An Ode to Lenny

Miles/March 05, 2013

This post would not have happened if my iPod hadn’t run out of juice about 2 miles from my apartment. So on this rainy Tuesday night, I resorted to the radio, and sometimes the radio actually surprises you. You know those times when you turn on the radio at the exact second that one of your favorite song starts? This happened to be one of those times. And it just so happened that the song the radio decided to play was Lenny Kravitz’s 1993 hit, Are You Gonna Go My Way?

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So lets step back and look at this. It’s 1993, in my opinion, the golden age of hip hop. A time where hip hop slowly and more so took the main stream spotlight. Some could say it was the birth of radio rap. A time where the Notorious BIG and A Tribe Called Quest are ruling the urban airwaves. And then you’ve got Lenny Kravitz, an African American artist hailing from New York that isn’t falling under the hip hop umbrella at all. He’s doing his own thing in so many ways.

In fact, once his family relocated to Los Angeles, where he went to music school, his “own thing” just wasn’t enough. With record labels still telling him his music wasn’t “black enough” or “white enough,” Kravitz decided to record an album on his own. Kravitz had met recording engineer/keyboardist/bassist Henry Hirsch in 1985 when recording a demo at his Hoboken, New Jersey recording studio. The two shared an interest in using real instruments and vintage recording equipment, as well as a love of R&B, jazz, and rock. Kravitz would go on to collaborate with Hirsch on most of his albums.

Kravitz began working on his debut album with Hirsch over the next year and a half, with Kravitz’s father paying for the studio time. Kravitz met saxophonist Karl Denson and invited him to play on the song “Let Love Rule.” Kravitz was so impressed with his playing that Denson played on much of the album. Denson toured with Kravitz for the next five years. In October 1988, after completing most of the recording, Kravitz approached friend Stephen Elvis Smith who had served as the Music Supervisor on Lisa Bonet’s spin-off of The Cosby ShowA Different World. Smith had also worked with Kravitz’ mother Roxie Roker on the hit sitcom The Jeffersons. Kravitz urged Smith to manage his career and assist him in finding a record deal. In less than a month of shopping the recordings, five labels (Warner Bros, Elektra, Geffen, Capitol and Virgin) were in a bidding war for Kravitz.

In 1993, Are You Gonna Go My Way was released, reaching number 12 on the Billboard 200 and Kravitz earned a BRIT Award for best international male artist in 1994. The title track won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video for the video produced by Mark Romanek, in which Kravitz slung his dreadlocks and wore high-heeled platform boots. During the presentation of the MTV Video Music Awards, he performed the song with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin on bass. To watch the full music video for Are You Gonna Go My Way, click here.

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Since the release of Let Love Rule, Kravitz has released ten studio albums and is still going his own way. He is a multi-instrumentalist, record producer, actor and arranger, whose unique style (f0r the time) incorporates elements of rock and soul that no one else was using. Besides being a a musician, many call him a fashion icon, often wearing incredible outfits on his live shows and in public life. In addition to singing lead and backing vocals, Kravitz often played all the guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and percussion himself when recording.

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And if you think all of Lenny’s hits were in the ’90s, then you’re wrong. Though he may not have the spotlight like he used to, he still puts out incredible music. The videos below should sell you.

We love Lenny, seriously.

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