Lenny Kravitz is well known for his music. His songs are popular and his style entertains. How much do you really know about the man though? About his trials and tribulations, and the new man he has become?

Lenny Kravitz is one of the more unique musicians and performers to come out of America in recent memory. In a country that has produced a variety of eclectic, out-there, and otherwise weird performers, Kravitz managed to establish himself as a rock icon whose personality and concert performances seemed larger than life. Although people might believe they know all there is to know about this man, many facets of his life are held close to his heart and revealed to few.

Lenny Kravitz

Actress/singer Mariah Carey & Lenny Kravitz attend the ‘Precious’ Premiere at the Grand Theatre Lumiere during the 62nd Annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes.
Photo: Denis Makarenko

Born with a Burden on his Shoulders

Few children are born with the type of burden on their shoulders that a young Kravitz entered this world carrying. He was born Leonard Albert Kravitz on May 26, 1964 in Manhattan, New York. His father Sy Kravitz came from a Russian Jewish family, while his mother Roxie Roker was of Afro-Bahamian and African-American descent. His father was a TV news executive and a white man, while his mother was a star of the television series The Jeffersons and of black descent.

Kravitz was named after his father’s younger brother, Leonard Kravitz. Sy Kravitz was a Green Beret in the United States Army, having joined at the age of 18. Sy served his country during the Korean War, and was followed to war by his younger brother Leonard. While Sy returned from Korea, Private First Class Leonard M. Kravitz died defending his platoon from a Chinese onslaught.

Lenny was named for his father’s brother, who was blamed for his younger brother’s death. While Sy’s relationship with Roxie was not accepted, Lenny could tell you his white Jewish relatives were no-show at the wedding. He recalls having a good relationship with his Jewish relatives growing up. Family turmoil aside, Kravitz displayed inherent talent from a young age.

Lenny Kravitz

Actor Josh Hutcherson and Lenny Kravitz attend the premiere of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, CA.
Photo: Christopher Halloran

The Kitchen Band

Kravitz’ first musical equipment consisted of pots and pans from the kitchen, which he started using as drums at the age of three. By the time he was five, he knew he wanted to be a musician. After learning the drums, he added the guitar to his repertoire. From very early on he was influenced by music from genres such as R&B, jazz, classical music, opera, and even gospel. He attended his first concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where he saw the Jackson 5 perform. He was eventually drawn in by rock music.

His mother’s acting career took the family to Los Angeles in 1974. Here he was first introduced to rock music as he listened to the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, and Aerosmith. He admits an instant attraction to the genre, not only for the sounds, but for the, “cool style, the girls, and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle”. He attended Beverly Hills High School, where celebrities such as actor Nicolas Cage and musician Slash were his classmates. By 1978 he’d earned acceptance into the school’s respected music program, where he not only had the chance to perform, but also taught himself to play the piano and bass.

Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz & Zoe Kravitz arrives to the “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Los Angeles Premiere in Los Angeles.
Photo: D Free

Three Decades of Success

Kravitz launched his musical career in late 1989 with his debut album. His first album was recorded largely on his own because many recording labels told him he wasn’t the right fit for various genres. He was neither, “white enough”, for rock, nor, “black enough”, for R&B. Kravitz used his family connections to get a foot in the door, and then kicked it wide open with his own talent.

Over the course of his career, his life has gone through numerous periods of transition. He was married at a young age and had a daughter with Lisa Bonet, an actress famous for her role on The Cosby Show. While his musical career took off, he not only ventured into acting, composing, and even fashion design, but he also developed a reputation as a lady’s man. His early stage name of Romeo Blue followed him well into the 21st century, as he dated the likes of French singer/actress Vanessa Paradis and Victoria’s Secret model, Adriana Lima.

His songs, records, and appearances on the big screen have earned him numerous accolades in American culture. He’s been nominated for a total of nine Grammy Awards, winning the award four times in total, for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance (3) and Best Rock Song (1). His acting, composing, and producing haven’t gone unnoticed either. For example, he won a 1993 MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video, a 2002 Microsoft Windows Media Innovation Award, member of Best Cast from the Boston Society of Film Critics’ Awards in 2009, and the NRJ Award of Honor at the 2014 NRJ Music Awards.

A Changed Man Today

Kravitz’ personal life has undergone considerable upheaval over time. His parents divorced when he was young, straining his relationship with his father and alienating the pair from one another. His own marital relationships have struggled under the weight of his image as a womanizer and “God of Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Kravitz didn’t grow up in a religious home, but he’s accepted Jesus Christ into his life more deeply following the death of both of his parents. His mother passed first in 1995, followed by his father 10 years later.

He’s managed to shed his label of Blue Romeo in his latter years. He is not shy in admitting that he has been celibate since 2005, saving himself once again for marriage. He spends his time these days at his Bahamian retreat whenever possible. Located on the island of Eleuthera, a thin strip of land that stretches 110 miles, Kravitz’ retreat offers him the peace and quiet he seeks when not recording or travelling.

It’s difficult to live your life in the limelight, where every move you make is heavily scrutinized. The son of an actress and TV producer, Kravitz was in the public eye from the moment he was born. Nevertheless, he’s managed to build a career on natural talent and transform himself into a “Rock ‘n’ Roll” icon, with a healthy lifestyle.