Marijuana and rock 'n' roll have become my "diet", writes singer-guitarist in a passage from "Let Love Rule", a new book that traces its first 25 years
Lenny Kravitz's next memoir, Let Love Rule, tells the story of the singer-guitarist's first 25 years of life, until the release of his self-titled debut album in 1989. “This adventurous journey was where I was, me and my voice, ”Kravitz said of the time period described in the book. “Through this experience, love was the force that paved the way and love became my message. "
Let Love Rule will be released on October 6. In this exclusive excerpt, taken from a chapter titled "Zep's Zen," Kravitz describes how the discovery of Led Zeppelin and weed on the same fateful day helped him get on the path to music.
Hip-hop has changed the cultural landscape. But my own personal game changer came in two different forms. These forms collided with my freshman year of college in Santa Monica. I'm talking about rock 'n' roll and marijuana. This combination took me in a whole new direction.
During lunch break, I jumped over a fence and landed in an empty courtyard of a closed church. I was with Shannon Brock, who happened to be half black and half Jewish - only, in her case, her mother was Jewish and her father was black. Our other friend was a half-white, half-Hawaiian kid named Derek. He had a hippie dad who hung out with Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Derek and I enjoyed skateboarding down Lincoln Boulevard to the Lucky Supermarket, where he taught me how to fly. Derek's family barely had anything to cope with. It wasn't for fun. He was putting food on the table. He could fit half a dozen steaks into his pants. I tried to help him, but I was a top amateur. The best I could do was walk out with a box of cookies under my shirt. By the way, mom was crazy about Derek. She saw his soft side. Mom saw the soft side of everyone. While we were on the run from school in the deserted yard, Shannon pulled out a joint, lit it, and passed it to Derek and me. I had tried the weed several times before, but never felt much. For the teenagers of Santa Monica in the mid-70s, smoking weed was like breathing air. I took a puff and exhaled. Still no effect. Shannon told me to hold on longer. I did, and this time something changed. Just as the stampede hit, Derek slipped a tape into his boombox.
It was a while. Maybe the moment. My head exploded. My mind exploded with the sound of the guitar screaming, the crazy voice, the explosive rhythm. I was punched in the ass. I hadn't even heard of Led Zeppelin. I did not yet know the names of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. All I knew was that this music electrified every cell in my body. The mixture of marijuana and "Black Dog" made me soar. The sky has opened. The world has become bigger and more beautiful. I was screwed.
Shannon told me I had to "maintain". Maintain was the word. I had to maintain my height. When I got back to school, I had to find a way to behave in a cool way. It was not easy. When I tried to eat the leftover lamb sandwich Mom made for me, I couldn't chew or swallow. when I got home to attend history class, it was like someone had turned on a giant strobe light. Everything was moving in slow motion. My teacher, Mr. Richards, gave me a pass to go to the bathroom. I splashed water on my face, thinking it might knock me off. This is not the case. I looked at myself in the mirror. I asked myself: "Will I ever get out of this situation?" I made a funny face. I smiled. I laughed. Even though nothing funny had happened, I caught a case of laughter. Then I had a hollow. I could have eaten a mountain of pizza. I returned to class, still high but able to hide it. The first day I got high I learned to maintain, a skill that I will use regularly for years to come.
On the same day and at the same time, I became both a drug addict and a Zep. Before the end of the week, I had bought all the Led Zeppelin tapes. Marijuana and rock 'n' roll became my diet.
Strangely, my father had prepared me for Zeppelin because of the Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsys record he bought when we were still in New York. It caught my ear but it didn't set me on fire. Now, with Zep ringing in my head, I've heard their connection to Hendrix. Hendrix was the source. As it turned out, Band of Gypsys, as good as it was, was a live album and didn't have the seismic impact of Hendrix's studio recordings. I dug deep into Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland. Now I saw how Hendrix opened the floodgates. He was the god of the guitar. Later I learned that Jimi had been influenced by masters like Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Buddy Guy. As a child, however, I understood him to be the genius of the breakthrough. And it doesn't matter that he's been dead eight years. He lived in my head. His rock has rearranged my brain. I couldn't believe its intensity. He put his Strat in tongue, smashed it against the walls of his giant Marshall amps, set the thing on fire, twisted our national anthem in such a way that the song finally made sense.
