Twenty-three years after Jimi Hendrix first came
onto the rock 'n' roll scene, Lenny Kravitz emerged onto
the music [stage] in 1989 equipped with his first album
Let Love Rule. From the first time people heard
Lenny’s music, Lenny was instantly labeled as
being retro. Retro in the musical business refers to
the 1960s and 1970s style of music which consisted
of playing songs with funky grooves like Sly and the Family Stone would. Retro also refers to singing
songs that embrace the spirit of the sixties like The Beatles would have sung. Critics said Lenny’s music
was overwhelmed by his musical influences including Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and
Prince. Lenny was not favored by the critics and found little respect by them because at the time he was
married to Lisa Bonet, an actress who was at the height of her career playing Denise on The Cosby
Show. Lenny was often called “Mr. Lisa Bonet” because people knew him as Lisa’s husband, not vice
versa. But Lenny was destined to break out of the box that critics put him in.
Lenny was born Leonard Albert Kravitz on May 26, 1964 to Sy Kravitz (his father, a Russian Jewish
NBC News producer), and Roxie Roker (his mother, a black Bahamian actress who played Helen on
The Jeffersons). "When he began attending grade school, Lenny quickly realized that his parents were of
different races, but it didn't seem to affect him in the least - even though some students weren't as fair
minded. Even as a child, Lenny had a strong desire for music; he would surround himself with his mom's
pots and pans and pound on them as though they were drums. Considering his parents were both in the
entertainment industry, they encouraged their then 8-year-old son to delve into his desire to play music."
Lenny’s parents exposed him to New York’s music scene, and other fine artists at a young age
including Cher and Sonny Bono, Sarah Vaughn, and the Jackson 5 just to name a few. [At the age of 11,
Lenny moved from New York to Los Angeles facilitated by his mother's (actress Roxie Roker) move from
Broadway to her acceptance of the role of Helen on television's hit sitcom, The Jeffersons. "It was a
culture shock. Growing up in New York, you're very independent. Suddenly, I was in this place in LA and
no one's on the street. You can't go anywhere unless your mom drives you," Kravitz laughs. But Los
Angeles is where Kravitz would find rock 'n roll at John Adams Junior High School in Santa Monica
during the mid-'70s. "Growing up in New York, I knew about R&B and funk and jazz and gospel and blues
from my parents. Now I'm in LA and I'm hanging out, skateboarding and listening to [Led] Zeppelin, Kiss,
Aerosmith and [Jimi] Hendrix."
"Having taught himself bass, piano, guitar, and drums at an early age and developed his singing
voice in the California Boys Choir and the Metropolitan Opera, [Lenny] attended Beverly Hills High
School... At that stage, he was heavily influenced by Prince. Kravitz's admiration of the Purple One was
so great that he at first patterned his style and
approach directly after Prince and became known as
"Romeo Blue" (complete with blue contact lenses).
His parents were friends with jazz greats Duke
Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Ella
Fitzgerald, Bobby Short, and Miles Davis so he
grew up in a musical household although he would
pursue a career in rock rather than jazz."
In reflecting back on his early years as an artist Lenny had this to say; "I think I spent a lot of time
before Let Love Rule trying to be what I thought I should be. I was using this name, Romeo Blue, and I
had this image of what I thought was right. But that's part of the road to finding yourself. You put on these
images and you try to be something you're not."
After being under the influence of Prince's music for a while, Lenny felt [rock] was the music genre
he was interested in, and soon after that, his academic standing began to suffer...and began displaying
somewhat eccentric behavior. Luckily, Lenny did graduate from high school in 1982, but nevertheless,
music had become his life and nothing was going to stop him from realizing his dream. His father, Sy,
agreed to finance Lenny's musical attempts. And it was this love of music that brought Lenny to the
decision he wanted to pursue music instead of college.
Lenny Kravitz (Right)