Lenny Kravitz was born in Brooklyn, New York City, in 1964. His father is NBC TV news producer Sy Kravitz and his mother the actress Roxie Roker who starred in the television comedy series The Jeffersons. Lenny, the son of an interracial couple, was interested in music at an early age. When the family moved to Los Angeles because of his mother’s part in The Jeffersons, Lenny began to sing in the famous California Boys Choir. Determined to become a musician, he learned to play the guitar, bass, piano and drums. In 1978, he was accepted into the Beverly Hills High School music program. Maria McKee and Slash (formerly Guns ‘N’ Roses) were his classmates. Lenny acted in TV commercials and had parts in shows for children and teenager.
Lenny Kravitz moved away from home, named himself “Romeo Blue” and, according to some sources, slept in a car he rented for $5/day. He was influenced by James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin. In 1982, he graduated from high school. His father, Sy Kravitz, financed his first steps into the music business.
In 1985, Lenny’s parents divorced - a fact that affected Lenny very deeply. A year later, Lenny moved to New York where his girlfriend, the actress Lisa Bonet, worked on The Cosby Show. There, Lenny met the recording engineer Henry Hirsch with whom he worked together on his debut album, Let Love Rule.
In November 1987, Lisa and Lenny got married in Las Vegas. A year later, their daughter Zoe was born. In 1989, Let Love Rule was ready to be released by Virgin Records; Lisa had contributed to the lyrics. The album encountered harsh words from critics but the public liked the mix of soul and rock which ended up in the charts (US#61, UK#56). Lenny said that he wanted to create an honest sound, which sounded outdated to some listeners. He played most of the instruments on the album.
Lenny co-wrote the lyrics and produced Madonna’s video Justify My Love. Rumors about a love affair between him and Madonna and other infidelities by Lenny resulted in a schism between him and Bonet in 1991 and ended with a divorce in 1993.
In 1991, his second album, Mama Said (US#39, UK#8, Germany#20), was released. It was more introspective and sold platinum. Its single “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” was a hit (US#2, UK#11, Germany#43). In 1993, the third album, Are You Gonna Go My Way (US#12, UK#1, Germany#7), was the first to be acclaimed by critics. The title song won an MTV Video Award for Best Male Video.
In 1992, Lenny produced an album for the French singer Vanessa Paradis on which he played most of the instruments and wrote several lyrics. In 1993, Kravitz wrote “Line Up” for Steven Tyler from Aerosmith. Together with Mick Jagger, he recorded a new version of “Use Me” for Jagger’s album Wandering Spirit. Lenny also worked with Al Green and Curtis Mayfield.
In 1994, he released Spinning Around Over You, which included five live tracks from his “Universal Love Tour”. His following album, Circus, was influenced by emotions about his mother who was fighting cancer. It was released in the summer of 1995; his mother died in the following December. Then, Lenny moved with his daughter and grandmother to the Bahamas.
Lenny’s next album, 5, includes the hit singles “Fly Away”, which earned him a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance in 1999, “Thinking of You”, dedicated to his mother and “Little Girl’s Eyes”, written for his daughter.
After a successful European tour, Lenny’s later editions of 5 included “American Woman”, a song used in the film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
In 2000, Lenny Kravitz’ Greatest Hits were released. The fifteen titles include “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, the ballad “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”, “American Woman” and “I Belong To You”. The album’s track “Again” won the 2001 Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Grammy Award.
For his ninth album, Lenny Kravitz found much of his inspiration close to home. In fact, the very spirit of Black and White America (2011) came from the locations in which the music was made from a tiny, 400-person community in the Bahamas to the streets of Paris. And out of his experiences as a true citizen of the planet, his first new songs in three years became the most personal and diverse collection of his career. “No doubt, my environment definitely lends a lot to the creative process,” he says.
Black and White America was written in reaction to a documentary Kravitz saw about racism in the post-Obama United States. Amidst the defiant lyrics, the songwriter references his own family history, and the experiences of his parents as an interracial couple in the 1960s. Though the sonic emphasis of Black and White America may land squarely on the funk, the force behind such guitar-driven smashes as “Fly Away” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way” hasn’t turned his back on rock. Songs like “Rock Star City Life,” and the first single, “Stand,” give the album a healthy dose of crunching riffs. The overwhelming emotion on Black and White America is the feel of optimism, faith and hope.