Lenny Kravitz may be brushing up his big-screen resume (he appeared in Precious last year and plays a key role in the upcoming films based on The Hunger Games), but music remains his first love.
The veteran rocker’s ninth album, Black and White America, hits store shelves both real and virtual on August 30, and as you can tell by his current heavy-rotation selections below, he’s still deeply inspired by an eclectic mix from the past.
“The story is that Shuggie Otis was a Prince-type character who played all the instruments and wrote all the stuff. I think Quincy [Jones] wanted to produce him or something like that. It didn’t end up happening. This is what I hear. So he covered the song with the Brother Johnson, which is the version most people know. But Shuggie is amazing—he had that Prince vibe back then, with the hair and the ‘stache. He gives me a lot of inspiration now. I just love his sound and his songwriting.”
“This is from an album called The Source. There’s a photo of a beautiful woman on the cover, and the record company didn’t put him on the cover because they said he wasn’t attractive. He’s been the inspiration for a lot of legendary female jazz singers. He sounds like a woman, but he’s a man. I just can’t get over his phrasing; it’s so beautiful. A friend of mine first played this for me, and it was just mind-blowing. I couldn’t get over it–it’s the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard. I put this on at the beach and just lose it.”
“I’ve been listening to a lot of Serge Gainsbourg lately. I live half the year in Paris, and I’ve always sort of loved him. You get the reggae mixed with Serge and it’s a great combination. People either get him or they don’t get him. It’s almost like Dylan in a way. My French is limited, but I look at the lyrics and get people to explain things. Of course, I don’t get the full meaning, but anyone who is French will tell you he is the lyricist.”
“The lead singer’s name is Steve Arrington, but the group’s called Slave. The song called “Watching You.” It’s a great track. Great group. I’ve been really digging the late ’70s sound. This has almost a disco vibe, but it’s still super funky.”
“I have a basement in my house in Paris that looks like an old underground Parisian club—I have candles and old chandeliers, and old f–ed up furniture from the flea market. We go down there to escape and drink wine. I have a turntable down there with old JBL wooden speakers, and this is my favorite record to play down there. I put it on and we just collapse. Kenny Burrell is a great jazz guitarist—I actually knew him when I was a kid. He was friend of my parents. My fantasy is to go away for a couple years and just disappear and play jazz; go find an old blues man, someone like Kenny and say, ‘Let’s go to Brazil for a year and stay up in the mountains somewhere and just play guitar.’ There is so much I want to do and learn. You get a little held back by this whole thing. You want to keep learning and doing but you’re touring and doing other things, which is great too. It’s artistically satisfying as well, but it’s a lot to catch up on.”
“That just puts you in the mood. Not to do [drugs], though! But it just drops you into a place. I never got to work with him, but I would go see him at S.O.B.’s when he would play ten, fifteen years ago. He’s a major influence on the funk. CNN says all the time now that the revolution will be televised, because of all the iReporting stuff. It’s funny to see him referenced on CNN as a slogan.”