In a recent video, Lenny Kravitz cast himself as a hard-living, substance-abusing, wild-child rocker whose life is unraveling behind the scenes.
While Kravitz insists he’s never lived that stereotypical rock life, he has been at the point of breakdown. “I was going through a depression,” says Kravitz, who kicked off a nationwide tour this month. “But you know, you work it out, you deal with it, you figure out and I’m here now and I’m great.”
“I was just going through a time where I had to deal with certain issues in my life.”
“Issues” are the focal point of his latest album, “Baptism,” which touches on themes like depression, frustration and burnout — all of which started to overwhelm Kravitz a couple of years ago, when he was on tour.
“This album is about getting through all that. Feeling spiritually reborn, musically reborn, mentally reborn, just getting through,” says Kravitz, who turned 40 on May 26.
From the outside looking in, it’s hard to see why Kravitz would have a reason to be depressed. He’s dated models and actresses (including Nicole Kidman), has enjoyed a best-selling recording career, and stays on the celebrity A-list as rock’s perennial hipster.
But Kravitz scoffs at the idea that his life is charmed.
“People are people. It doesn’t matter what you’ve got or what position you’re in, we all have issues in life, spiritual battles ... all kinds of things that need to be nurtured,” says Kravitz.
Giving himself a breakOne of the ways he’s tried to nurture himself is to stop being his biggest critic.
“I’m a perfectionist and very hard on myself — constantly standing outside of myself and looking and critiquing and judging, and sometimes you’ve gotta just ease up,” says Kravitz. “That’s the part about learning to love yourself. We’re all a work in progress.”
Kravitz wishes others would also ease up. Ever since he made his debut with the album “Let Love Rule” in 1989 with it’s mix of R&B, funk, and psychedelic rock, Kravitz has been labeled a recycler — someone who borrows the styles of others. Even though now Kravitz arguably has now developed his own sound, critics still charge he sounds like some other act — Prince, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, etc.
The subject brings out a rare display of emotion from the typically low-key musician.
“You can put on any classic group that they hail as classic and genius, whether it be the Beatles or Jimi or Led Zeppelin, and I can sit there and pick apart their influences just as hardcore as they pick mine,” he says.
“I can say that lick came from Willie Dixon, the bluesman, or that song is exactly a rip-off of this, or the Beatles right there were doing Motown, or Jimi got that guitar lick and style from Curtis Mayfield, or the Stones were trying to be Muddy Waters.”
So why does he think he’s been criticized?
“I’m a black man in rock ’n’ roll, first of all, and the only one right now, and the only one for a lot of years, and I play all the instruments, I write it, I do it,” he says. “I’m good at what I do, and it’s been told to me — it’s not coming from my mouth — it’s just a lot and people don’t want to believe it’s real.
“If I was white, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation about these critics. I’d be sliced bread. But that’s O.K. And I am half-white,” he jokes about his biracial heritage.
Don't even bring up the tabloidsThe only other time during the interview when Kravitz gets heated is when talk turns to the tabloids. He’s been a frequent fixture there recently, especially with his high-profile romance of Kidman last year.
“They lie, they do things, they follow you around,” he rants. “I’m not looking for the attention. If you catch me coming out of a restaurant or out of a house and shoot my photo, there’s not nothing I can do about it.”
Still, he manages to laugh he’s asked about his playboy image.
“I like the ladies, but I’m definitely looking to settle down and be with one,” says Kravitz, the divorced father of a 15-year-old daughter (actress Lisa Bonet is his ex-wife).
“There’s been people I’ve been with, a couple of them that were the right person. I still know that they were but I wasn’t ready, or they weren’t ready, but it was the right person.”
While he still may be looking for love, he’s no longer searching for happiness — he’s managed to find peace within himself.
“I’m just trying to at this point of my life glorify God the best way I can,” says Kravitz. “I’m very appreciative of God’s blessings.”