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The Brooklyn-born son of Jeffersons actress Roxsie Roker and
NBC-TV producer Sy Kravitz, Kravitz grew up on New York's Upper East
Side, immersed in the music of Bobby Short, Count Basie and Ella
Fitzgerald. At one point in his childhood, he's said, he sat on Duke
Ellington's lap as the master jazz composer played the piano. After his
mother moved to Los Angeles for her Jeffersons role, Kravitz
spent three years with the California Boys Chorale, with whom he
participated in conductor Zubin Mehta's recording of Mahler's Third
Symphony. Attending Beverly Hills High School, where he would meet
future Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash--who would later guest on Kravitz's
albums--the singer led what was by no means a "normal" childhood. Or
adulthood: Even before signing his deal, Kravitz was nationally known
due to his marriage with actress Lisa Bonet of The Cosby Show.
Though they have since divorced, Kravitz dedicated his 1991 breakthrough
album Mama Said to the actress.
Kravitz met his longtime musical partner Henry Hirsch in the early
'80s; Hirsch, who ran a New Jersey recording studio, shared Kravitz's
interest in pre-digital technology. Kravitz's talents as musician and
producer have been heavily in demand since 1989's Let Love Rule.
His productions have included part of the Superfly II soundtrack,
Madonna's "Justify My Love" (for which has partial composing credit),
and an album with French singer Vanessa Paradis. In 1993, he duetted
with Mick Jagger on the Rolling Stones singer's 1993 version of Bill
Withers' "Use Me," and co-wrote a track on
Aerosmith's platinum-plus Get A Grip album.
As derivative as his own music may sometimes be, Lenny Kravitz is a
unique figure, and his albums are aural treats. Though his critics may
scoff at his seeming deliberately retro look, it has very much worked to
his benefit in the modern MTV era. "If you really listen to my records,"
Kravitz told writer Steve Hochman in late 1993, "there's elements of
folk, elements of gospel...lots of R&B, lots of soul, jazz, classical
with my arrangements, reggae. I'm really covering a lot of ground.
[Speaking of which, Kravitz's latest album
5 even covers electronica.] But because of the clothes and
things, it all gets clumped up." Lenny Kravitz bothered by critics?
"They dogged Bob Marley, they dogged John Lennon, they dogged
everybody," said the singer. "Who cares?"
This Biography was written by Dave DiMartino
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