Life & Culture

Lenny Kravitz’ Guide to Family: Advice from the Rock Star

To coincide with the release of his new album Raise Vibration, Lenny Kravitz opens up about his family values

  • TextShannon Mahanty

There is no one quite like Lenny Kravitz. One of the last true rock stars, his charismatic energy and musical legacy spans decades, movements and genres. From the Bahamas – where he recorded much of his new album, Raise Vibration (out now) – to his native New York or his adopted home of Paris, his music is the soundtrack for first dances and first dates across the globe. For every party-starting hit, there’s a song to make sense of the sadness. He fills dancefloors and heals heartbreak.

Born in New York in the 60s, Kravitz was raised in an artistic family who encouraged his creativity from an early age. He released his debut album Let Love Rule in 1989 and, in the years (and albums) that followed, he experimented with rock, funk, soul and blues, teaching himself how to play the guitar, the piano, drums and bass. Adaptive and experimental, Kravitz is a musical chameleon – one who can look back on Grammy award wins, number ones and shows with David Bowie and Madonna. But he can look forward, too: Raise Vibration is multi-layered call to action. In this album, Kravitz proves he isn’t afraid to get angry: the record is potent and troubling, gripping and optimistic all in one. He veers from cutting social commentary to perfect love songs.

While his friends read like a who’s who of rock and roll, (Michael Jackson’s vocals feature on the new album, alongside Johnny and June Carter Cash’s), it’s undeniable that family comes first to the 54-year-old musician. His mother and grandfather have each played a powerful role in shaping the man he is today, while his daughter Zoë has followed in his footsteps, seamlessly balancing fashion and film work with her own musical career, fronting R&B-electropop band Lolawolf. Here, to coincide with the release of Raise Vibration, Lenny Kravitz – the rock star and family man – shares his guide to family.

1. Charity Begins in the Home

“I called the album Raise Vibration, because we’re just not as in tune with each other as we should be, so it’s a call to action. We have to raise our vibration, we have to really wake up. Change starts with you doing something in your own world that is useful and wonderful. As a kid, I’d always talk about doing this or doing that, I had all these ideas, but I wasn’t doing them in the home. My mum always used to say, ‘charity begins in the home’: it’s great to want to go out there and make a difference, but if you’re not doing it right where you live, then what are you doing? You have to act with love and kindness and respect in your world – with your spouse or your friend or your child – and then you can expand it to your neighbourhood and the people around you, your town, your city. All of that has to start from inside.”

2. Find Wisdom in Older (and Younger) Generations

“My grandfather was my father figure. He really instilled wisdom in me from a young age. Him and my mother both promoted talking. If I did something wrong, instead of him spanking me, he’d sit me down at the foot of his bed and we would discuss. And that would go on for three or four hours. To the point where I’d be like, ‘just beat me! This is torture.’ But he was so smart, it was about talking. Why did you do that? Why did you think that was the right thing to do? What was in your thoughts? How were you feeling? And we’d break it down. It was never, ‘you messed up I’m going to punish you, I’m the adult and I know better.’ We always had to get to the root of what I’d done to figure out how to do better. He was a very intellectual man, a self-taught man who never went to school because his father died, his mother was ill and he had four siblings so he had to be the man of the house at nine. He lived on this small island in the Bahamas with no electricity, and that was his life. When he grew up he educated himself, he learned how to read and he bought all these books and became almost like a philosopher. He was always incredibly smart.”

3. Trust Your Mum

“My mom once told me to wash the dishes and put them away, and then she went out. That was my assignment for the night. She gets home at like two in the morning – I’m asleep – and she wakes me up. She says, ‘I told you to wash the dishes and put them away.’ I’m like, ‘I did!’ So she grabs me, leads me to the kitchen and points to the cabinet on the wall where the dishes are. The cabinet was open a tiny bit. She looks at me, ‘close the cabinet. Now you’re finished, go back to bed.’ It seems silly but I hadn’t completed the task properly. That’s the follow through! At the time I was like, ‘Ohhh man, I can’t stand this woman.’ Now I look back and think, thank God I had that upbringing and people who pushed me.”

“Fatherhood changed the person I am. My daughter and I couldn’t be closer, we have an amazing relationship, like my mother had with her father” – Lenny Kravitz

4. Talk!

“Fatherhood changed the person I am. My daughter and I couldn’t be closer, we have an amazing relationship, like my mother had with her father, they were so close it was ridiculous. I’m glad I saw and learned from it. Now [Zoë and I] are both adults it’s such an amazing thing to have, there’s nothing we don’t share or talk about. We confide in each other, we want each other’s opinions. We were on the phone the other day and the next thing you know, two and a half hours had passed. Talking is so important and I don’t think enough parents really talk to their kids and vice versa. It’s got to start when the child is growing up, you have to welcome it, you have to make young people feel comfortable with expressing their feelings.”

5. Realise That We’re All Brothers and Sisters

“Growing up in Brooklyn in the 70s, my grandfather really stepped up, not only for me but for our whole neighbourhood. A lot of the teenagers had never crossed the bridge and been to Manhattan. My grandfather was the guy who took care of everyone whose dads weren’t around. He became the father or grandfather to so many people, he was known as grandpa. He would take these kids to the theatre, to ball games to museums, he’d help the older ones get jobs. Our neighbourhood was the hood, people didn’t have money, so he did his best to educate and expose those kids. I went back to my block recently and some of the same people are still there, they were talking about my grandfather and grown men were saying they wouldn’t be here today without him. He left quite a mark, we have to realise that we’re all brothers and sisters. We we all come from the same source, we are all living on this one planet, this one home.”

Raise Vibration is out now