Wonderland.

LENNY KRAVITZ

Read the full cover interview for Man About Town’s Winter 2018/Spring 2019 issue.

Robe TRIPLE RRR Trousers and necklace LENNY’S OWN

Robe TRIPLE RRR Trousers and necklace LENNY’S OWN

An annotated short story about love and grief, featuring an all star cast.

Lenny Kravitz thought he was alone when he heard the news his mother was dead. His mother, the actress Roxie Roker, had been fighting breast cancer for some time. Kravitz returned from a month’s tour of Japan that morning, visited her in hospital, then headed to the LA home of producer Rick Rubin, where he was staying, to eat, freshen up and change. By the time he got there the hospital had called. She was gone.*

*It is 1995, six years after the release of Kravitz’s debut album Let Love Rule. He is the winner of four consecutive Grammys; a megastar, recognized the world over, even in dreadlocked silhouette. Aside from his own hits – ‘It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over’, ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’, ‘Rock And Roll Is Dead’ – he has written for and worked with Madonna, David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson (“He gave me a great compliment, probably the best compliment I ever got. He said he hadn’t had that much fun [in a studio] since Quincy Jones”). Divorced from the actress Lisa Bonet, he has one daughter, Zoe, and a charmed life in which it’s difficult to imagine sadness playing a part.

Kravitz sat the foot of the stairs and wept. His mother’s love and influence had been inestimable. In one of his fondest memories, she had taken him to see James Brown perform at The Apollo Theatre when he was just seven-years-old.

“That was it. I was done. I knew I was going to make music. Did I know I’d be able to, or be good at it? No idea. But I knew I loved it”. This was just one lesson in a lengthy and spectacular education. When he was growing up his mother moved in celebrated circles. The young Kravitz sat on legendary laps.

Shirt TRIPLE RRR Trousers LENNY’S OWN

Shirt TRIPLE RRR Trousers LENNY’S OWN

“At 5 years of age I was sitting on Duke Ellington’s knee while he played piano. I was hanging out with Miles Davis. I was hanging out with Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald and Maya Angelou. I didn’t know who they were or what it meant, but I was around them. I felt it. I listened.”

As Kravitz cried, he heard a door open behind him, upstairs.**

**Kravitz’s body of work – eleven albums over three decades – is testament to an extraordinary range of influences, from funk to reggae to soul to the jazz of the greats who’d sing to him on his birthdays as a boy. But his first love remains rock, a sound and style that seeped into his blood as a teenager in 1970s LA, where it prevailed, and where his high school classmates improbably included the actor Nicholas Cage, and Guns ‘n’ Roses’ guitarist, Slash.

Kravitz turned to find two familiar faces coming downstairs towards him. The faces were old and lined, kneaded and twisted into living artifacts of another time. They were familiar to Kravitz not because they were friends, but because they were familiar to everyone. They were Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Cash and Carter were icons, over half a century into careers that shaped American culture. Now ailing, Cash was there recording his haunting final records with Rubin, adding last length to the tall shadow he cast over music. And here they were, all that history and wisdom soaked up inside them, chancing on a young man who’d found himself stranded on the precipice of grief.

“Down come Johnny and June. And they said:
‘Hey Lenny, how are you, what’s going on?’
And I said.
‘My mom just died.’
Cash and Carter threw their arms around the young man they only really knew from hearing his records on the radio, and closed the door.***

Jacket SAINT LAURENT Necklace LENNY’S OWN

Jacket SAINT LAURENT Necklace LENNY’S OWN

***While restless in genre, all Kravitz’s music is bound by odes to the necessity of these human moments: calls to arms for love, compassion and unity. But in three decades as a recording artist he has watched society shift and divide, in recent times further from his message than he ever could have imagined.

“We are living in some amazingly trying times. If you were to ask me 30 years ago when I said ‘Let Love Rule’ the first time where we’d be now, I would have thought we’d be in a much better place and that we’d have evolved more.”

His new record, Raise Vibration, emerges in the wake of Charlottesville, and after America’s first black president, with profound dignity, handed the keys to the Oval Office to a man who’d spent years questioning his birthright because of the colour of his skin. On tracks like ‘It’s Enough’, Raise Vibration catches the heat of the fire in Kravitz’s belly, though the flames have been there all along.

