Music That Makes a Difference 2018

Music That Makes a Difference 2018

CNN Music & Art

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson

CNN Music & Art

Eddie Van Halen donates guitars to public schools

Eddie Van Halen

CNN Music & Art



The one fact I know in this world is that cool people listen to Lenny Kravitz. And if your social status is in question, there’s a revolution underway that you need to know about. I’ve been on board since high school, but this is my first time to experience the man and his music in person. The Santa Monica Civic Center is just a few blocks south of the Third St. Promenade and a short walk up the hill from the pier. Kravitz is kicking off his world tour here in the town he calls home — he went to junior high just up the street. Lenny has always wanted to play on this stage. The venue is intimate and made for getting your groove on. It’s Southern California, so the place smells like a cross between expensive perfume and pot.

The lights dim, the texting stops and the screaming begins. Wearing designer black from head to toe (including dark shades), Lenny grabs the mic. “Good evening,” he says. “I don’t need anything except love.” With that, attitude starts burning from his guitar and Kravitz’s head bobs and weaves to the music.

His first few songs are off the new album, It is Time For a Love Revolution. No one had heard them yet, but everyone wanted to again. Then, as he shifts from the new stuff to the classics, he performs each jam with encore enthusiasm. In addition to singing, he plays five instruments: electric and acoustic guitar, drums, keyboard, and, finally, piano, as he sat alone and slowly hit the keys to his new song “I’ll Be Waiting.” The crowd sighs as the melody melts hearts all around. The words assure us that eternal love is possible, even if it’s for the one that got away. “As long as I’m living, I’ll be waiting,” Kravitz sings purely. “I want to be with you, until I’m old… please come home.” His voice squeaks as he misses the high note. Kravitz shakes his head in obvious pain. He’d spent the week before in bed with a nasty fever, and his illness had begun to get the best of him tonight. He finishes the song then says in an exhausted voice, “I’m giving you all I’ve got.” The crowd roars with support and Kravitz soldiers on. It’s a testament to his talent as 3,000 people fall in love with the revolution.

Kravitz’s last album was released in 2005, and there’s a lot of anticipation leading up to the new music. This CD is worth the wait – Rolling Stone calls it his best ever. But so far, the media blitz behind it (so crucial to an album’s success) is off to a rocky start. Sickness (Kravitz was eventually hospitalized with severe bronchitis) derailed much of the pre-tour publicity. In fact, his doctor got in the way of my interview with him. Instead of talking, we had to exchange questions and answers by writing everything down. Lenny’s 104-degree temperature even kept him from rehearsing with his band. Saving his voice was the biggest priority.

The beauty of Kravitz is that he has a sound all his own. Not many musicians do these days. Each riff from his guitar and each note out of his mouth are unmistakably his. Kravitz is in the minority as a top-selling artist who also produces his own music. In these days of Timbaland and Mark Ronson, it’s quite a feat for Kravitz to write, arrange and perform all his music. He’s a retro-rocker that mixes soul, funk and blues creating a unique polish on his records. “I’ve always been someone you couldn’t put into a category,” he says. “I’m able to play a lot of different styles of music and blend them. I’m not limited. My music is my music. I don’t know how or where it fits. It’s just my music.”

It was 20 years ago when Kravitz first gave the music scene a hug with Let Love Rule. Now he’s back spreading the same message with his eighth studio album. “We’ve all got our voice. And if I have this gift to play music, then I’m gonna talk about love,” he says. Kravitz has seen his fair share. He’s a famous ladies man, and was once married to actress Lisa Bonet. He’s subsequently been linked romantically to Naomi Campbell, Madonna and Nicole Kidman. But these days, Kravitz has changed his tune a bit. The prowl has become less important as he looks for something much deeper. In fact, Kravitz claims he hasn’t had sex in three years, but finding a committed relationship is still obviously on his mind. On the new album, Kravitz sings about tying the knot again in “Will You Marry Me?”

Lenny may not have a face to go with that proposal – yet, but in the meantime, he’s certainly engaged to his music and his message. For two decades he’s been preaching the gospel of love. At this point in his life, however, even Lenny Kravitz needed some inspiration. He found it in an unlikely place. Last summer, Kravitz almost quit the industry to live life like his South American ancestors did in a secluded Brazilian jungle. After headlining Al Gore’s Live Aid concert in Rio de Janeiro, he uprooted his life and took up residence at a remote farm complete with parrots, monkeys and waterfalls. He brought only enough clothes for a week, but ended up staying four months. “I reconnected with knowing that God gives you everything you need,” he says. “I came back with a fresh outlook.”

It led to poignant songs about family, war and religion – especially in the beautiful ballad, “A New Door.” Kravitz offers hope to those living in pain and fear, saying God can help you find a new path. When it comes to the war in Iraq, he gets angry. In “Back in Vietnam,” Kravitz looks at the parallels between those dark military days in the 1960s and what’s going on in the Middle East today. “We will never be able to change things and improve things unless we decide collectively, as a global community, that we’re not down for the way things have been going on,” he says. “It’s about love, understanding, communication and so forth – for ourselves, for our environment, for the whole thing.”

Kravitz is spreading his words of wisdom through his music, and his new crusade starts with the concert in Santa Monica. With his upper octave gone, he asks the crowd for help, and a chorus of far-off falsettos fills the auditorium: “And once you dig in, you’ll find you’ll have yourself a good time,” we sing. Kravitz feeds off the participation and we appreciate his determination. As the show winds down, he rips off his button-down and underneath is a t-shirt with the words “LET LOVE RULE” printed in block letters. He begins singing his breakthrough hit and then the audience takes over singing in rounds. Lenny walks off stage and onto the dance floor. Security follows closely as the crowd parts. Kravitz takes pride in the power of the people. Some give him high fives – I pat him on the back as he walks by.

The revolution is not complete without a kick-ass encore – first the title track to his new album: “Love Revolution.” The mass-moving, feet-stomping, shout-it-out-loud anthem says all the world needs is love to be a better place. “It is time for a love revolution,” he sings. “It is time for a new constitution.” The band jams then transitions into the galvanizing “Are You Gonna Go My Way.” A rockin’ ending for a guy who’s always done it his way. I admire his talent, applaud his independence in an industry that often rewards style over substance (here’s a guy who has both), and I have now confirmed that there’s nothing cooler than Lenny Kravitz on a warm Southern California night.

Written by: Ben Bamsey

One Comment

  1. Max Eternity says:

    Excellent article!

    I have appreciated Kravitz’s mastery of the lyric and his creative stylizations of sound–acoustic and electronic. Ben Bamsey really captures the spirit and imagination of Lenny Kravitz–a complex, soulful, energetic rock artist who has stood the test of time, becoming a living classic many moons ago.

    Kudos to you Ben for creating Eklektx, a much needed, free-spirited, music magazine–a vital, new presence on the web that’s informative, seductive, sensual–very, very hot!



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