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Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz

A staunch believer in the enduring power of classic rock, Lenny Kravitz refashions familiar fuzz guitars, soulful rhythms, and psychedelic melodies into sleek, sinewy modern rock. Quickly eschewing the neo-hippie vibe of his 1989 debut Let Love Rule, not to mention the gossamer gloss of his first big hit "It Ain't Over 'til It's Over," Kravitz landed upon a combination of heavy guitars and stylish flash for 1993's Are You Gonna Go My Way. It was a sound that powered a trio of Grammy-winning Y2K-era hits -- "Fly Away," a cover of the Guess Who's "American Woman," and "Again" -- that solidified Kravitz's stardom and served as the template for the records he released over the ensuing decades, from 2001's Lenny to 2024's Blue Electric Light.

The son of Roxie Roker -- an actress famous for her role as Helen Willis on the '70s sitcom The Jeffersons -- and NBC News producer Sy Kravitz, Lenny was surrounded by music as a child, exposed to everything from radio pop to jazz and classical. As a teenager in Los Angeles, he was drawn to rock & roll, finding particular inspiration in Prince. Initially, he attempted to launch a career under the pseudonym Romeo Blue, recording a full demo in Hoboken, New Jersey with engineer Henry Hirsch that incorporated elements inspired by John Lennon, Bob Marley, and the Velvet Underground.

While shopping his demo, Kravitz met actress Lisa Bonet on the set of A Different World, a sitcom spinoff of the cultural phenomenon The Cosby Show. Kravitz and Bonet became a couple around the time he signed with Virgin Records in January 1989. Reverting to his birthname, Kravitz released Let Love Rule in September 1989, with its title track earning play on MTV and modern rock radio. It was enough to gain the attention of Madonna, who had Kravitz co-produce and co-write "Justify My Love," a provocative and sultry single that became a number one hit for the superstar in 1990. It wasn't the only extracurricular activity for Kravitz: he produced, played, and co-wrote the bulk of Vanessa Paradis' eponymous 1991 debut album.

By the time he released his second album, Mama Said, in April 1991, Kravitz had separated from Bonet -- the pair divorced in 1993 -- and this sophomore set was fueled by heartbreak, as evidenced by "It Ain't Over 'til It's Over," a Curtis Mayfield-inspired tune that went to number two on Billboard's Hot 100. Slash, his old high school classmate, played on the album's "Always on the Run," the first sign that Kravitz was running with rock royalty. Soon, he appeared on records by Mick Jagger and David Bowie, and co-wrote a tune with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry for Aerosmith's Get a Grip album. These classic rock sounds flourished on Are You Gonna Go My Way, a 1993 album that turned into Kravtiz's mainstream breakthrough thanks to the rock hits "Are You Gonna Go My Way," "Believe," and "Is There Any Love in Your Heart."

After stumbling with Circus -- the 1995 album's lead single "Rock and Roll Is Dead" failed to crack the Top 40 -- Kravitz righted himself with 5, a 1998 album that tempered his classic rock inclinations with slight electronica inflections. At first, 5 didn't cause many waves but its fourth single, "Fly Away," became a major hit in early 1999, reaching 12 on Billboard's Hot 100 on its way to winning the Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. A cover of the Guess Who's "American Woman," cut for the soundtrack to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, became his second big hit of 1999; it also won a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, as did "Again," a new song added to his 2000 Greatest Hits compilation.

Lenny, his sixth solo album, appeared in October 2001. Benefitting from the momentum generated by 5, it reached number 12 on the Billboard 200 and spawned the singles "Dig In," "Stillness of the Heart," and "If I Could Fall in Love." "Dig In" earned the singer his fourth straight Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. A seventh full-length, Baptism, arrived in 2004 heralded by the single "Where Are We Runnin'?" It peaked at 14 on the Billboard 200 and also featured an appearance by rapper Jay-Z on the track "Storm."

After starting a residential, commercial, and product design company called Kravitz Design, he recorded a funky version of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey" for Amnesty International's 2007 benefit compilation Instant Karma. In February 2008, he returned with the studio album It Is Time for a Love Revolution, accompanied by the singles "Bring It On," "I'll Be Waiting," and "Love Love Love." It proved to be one of his highest-charting albums to date, reaching number four on the Billboard 200.

Kravitz made his acting debut in the Academy Award-nominated 2009 film Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. As he was filming his next role -- a spot in the eagerly awaited adaptation of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games -- he released his ninth album, Black and White America, in the summer of 2011. Reprising his role of Cinna in the second Hunger Games movie in 2013, Kravitz wouldn't return to the studio until the following year. He released his tenth studio album, Strut, in September of 2014. It marked the launch of his own Roxie Records label, named in honor of his mother. Anchored by the disco-rock single "The Chamber," Strut debuted at 19 on the Billboard Top 200.

After a four-year break, Kravitz returned in September 2018 with Raise Vibration, a socially conscious production that found him exploring themes of political division, racism, and positivity in the face of turmoil. The single "Low" featured a posthumous vocal collaboration with Michael Jackson and yielded a deluxe remix collection later in the year. It peaked at 43 on the Billboard 200. In 2019, he embarked on the Here to Love Tour and returned to acting, appearing in the 2022 comedy Shotgun Wedding. His song "Road to Freedom," recorded for the for the 2023 film Rustin, focused on the life of black and gay rights activist Bayard Rustin and received weighty accolades, including both Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. Next up for Kravitz was his 2024 album Blue Electric Light, which was his 12th overall. Working again with long-time colleague Craig Ross, the pair gleefully touch on funk, hard rock, Prince-influenced synth pop, and even '80s metal on the way to delivering a typically swaggering and joyful record. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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