Leonard “Lenny” Albert Kravitz, known to most as Lenny Kravitz, was born on May 26, 1964, in Bedford Stuyvesant, the only child of actress Roxie Roker and Hollywood producer Sy Kravitz. His father was Jewish and his mother was of African-American and Afro-Bahamian ancestry. As a bi-racial child in the 1960s, he endured an onslaught of prejudicial remarks.
“I remember my mother telling me, ‘I want you to know your heritage. You are no more one thing than another, but society will only see you as black,'” Kravitz once said. “I don’t even know if I understood what that really meant, but I think I somehow got it and got it more a couple of years later – that people weren’t going to see both sides.”
Kravitz started playing the drums and guitar at the age of five, influenced by his parents’ love of R&B, jazz, classical, opera and blues. When he was ten, the family moved to California. In Los Angeles, his mother encouraged him to join the California Boys Choir and Metropolitan Choir. He attended Beverly Hills High School, where he was a contemporary of Slash from Guns N’ Roses, graduating in 1982.
After graduation, Kravitz left home. Calling himself “Romeo Blue,” he hit the road to try to make it big in the music business. Despite his parents’ celebrity connections, Kravitz was determined to succeed on his own merit.
The early years of his musical career were anything but glamorous. Kravitz lived out of a car that he rented for $5 a day. In 1985, while still struggling to land his big break, Kravitz was deeply saddened by the news of his parents’ divorce.
In the late 1980s, he returned to New York to pursue his musical career. There, he met and married Lisa Bonet, who played Denise Huxtable on The Cosby Show. They had one child together, a daughter Zoe, but would divorce in 1993.
In 1989, Kravitz signed to Virgin Records, releasing his debut album Let Love Rule that same year. Just like one of his major early influences, Prince, Kravitz played nearly all the instruments on the album. Let Love Rule met mixed critical reviews; his second album Mama Said, released two years later, provided him with his major breakthrough. It reached the top 40 of the Billboard album chart, while the single It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over (influenced by his break up with Bonet) reached #2 in the singles charts.
His third album Are You Gonna Go My Way, released in 1994, earned a BRIT award for Best International Male Artist. Following the release of 5 in 1998 and the single Fly Away, Kravitz won the first of four Grammys for Best Male Vocal Rock Performance; he would go on to win it four years in a row from 1999 to 2002, breaking the record for most wins in that category as well as setting the record for most consecutive wins in one category by a male artist.
He has also co-written and produced material for various artists such as Madonna, Vanessa Paradis, and Steven Tyler as well as performing on tracks for Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Jay Z.
While probably best known for his musical career, Kravitz has appeared in a number of movies. In 2009, he made his big-screen debut in the Oscar-nominated movie Precious. He also had a small part in the film The Hunger Games in 2012.
One year later, Kravitz returned to the big screen with the Lee Daniels film The Butler starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. He also wrote a song for the film’s soundtrack. Later in 2013, Kravitz reprised his Hunger Games role in the trilogy’s next installment Catching Fire.
In recent years, he moved to a tiny island in the Bahamas, “where he has found peace and inspiration in living simply.”
Kravitz’ talents are manifold. As singer, musician, songwriter and record producer, he incorporates with effortless ease various styles and elements of rock, blues, soul, R&B, funk, jazz, reggae, hard rock, psychedelic, pop, folk and ballads. He has won numerous national and international awards and accolades, and has been ranked among VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.
Lenny Kravitz, we acknowledge your enormous talents, and we honor your contributions.
*Sources: IMdb, biography.com
February is Black History Month! Every day this month, BK Reader will profile one Black History Maker born or raised in Brooklyn. There are countless Brooklynites– past and present– who have contributed to America’s fabric as pioneers or leaders in art, entertainment, sports, science and government. This month, we present to you 28! Click here to see all of the profiles.
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