favorite group while very young. 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's band even played "Happy Birthday" for him one year. He was exposed to the soul music of Motown, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, 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 and Jimi Hendrix. "I was attracted to the cool style, the girls, the rock 'n' roll lifestyle," Kravitz said. Kravitz's other later musical influences include John Lennon and Bob Marley. 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.

Kravitz went to school enough to pass, but was spending more and more time jamming with friends. His parents became concerned, wanting him to have something to fall back on. At the age of 15, determined to have a music career, Kravitz moved out of his house. He stayed with friends, slept in friends' cars, and at one point was even sleeping in his Ford Pinto. Inspired by David Bowie, Kravitz adopted the nom de guerre, "Romeo Blue," a new persona complete with straightened hair and blue contact lenses, and began performing. Kravitz's music at this time was heavily influenced by the synth-laden funk pop of Prince. In 1982, Kravitz graduated from high school and convinced his father to give him money to record instead of spending money on college. With his first demo, Kravitz received offers from several record labels, including I.R.S. Records, but Kravitz was told he needed to change his music to make it "black enough" to fit in with current radio-friendly styles. "I refused," Kravitz told the Los Angeles Times in 1989.

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 now 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, Zo Isabella Kravitz, born on December 1, 1988.

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. After completing the album, Kravitz met with Virgin Records. The label was excited about the music he was making, music inspired by his relationship with wife Bonet and their new daughter. Kravitz dropped the name Romeo Blue. 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."[2] Kravitz signed with the Virgin Records in 1989.

Kravitz released his debut album Let Love Rule in the fall of 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 huge outside of the US, especially in Europe. Lisa Bonet directed and appeared in his debut music video for the title track, "Let Love Rule". Kravitz set out on the road, first on a club tour, and then an opening slot for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.



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