It’s been 30 years since Grammy Award-winning musician Lenny Kravitz released his debut Let Love Rule—an album that fused psychedelic, rock, funk and soul as much as it riffed on the blues. But it’s the deeper message about love that still resonates with the 55-year-old artist who now calls Paris home.
“The lyrics still matter to me. In fact, I think the songs haven’t dated at all. They’re as relevant as ever,” says Kravitz while on a world tour with his band playing those hits from ’89 and songs from his most recent (and 11th) studio album Raise Vibrations.
Kravitz was living on Broome Street in New York City in 1989 when he began writing Let Love Rule. He noticed the words scrawled near an elevator in his building and thought it would be perfect for the album title. His then wife, actress Lisa Bonet, helped him write the lyrics for ‘Rosemary’ and ‘Fear’. “It’s hard to believe that album is now 30 years old,” says Kravitz. “On one hand it feels like yesterday, but when I look at it, so much life has been lived in that time. Time is an interesting thing. It’s hard to grasp.”
Kravitz, who has just written a song titled ‘Here to Love’ for the United Nations’ Fight Racism campaign, says the world should be in a better place than it was in the late ’80s, but he’s saddened by the reality.
“Love is always needed, but if you asked me if the world would be a better place back then I would have said absolutely, the future would be much brighter. But here we are and it’s not that great for a lot of people, and whatever we have, we still need to stand up strong because the planet is at a major crossroads,” he says, citing environmental and racial concerns. “We’re about to hit a wall. Look at how we’re treating ourselves, how we’re treating each other and the planet. The planet might get us before we get us. [For] the majority of the folks, it’s about greed, power and business. It’s not about love, self-care, unity and community. It’s about fear. All of these things that we have been talking about like love—it’ll always be relevant.”
Kravitz is an optimist and says love will save the day and he’ll keep pedalling that message through song for as long as he can.
He has scored four consecutive Grammys for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance between 1999 and 2002 and co- wrote songs for Mick Jagger and Madonna. He’s had plenty of chart success over the decades and away from music has dabbled in fashion too; his most recent campaign was in 2019 for travel and lifestyle brand Tumi, which saw him return to the Bahamas—the birthplace of his maternal family—with his daughter Zoë.
“I still have that desire, that hunger and burn for music and creativity just as I did when I was in high school, and that’s a great thing to still have at my age."
Away from his rock ’n’ roll party lifestyle, Kravitz has found his niche in interior design too. He works with architects to create luxury residential buildings for those with big budgets and bigger aspirations.
He launched Kravitz Design in 2003 with a devoted team and a head office in New York to help steer this magnificent mothership. From lavish Hollywood Hill interior makeovers to luxury New York apartments, his design work is hitting the right note with his fans and those who aspire to enter his world of luxury.
While he’s not about to trade his sex god image for a tonal colour palette just yet, you can’t help but feel that there’s a brooding sensuality in his interior design work that leverages his demigod rock status.
He says his interest in interior design began as a child. “I have always had an interest in homes and decorating them. When I was a little boy, around five, I had to have my room a certain way, the lighting had to be right and I was particular about the furniture in there,” adds Kravitz, who also has homes in the Bahamas and New Orleans.
Born and raised in New York, he lived with his maternal grandmother in Bedford-Stuyvesant before relocating to Manhattan’s elite Upper East Side with his parents until he relocated to LA at 11. The move was prompted when his actress mother got a starring role in the sitcom The Jeffersons.
“In New York City I was obsessed with the architecture, especially the French homes around Madison and Fifth Avenue. I also loved going into my parent’s friend’s big apartments and checking them out,” he says. “We lived in a one-bedroom on the Upper East Side; my parents slept on a pullout sofa bed and gave me the main room. It had to be perfect.”
His mother, Roxie Roker, was an actress on Broadway, while his father, Sy Kravitz, worked for NBC producing radio and television shows and promoted jazz on the side. He recalls a childhood spent meeting his dad’s friends from Miles Davis to Sarah Vaughan and American poet, activist and writer Maya Angelou. His mother was an African-American with Christian values, while his father was Jewish-American. Kravitz. He never aligned to any particular religious faith and has always described himself as a spiritual person.
When his parents split in 1985, Kravitz turned to music to heal his pain.
“I still have that desire, that hunger and burn for music and creativity just as I did when I was in high school, and that’s a great thing to still have at my age,” says Kravitz. “I think I have become more patient as I have gotten older. There is more calm in how I react to things, but I still look at life as a trip, an incredible journey and I have become more comfortable with it as time has gone on.”
It was while living in LA and attending Beverly Hills High School (with notables such as Nicolas Cage and Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses) that Kravitz discovered rock ’n’ roll, taught himself how to play bass and piano, and pursued his dream of becoming a rock star.
By 1989 Kravitz signed with Virgin Records. Let Love Rule did better in Europe than in the United States, which got him thinking Paris might be a nice place to live.
By 1990, he co-wrote Madonna’s huge hit ‘Justify My Love’ with Ingrid Chavez and in 1993, he and Bonet got a divorce.
The rocker, who gave us hits like ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’ and ‘American Woman’, is also planning to spend more time painting. He’s passionate about photography and showed his design sensibilities as creative director for Dom Perignon last year, citing Philippe Starck as the reason he wanted to explore design work in the first place.
“Interior design is my world now and even when I’m on a world tour, my team come with me. It’s non-stop working,” he says of his latest project, 75 Kenmare, on the corner of Manhattan’s NoLita neighbourhood.
The one-and two-bedroom apartments are where a slice of downtown cool comes with a high-end price tag for those who want luxury cranked to 11. If you have USD7.5 million lying around, you too can enter into Kravitz’s idea of rock star chic meets restrained beauty.
As far as his Paris home goes, it’s all you’d imagine it to be and more. He let British Vogue in for a stylish peek. Kravitz had converted an entire building—an eight-bedroom apartment filled with photography, artworks (yes there’s Basquiat, with whom Kravitz hung out in downtown NYC in the ’80s) and plenty of tactile velvet couches for intimate moments. “My home is my sanctuary; whether you’ve got a massive home or a small apartment it all comes down to knowing how to style it, how to get personality in there.”