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Lenny Kravitz adds acting, more to his music career
Lenny Kravitz is in the midst of a transition — from rock ’n’ roller to “renaissance man.”
We know him best as the former, of course. Kravitz has released nine albums — including last year’s “Black and White America” — to worldwide sales of about 40 million. He’s won four Grammy Awards and notched enduring hit singles such as “Let Love Rule,” “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” “Fly Away,” “Again” and a cover of the Guess Who’s “American Woman.”
And even as he branches out, Kravitz acknowledges that “music is my deepest passion.”
But it’s not his only interest these days. The son of an actress (Roxie Roker of “The Jeffersons” fame) and a TV producer (Sy Kravitz), Kravitz is ramping up his acting endeavors.
In 2009 he was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for his role in “Precious,” and he’s part of the cast for the forthcoming adaptation of “The Hunger Games.” He’s also preparing his first photography exhibit for this year, and he operates the Kravitz Design company for building interiors.
“I just love using different mediums to express myself,” says Kravitz, 47, who was named an Officer of France’s prestigious Ordre des Arts et des Letters during December. “It’s nice to have different things to do, creatively. Gordon Parks was a great hero of mine as a kid, and people like that who do a lot of different things. I’ve always loved these ‘renaissance artists,’ as they call them, and I hope I can be seen as one of them.”
Music, of course, remains Kravitz’s primary pursuit, and he’s never been as provocative as he is on “Black and White America.” As the title indicates, race is a significant topic the 16-song set touches on — and from Kravitz’s own perspective as the son of a white Jewish father and an African-American/Bahamian mother.
Growing up, Kravitz spent time on both New York’s Upper East Side and at his maternal grandmother’s home in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, and he says that “race was never an issue to me, although obviously it was all around me. I grew up in a household where I knew my father looked different from my mother, but I didn’t think anything of it merely because my parents’ friends at that time in New York City, which would have been the late ’60s and early ’70s, were artists, musicians and painters and writers and directors and poets, and a lot of those people were dating outside their race or married outside of their race.
“So when people came over, our apartment was full of mixed couples. Some of them matched, but a lot of them didn’t. So it was never an issue to me, and it was never put in my face until I went to through school and other kids saw my parents and made an issue of it.”
The degree of separation became more pronounced, he says, after the family moved to Los Angeles in 1974 for his mother to film “The Jeffersons.”
“People in L.A. were very cliquish,” remembers Kravitz, who attended Beverly Hills High School with future Guns ’N Roses guitarist Slash (nee Saul Hudson) and Lone Justice singer Maria McKee. “If you went to the cafeteria at lunch, the black kids were in one corner and the sort of rock ’n’ roll kids were in another corner and the sort of nerdy kids were in their own corner and the Mexicans were in one corner. ...
“It was really like that, and I would float between everybody because that’s the way I was.”
Because of that, Kravitz — whose parents divorced in 1985 and have both since died — grew up “completely schizophrenic” as a musician, comfortable playing rock and pop, soul and funk, and even some blues and jazz. “I’ve tried to make a record that sort of has one sound throughout,” he notes, “and I just can’t do it. When I go left, I want to go right. When I go up, I want to go down.
“I have so many musical styles inside of me. Growing up, I listened to every kind of music and it’s in me and it’s just the way I am, so the albums always come out like that, all over the place.”
“Black and White America” certainly fits that description, from the hard rock riffs of “Stand,” “Rock Star City Life” and “Come On Get It” to the “old school jam” of “Super Love,” the airy ambience of “I Can’t Be With You,” the psychedelic feel of “Sunflower” with Drake and the reggae overtones of “Boongie Drop,” a collaboration with rapper Jay-Z and DJ Military. It covers plenty of ground — and actually came along and shoved aside another album Kravitz was working on, a “very raw, very funky set” called “Negrophilia.”
“I’m strange like that,” says Kravitz, who resides in Miami but also spends time in the Bahamas and has a 22-year-old daughter, Zoe, from his nearly six-year marriage to actress Lisa Bonet. “At the end of the day, I’m one that goes with the inspiration. So if I’m working on an album and all of a sudden I go in another direction because that’s where inspiration takes you, I’ll just follow that.
“I just figure everything will have its time. You’ve got to treat it like a bottle of wine; it might have been made right now, but it’s not ready for a few years. There will be a time for it where it’ll be exactly where it needs to be. I’m just comfortable working that way.”
Kravitz has plenty of work lined up for the near future, meanwhile. He plans to tour the world “till the end of 2012” promoting “Black and White America,” while he’ll continue working on “Negrophilia.” And he’s looking forward to the highly anticipated release of “The Hunger Games” in March — and to being a continuing presence in the trilogy franchise based on the Suzanne Collins books.
“I really enjoyed that,” says Kravitz, who was not initially familiar with Collins’ books until director Gary Ross tapped him for the role of the competitors’ stylist, Cinna. “I was an actor as a kid; anyone who would have known me then would’ve probably thought that’s what I was going to be doing ... so I’m pretty happy that acting has come back to me. It’s a good time for it to be coming back to me, and I’m hoping to do a lot more of it.
Lenny Kravitz and Raphael Saadiq perform at the 93.9 The River Winter Icebreaker at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Tickets are $25. Call 313-961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.
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