"Love is what the whole world was put here for us to do love God, love each other and enjoy," enthused Lenny Kravitz in December 2001. The chilled-out musician who plays most of the instruments on his records has often been accused of being retro, but he also comes across as refreshingly sincere in an increasingly cynical world.
Leonard Kravitz was born in New York on May 26, 1964, to Bahamian actress Roxie Roker of The Jeffersons
and Russian-Jewish TV executive Sy Kravitz. Growing up, he had the best of both worlds, spending weekdays in the wealthy Upper East Side where his parents lived, and on weekends heading to his grandmother's house in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, which was a much rougher part of town.
From the age of five Lenny knew that he wanted to be a musician his formative years were spent listening to rhythm and blues and jazz, courtesy of his father, who was a freelance jazz promoter in his spare time and his mother encouraged his dreams, even sitting him on Duke Ellington's lap while the jazz legend tickled the ivories.
In 1974, the family upped sticks and moved to Los Angeles, where the ten-year-old Lenny immersed himself in the West Coast music scene. He sang in the California Boys Choir with the Metropolitan Opera while teaching himself the guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. It was while he was a pupil at the famous Beverly Hills High School whose alumni include Nicolas Cage
, David Schwimmer
and Angelina Jolie
that he realised that he wanted to be a pop star. "I was attracted to the cool style, the girls, the rock'n'roll lifestyle," he later admitted.
On leaving school Lenny, profoundly influenced by David Bowie
, adopted the name of Romeo Blue, and began making music in the style of Prince. But the record companies were not interested in him in that persona, and told him they would only sign him if he changed his style to fit the mainstream black music scene. Romeo Blue was eventually consigned to the dustbin and the dreadlocked musician headed back to the East Coast, where he met and fell in love with The Cosby Show
actress Lisa Bonet.
At the start of 1989, Lenny was signed by Virgin, about the same time that his second career of producing records for other people he twiddled knobs and co-wrote Madonna
's X-rated Justify My Love
and his first album, Let Love Rule,
was released at the end of the year. The album, which relied on antiquated recording methods, such as vintage tube amplifiers, was a hit in Europe, although it took time for Lenny to hit paydirt in the US.
Suddenly the handsome singer was flavour of the month, with household names queueing up to use his production talents among them, Vanessa Paradis, Mick Jagger
and Aerosmith. He found success with albums such as Mama Said
and 1993's Are You Gonna Go My Way?
, but it wasn't until 5,
in 1998 that his motherland truly embraced Lenny's talents as a superstar. The single Fly Away
earned him a Grammy, and was used as the soundtrack to a car advertisement. It had taken him years to shake the "Mr Lisa Bonet" tag, but finally Lenny had proved his detractors wrong.
Lenny, who has houses in Miami and New Orleans as well as a shack on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, is no longer with Lisa: the couple divorced in March 1991, after six years together. He has a daughter, Zoe, born in 1988, from that union, who lives with him in Miami. He makes no secret of the fact that he is looking for his soulmate who will have five children with him, and has dated the likes of Madonna, Vanessa Paradis
, Natalie Imbruglia
, Devon Aoki, Kylie Minogue
and Nicole Kidman