Lenny Kravitz says his music remains ‘a reflection of life’ after 30 years
Rocker Lenny Kravitz has put together an impressive resume over the course of the 30 years since his 1989 debut album “Let Love Rule.”
As the winner of four consecutive Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Grammys between 1999 and 2002, Kravitz holds more Grammys in that category than anyone else. He’s sold more than 40 million albums, dabbling in everything from acting to fashion along the way.
But for Kravitz, who returns to Ravinia this Saturday, the process of putting together his 11th studio album “Raise Vibration” was a new one, as all 12 songs that make up the album came to him in his dreams.
“I’ve dreamt music my whole career. But I’ve never dreamt an entire album. So that was a real gift. And a real byproduct of really letting go,” Kravitz explained. “There was no plan for this record. It was really about letting whatever wanted to come through me come through — and it did. It’s a very free album. It was a wonderful experience for me.”
Kravitz has never been afraid to address the world with his music. “Let Love Rule” is, at its core, a simple request to make the world a better place. On the new album, the song “It’s Enough” addresses topics such as police shootings, relations in the Middle East, the environment and more.
“If you had asked me 30 years ago what state I thought the world would be in, I thought we’d be in a much better place — a much more advanced place and a much more evolved place as human beings. And it’s quite interesting, shocking and sad that that is not where we are,” Kravitz said. “‘Raise Vibration’ is a reflection of life — of my spirit, of my views on the world. My personal life, love, politics … We’re living in very trying times, very interesting times, very scary times. So that came out — strongly.”
Over the years, Kravitz had the luxury of both working with and getting to know Prince. With the exception of the album’s brass and symphonic elements, Kravitz played every instrument on “Raise Vibration,” including one of Prince’s guitars, and his friend’s spirit can be felt on the record.
In addition to his music, one of Prince’s most significant contributions to the world was his ability to make it OK to look, dress, speak or act differently. Kravitz has followed a similar path.
“I’ve always been different myself. From the time I came out, they didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t fit into a box. I was black and I was white. I was Christian and Jewish. I grew up between rich and poor. My life was about contrast,” Kravitz explained. “What was wonderful is that I was encouraged to be myself — by my elders, by my grandfather, by people who had taken similar journeys. So that’s all I know. So he was confirmation of that,” said Kravitz of Prince.
Kravitz grew up ensconced in music from a young age. Exposed to jazz by his parents early on, he cites a Jackson 5 concert at Madison Square Garden as a formative experience. As a child he sang with the California Boys Choir and as a student, Kravitz had music in the classroom at Beverly Hills High School.
“The arts are extremely important. They’re a gift. It’s creativity. You have to encourage that creativity. You used to go to school and there was music class. Whether you wanted it or not, it was available. Not everyone has that opportunity anymore,” he said. “Whether you become an artist, musician or actor doesn’t matter. But what you learn from that experience can be so beneficial in anything that it is that you do.”
Chicago holds a special place for Kravitz. His daughter Zoë filmed the movie “Divergent” here and his drummer Franklin Vanderbilt hails from the city’s West side. As Kravitz returns to Ravinia this weekend, he sees “Raise Vibration” as an important extension of a message he established three decades ago.
“It’s just very interesting that here we are 30 years later from ‘Let Love Rule.’ ‘Raise Vibration’ is a book end to that. It’s the same message,” Kravitz said. “It’s always been about love and humanity and unity and equality and spirituality.”
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When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7; doors open at 5 p.m.
Where: Ravinia Festival, 418 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, ravinia.org
Tickets: $90-$100 pavilion seats; $38 for lawn, $43 on day of concert