Between the mid-festival cancellation of Bourbon and Beyond last weekend, and the total washout of the Louder than Life festival this weekend, Louisville-area music lovers are missing out on dozens of headlining acts.
One of the few artists that did get to take the stage was Lenny Kravitz, and take the stage he did. Kravitz stormed the soggy scene with an energy that seemed to crackle like lightning even from the very tips of his dreadlocks. Kravitz electrified the audience in a way that makes it hard to remember he’s a 54 year old dad, and he’s been doing this for thirty years.
Kravitz is on the road introducing the world to his latest album, Raise Vibration. It’s his eleventh since Let Love Rule debuted in 1989.
It takes moxie to thrive onstage and off for three decades, and Kravitz has it.
Moxie is being true to yourself and trusting your own process to work itself out.
It’s been three years since Kravitz’s last studio album, and he wasn’t sure it was going to happen.
After wrapping up his last tour, he wasn’t at all sure where to go next artistically. It was a scary time for Kravitz, who told Rolling Stone he’s never felt so adrift musically.
Others began suggesting collaborations and other directions to jump-start the process, but Kravitz has never worked that way. Instead, he hold up in his island home in the Bahamas, and waited for inspiration to come.
Inspiration showed up in the form of dreams. Kravitz began awakening in the wee hours with a song rattling around in his head. He’d rise out of bed and scramble to write it down or record it before it slipped away into the night. The result was Raise Vibration.
“I just had to stop all the noise and I got really quiet, and just stopped,” Kravitz told Billboard. It was beautiful, and I prefer that. I never really sit down to write. I always wait until I hear something, and it’s usually come to me in dreams. But I never really dreamt a whole album. But these tunes just started pouring out, and I just followed instructions, man. It was all about getting what was in my head, what I was hearing in my dreams, recorded as authentically as possible to what I was hearing subconsciously. There was no plan, no design.”
It can be really hard to be true to yourself and your process when others around you are pressuring you to produce. But Kravitz has the moxie to create authentically, and the result is a fresh album with powerful new themes that echoes back to his category-defying debut album.
Moxie is defining yourself.
Kravitz, with his biracial heritage and eclectic style, has always defied categories. His mother was actress Roxie Roker, who was of Bahamian and African American descent and his father was Sy Kravitz, a television producer of Ukrainian Jewish descent. He was raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, surrounded by musicians and artists who shaped his tastes and sensibilities.
“I had a lot of problems in the beginning (of my career) trying to get signed and put (music) out there into the world because people expected a certain thing from me based on the color of my skin. The white people would say, ‘Well, it’s not white enough,'” recalls Kravitz. “The black people at the record labels would say, ‘It’s not black enough.’ So I was caught in the middle, and they didn’t know how to market me.”
Unable to find a label that was ready for his fusion of funk, blues, rock, jazz, and whatever else caught his ear, Kravitz headed to the studio to cut his own debut album. The result was Let Love Rule, which met with moderate success in the US and got a strong reception overseas.
Best of all, 30 years on, Kravitz is still finding an audience for his category-defying sound.
Kravitz certainly could have tried to play to type and fit into a predetermined, marketable mold. He likely would have found even greater commercial success, at least for a season. But he had the moxie to stick to a larger vision than simply fame or fortune; he is an artist focused on creating and sharing his music with the world.
People with moxie don’t always stay in their lane.
Kravitz’s eclectic style isn’t limited to his music. His fashion sense runs the gamut, too. He often turns up on stage or the red carpet draped in ethnically inspired jewelry, a feather boa, leather pants. Even his choice of cold-weather accessories tends to be a little extra – a photo snapped of him wearing an oversized scarf has become a popular internet meme.
It comes as no surprise that Kravitz would snag the role of Cinna, stylist to Katniss and Peta in the blockbuster Hunger Games trilogy.
From style icon to actor to designer in his own right (he’s designed cameras for Leica and has a furniture line coming out), Kravitz has the moxie to cross channels.
If you had the chance to interview Kravitz, what would you ask?