an American latchkey kid raised on too much TV, microwave dinners, and easy answers that never made much sense, I often felt musicians were more like family to me than my own parents. Sad but true. In emotionally disconnected times, the rebellious heroes of rock have a lot more to tell the kids than mom and pop do. For me, there has always been one rock star who led the way through my own trials and tribulations, one North Star in blue jeans and dreadlocks, his creative path mirroring mine as I grew. His name was and is Lenny.
In 1989, I'm 12 years old and way tired of the 60s hair rock that my parents loved so much. I was looking for something new and true to wrap my eager brain around. I found it one day after school, while watching MTV and idly doing my math homework, in the form of a passionate new songwriter named Lenny Kravitz. His heartfelt and realer-than-real invocations of flower power psychedelia were the perfect antidote. This was our generation's Hendrix, and I found more than enough to inspire me on his debut album, Let Love Rule. Lenny was a shaman, all caramel skin and killer threads, and he even dated Lisa Bonet fromThe Cosby Show. They were like a contemporary John and Yoko, and listening to his ode "I Build This Garden for Us" was like getting a private glimpse into their love. Right at the same time, I was working on my own first serious crush. She was a year older than me, but when I gave her a mixtape of Lenny songs coupled with the Beatles originals he had mined for inspiration, she was mine (for a summer at least!) [all the best—Ed.].The best music wears its influences right on its sleeve, and Kravitz led the way for me and tons of kids my age through the hallowed halls of rock history. Don't call it pastiche! What Kravitz is, is a high priest of rock, and his songs are sermons based on hallowed traditions. He pays tribute to his forefathers like John Lennon and Bob Dylan just by writing songs that they would be proud to call their own.Just when the second Summer of Love (1989) was ending and my young eyes were opened to the brutality of the world by the first Gulf War (some things never change), Lenny pointed the way into an edgier era of his own brain.Mama Said(1991) [we are loving short guys with dead moms this month!—Ed.] ushered in the reign of Lenny the screw-it-all rocker. His own illusions about the Garden of Eden having been blown away by the strain of fatal fame, Lenny allowed darker elements into his bitches brew. Blaxploitation horns (exploring his roots as half an African-American) and funky swagger, like a sexy little bantam cock, taught me my own way with the women. Be smooth, forceful, and always respectful above all. The honey-dripping tones of "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over" became the soundtrack to many a makeout session in my parents' trusty basement.(Continued on p. 296)