“It’s always been my thing. Like on ‘Mr Cab Driver’ on my first album, that’s about racism. On ‘Does Anybody Out There Even Care’ I’m talking about people being lynched. The world goes generally in one direction, of not being compassionate, of not showing humanity. War. Greed. Power. But there are so many of us who know that it’s about love and that love is the answer and that that’s our main key to survival. So even though if things are going on one direction, I don’t get fazed by that. I don’t become cynical. I’m always on the side of love.”

In that moment, with his life changed irrevocably, love was what Kravitz needed most. And this is what Carter and Cash gave to him.

“It was just the three of us. The two of them just surrounded me, grabbed me, held me, in this beautifully amazing way. Especially for people that didn’t know me that well and weren’t family, they just completely took this opportunity to have this human moment for someone that they felt compassion for, and sadness for, and wanted to support me and saw, clearly, that no one was around.”

(LEFT) Trousers LENNY’S OWN
(RIGHT) Top BALMAIN Sunglasses LENNY’S OWN

Trousers LENNY’S OWN
Top BALMAIN Sunglasses LENNY’S OWN

They spent the evening this way: crying, talking, holding. Afterwards, lost in the fog of grief, Kravitz’s memories of this night faded. His mind did what minds do with loss, smuggled him away from it, so that he may survive. He would not recall it clearly for over twenty years, until he needed Cash and Carter once more. And it would come to him in his sleep.****

****The new record appeared in a series of dreams, and they came just in time. When he’d sat down to write Raise Vibration, he’d been alarmed to find his muse hadn’t turned up.

“I still feel like I did when I was in high school making music. I still feel the magic. It’s wonderful. I’m not jaded, I’m not over it, I’m not tired of it. If I went to the studio right now, I’d be amped. I’m all about being creative. [But] because you’re in front of an open road, starting this album was difficult for me. I wasn’t sure which way to go. And, so what I did was I had to stop for a minute and do nothing and get quiet and listen. And that’s when these dreams started.”

It woke him. A noise. He rushed to his home studio before the dream began to splinter. In it he’d heard the chords, and a melody swirling, which he wrote down as quickly as possible. Making Raise Vibration had been difficult to this point, but here it was pouring out of, or rather in to, him. Something was filling him up, but he did not know yet what. He only heard the lyrics “Johnny Cash”.

“I was like, Johnny Cash what? Why? But, as I was writing it, I realised I’d gone back to this moment that I hadn’t thought about in so long.”

And it became clear. As with the death of his mother, Kravitz was struggling to come through a difficult time personally. A relationship had ended, and he’d been the cause. Now he was trying to win the woman back, and what he needed more than anything was her compassion, compassion of a magnitude he’d experienced only once before. It suddenly came to him in a song, called ‘Johnny Cash’ that would become the album’s giant heart.
“As the chorus says – ‘just hold me like Johnny Cash when I lost my mother/whisper it in my ear just like June Carter’. And so, somehow, my heart, my spirit, remembered the last time that I was consoled in a way that was so monumental like that. So that’s what I’m singing to his person. Hold me like Johnny Cash.”*****

*****Love, unity, compassion. While in the real world they wax and wane, in Kravitz, and his music, they remain a constant force.

Lenny Kravitz covers Man About Town Winter 2018/Spring 2019. Watch the behind-the-scenes video and the issue is available to pre-order below.

Jacket SAINT LAURENT Trousers and sunglasses LENNY’S OWN

Jacket SAINT LAURENT Trousers and sunglasses LENNY’S OWN

Jumper SAINT LAURENT Trousers LENNY’S OWN

Jumper SAINT LAURENT Trousers LENNY’S OWN

Jumper SAINT LAURENT Trousers LENNY’S OWN

Jumper SAINT LAURENT Trousers LENNY’S OWN

Blanket MANDKHAI Trousers LENNY’S OWN

Blanket MANDKHAI Trousers LENNY’S OWN

(LEFT) Scarf SAINT LAURENT Trousers and necklace LENNY’S OWN
(RIGHT) All clothing LENNY’S OWN

Scarf SAINT LAURENT Trousers and necklace LENNY’S OWN
All clothing LENNY’S OWN

Man About Town – Lenny Kravitz from MARIANO VIVANCO on Vimeo.

Photography
Mariano Vivanco
Styling
Way Perry
Words
David Whitehouse
Grooming
Ali Pirzadeh @ CLM using Burberry
Set design
Trish Stephenson @ CLM
Production
Mariano Vivanco Studio
Photography assistants
Al Habjan, Gabor Herczegfalvi, Matt Davies
Digital technician
Cavit Ergensoy
Styling assistant
Conor Bond
LENNY KRAVITZ

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