Connecting With Lenny
Rock music wasn’t allowed in my home growing up. All “outside music” was banned. Choral, Opera and Gospel were the only genre’s allowed as that’s what I sang in school and at church. Being in a mil-brat/preachers kid had a lot of restrictions.
That changed in 1991.
The ARMY sent my mother to Africa due to the Gulf War and my stepfather to Italy due to him trying to leave the ARMY for good. That meant my brother and I were adopted for the time being by our next door neighbors, the Martinez family. Puerto Ricans from New York, the father an ARMY beret who flew helicopters, they weren’t the type to keep an eye on children all day. So I had plenty of “me” time during the summer. I decided to get to know MTV and VH1.
And get to know them I did.
MTV taught me that roaches talk (Thanks Joes Apartment!), Spring Break is a little scandalous (that one chick who came out dressed as a fireman only to strip down into a white thong swimsuit) and that WU-TANG Clan “ain’t nuthin’ ta fuck with!”. VH1 had me covered with “Baby Baby” by Amy Grant and pretty much all videos by GunsNRoses, which I always thought was a great name. Cliché? Eh, who cares.
Lenny’s video “It Ain’t Over” was just another video in the lineup. His voice was nice and gentle compared to a lot of the screaming of the other artist in the same genre. (I’ve later found he has a nice “yelling voice” as heard in “Fly Away”). I didn’t see him as any different, just another artist expressing himself. Then the mother of all songs from that year hit the tv: “Smells like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. I wasn’t heavily into Rock or this new thing called Grunge but I knew how I felt whenever I watched this video and heard this song. There was definitely something there, my spirit was touched and I had a lot of questions.
Turns out, I wasn’t the only one with questions.
Nirvana was making the news nearly every night on every channel. This new thing called “Grunge” was either exciting people and / or upsetting them. I was excited even though I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it. So I watched the news to learn more. One night, after doing a cover story on Nirvana, the next story was about a black woman who wanted to get a record deal but no one would hire her. Why? She told the reporter the industry told her “black rock artist do not sell records”.
Hmph. Odd considering I can watch a Sevendust video, a Living Colour video, a Lenny Kravitz video between VH1 & MTV and see perfectly they are black artist. Maybe it helps to be a man in this business (I found out later it does) but those artist are selling something or they wouldn’t be on television. The idea of racism mixed in with music never dawned on me as I never saw a race category in music. I HEARD differences in the way people would sing and sound but never related it to race.
Fast forward several years. You are reading the writings of a pissed off woman.
Finding out that people are separated thanks to this lovely idea from Tavistock, an institution in Europe who deemed it necessary to keep “blacks in 2 main categories” while “whites did everything else”, this idea is what’s wrong w/ the industry. Finding out about Lenny’s background, heritage and how that has blessed AND hindered his career really opened my eyes to the shadiness of this business.
I didn’t know Lenny was mixed. How could I unless he told me? I saw a black dude, yes, that’s correct. I didn’t see a “black singer”, a “black rock artist”, I saw an artist that was a black person. His sound had nothing to do with “being black” (and yes, I know what people mean when they say “act black” and you know what that means as well). I didn’t see anything wrong with his singing, the genre he was in or the way he dressed. (You know what I do find wrong? That GWAR shit and anything else in the thrash metal category. I don’t understand your words! You are slurring horrendously all over the place! I’m trying to give you a chance but you just won’t let me!)
Lenny’s message was clear. He wanted to Let Love Rule. Ok. Seemed simple enough.
Turns out, it wasn’t.