Lenny Kravitz was born on 26 May 1964 in New York City. His family ties – his Jewish father was a top television producer while his Bahamian mother, Roxie Roker, was an actress – suggested a future in show business.
As a teenager, he attended the Beverly Hills High School where his contemporaries included Slash, later of Guns N’ Roses, and Maria McKee of Lone Justice.
Kravitz’s interest in music flourished in the mid-80’s and he signed a recording contract with IRS Records under the moniker Romeo Blue.
The deal eventually fell through, but in 1987 the singer (now using his real name) completed the first of several demos which concluded with an early version of Let Love Rule.
These recordings led to a contract with Virgin Records America, although the company was initially wary of Kravitz’s insistence that the finished product should only feature “real” instruments – guitar, bass, keyboards and drums – rather than digital and computerised passages.
Although denigrated in some quarters as merely retrogressive (notably in its indebtedness to both Elvis Costello and Jimi Hendrix) Let Love Rule proved highly popular.
Kravitz then gained greater success when Madonna recorded Justify My Love, a new, rap-influenced composition of his, quite unlike his previous work.
In 1991, Kravitz continued his unconventional path by writing a new arrangement to John Lennon‘s Give Peace A Chance as a comment on the impending Gulf War.
The resultant recording (credited to The Peace Choir) featured several contemporaries, including Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon.
The latter also appeared on Mama Said (1991), where Kravitz’s flirtation with 60’s and early 70’s rock was even more apparent.
The set spawned the US Top 5/UK Top 20 hit It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over, a kiss-off to his soon to be ex-wife, actress Lisa Bonet.
The prolific Kravitz then wrote an entire album for French chanteuse Vanessa Paradis and collaborated with artists as diverse as Curtis Mayfield, Aerosmith and Mick Jagger.
The hard rocking title track of the follow-up Are You Gonna Go My Way? (1993) was another worldwide success, breaking into the UK Top 5.
The album was, depending on your point of view, a commercially astute consolidation of what had reaped rewards for Kravitz on the previous two albums, or a worrying illustration of an artist stuck in a rut.
Hendrix was the prominent touchstone, especially on the title track and the acid wig-out of Is There Any Love In Your Heart?
Circus featured a stripped-down version of his trademark sound, displaying his talent as a writer of more contemporary sounding material rather than the 60’s pastiches of his earlier albums.
The belated follow-up, 5, saw Kravitz finally embracing digital recording and attempting a more relaxed fusion of soul and hip-hop styles.
The singer topped the UK charts in February 1999 with Fly Away, thanks to extensive media exposure as the soundtrack to a Peugeot car advertisement.
In 2003, Kravitz teamed up with Warner Brothers Records to launch his own Roxie Records imprint.