When Lenny Kravitz says he has been celibate for a time, whether it's four months or (now) four years, a measured skepticism may be in order. Reporter Chris Heath brings that skepticism, however briefly, to a 5,500-word profile of Kravitz for the Telegraph.
Like Bruce Cockburn, Little Richard and Prince, Kravitz readily mixes images of Christian piety and sexual yearning. (Consider this video for "Believe in Me.")
Heath remembers what Kravitz said to him 16 years ago, when Kravitz was embarking on his music career:
Discussing a new song, Come On and Love Me, he told me it was about 'God and sex and guilt', and explained what he meant with detailed reference to how the Ten Commandments were sent to quell the children of Israel's confusion, and what Christ's death means when it comes to following God's laws and how human nature betrays us. He added that he believed it was wrong to have sex without being married. 'Obviously,' he conceded, 'I break the law. I don't like to, and I ask for forgiveness, and I try not to do it as much as possible. I'm just like, "God, forgive me."'
Kravitz says his earlier claim to celibacy was unfounded:
'But I wasn't being celibate then at all,' he clarifies. 'It took years to get it right. To actually do it, and really try to walk the walk and not just talk it. It's not like it's not important -- I think sex and intimacy and all that is very important. It's just that I'm going to do it with my wife.' He laughs. 'And not everybody else.'
This summer, not long after he turns 45, it will be four years. The final trigger came after a night in the Carlyle Hotel in New York. (His apartment was under renovation.) 'I was doing my normal thing and I was with somebody, and I remember waking up in the morning thinking, "What am I doing?" It's not that I was all over the place. It's not, like, groupies or somebody you'd pick up on the street. I didn't carry on like that. It was somebody that I know. But it was still, "What am I doing? And why?" And that morning I was just talking to God, as I do, and I said, "You got to help me to stop this. I just really want to stop this." And that was the day that it changed.'
Kravitz is especially moving as he describes the longstanding tensions he experienced with his father, Sy, a TV executive who was unfaithful to the singer's mother, Roxie:
One day, during the break-up, his father sat down with his mother and Lenny. His mother asked his father, 'What do you have to say to your son?' Kravitz expected some kind of apology, or at least some kind of explanation, for the cheating. Instead, the words his father said to his son, looking him in the eye, were something else altogether. Awful words, it seemed, for a father to tell a son. Words that he would struggle to shake off:
'You'll do it too.'
'It took me years to realise how powerful that was. There are things called word curses. You talk to Bahamians out here and if you say something, they'll say, "Don't put word on me." And it was a word curse when he said to me…' -- Kravitz thumps on the table between us to punctuate each word of his father's curse -- '... "You'll ... do ... it ... too." If you go and look at his history, his dad did it, he hated his dad for doing it. And then he passed the buck to me. He kind of handed that to me. And I had to wrestle with that.'
Heath lets Kravitz talk at length about his father's nonobservant Judaism, and his conversion shortly before his death.
I do not know what to make of this latest incarnation of Kravitz. I had to search for some time to find a timely video that did not depict him in a sexual moment. Still, he talks like a man who has struggled with a besetting sin and prevailed. In any case, Heath has achieved a rare thing: A lengthy profile of a rock star who speaks with regrets about his sexual history.