Hendrix was rightly the hero of all rock 'n' roller. But I had other heroes who weren't accepted by the surf-skate culture of Santa Monica. I loved KISS, but my friends said they were for queers and the group looked like they were wearing Halloween costumes. I didn't give a fuck. In fact, on Halloween I put on my mom's leotard, black tights, wedge boots, hardware chains, and a full face of Gene Simmons' demonic makeup and proudly walked through the middle of the room. school playground.
Everyone thought I was crazy. I thought I was the black Gene Simmons.
I loved how KISS turned comic book characters into rock stars. I liked their theatricality. The androgynous allure of Paul Stanley, his way of singing his bluesy riffs and strutting on stage, combining coquetry and machismo. The screaming guitar solos of Ace Frehley with his custom Les Paul smoking through the pickups. Peter Criss, the cool Catman with his perfect backbeat and levitating drums. Gene Simmons' throbbing bass punctuated by his blood-spitting snake tongue!
I also liked the sophistication and finesse of Steely Dan. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were brilliant musicians and storytellers who created a genre of blues-based jazz-rock all their own. I could love the two most technically accomplished musicians - Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever - and still love KISS. One thing had nothing to do with the other.
Every Saturday I was at the Guitar Center on Sunset, playing all the guitars in sight, strumming all the basses, fingering all the keyboards, hammering all the drums. Sometimes my mother would accompany me and patiently wait for me in front of the store.
I was obsessed with sound, even though I had no idea how to mix the sounds going around in my head. I heard a Stevie Wonder groove, a Hendrix lick, a Zeppelin riff, a Steely Dan Pretzel Logic story. How to put them together? Keep listening. Listen to Bob Marley. Listen to the Eagles. Listen to Phoebe Snow. Listen to the Commodores. Listen to everything.
A lot of my friends come from hippie homes. Hanging out in these bungalows on the beach brought me closer to an earlier era. Their parents were openly doing what we kids did in secret: smoking tons of reefer. Sex was still a long way off for me, but there were groping nights with blonde girls on the beach. Most of my friends' parents were in their thirties, unlike my mom, who was forty-six, and my dad, fifty-one. I would listen to adult hippies telling stories about hearing the Grateful Dead at Fillmore West or the Doors singing "LA Woman" at Whiskey a Go Go. Their vintage posters of Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane and Cream made it feel like that the summer of peace and love was still alive and well.
Unlike back home, dad ruled with an iron fist, the parents of my friends were free and tolerant. And the lack of structure was exactly what I wanted. There we could smoke weed, eat junk food, and watch cable TV for hours. The Z chain was the new thing. We could even take a peek at the softcore porn. Everything is possible.
You could also blast the stereo as loud as you wanted. For the parents of my friends, the louder the sound, the better. Seventies rock, funk and four-way disco. The Rolling Stones, Parliament-Funkadelic, the Bee Gees - I didn't discriminate. Cameo, Average White Band, Aerosmith, Donna Summer, Chic. All great.
Back home, alone in my room, I continued to polish my drumming. I followed Buddy Rich, who was carrying his group of seventeen musicians on his back. Buddy was a crazy techie. I studied all styles - rock drummer Keith Moon, funk drummer Clyde Stubblefield, bop drummers Max Roach and Elvin Jones.
I also heard the comics that provided the laughing trail of my teenage years. My friend Shannon introduced me to Richard Pryor. I put Pryor in the same category as Jimi Hendrix: the best of the best. Pryor was hysterical, but the hysteria ran deep. He revealed everything. He said it all. He opened his bowels and offered them to the world. No one has ever been more vulnerable or more honest. This Nigger's Crazy was my jam. But so were all of Pryor's records. My boys and I could do all of his routines. His characters - Mudbone, the preachers, the pimps, the whores, the alcoholics - were living, breathing people. I brought my father's portable cassette player to school so that we could listen to Pryor in the back of the library. He was taboo, and that made us love him even more.
The kings of high were Cheech and Chong. Mom and Dad never found out I was an addict. So finding out about those junkie comics, especially the ones that made the drugging ritual ridiculously funny, was like reuniting with long lost friends. Shannon, Derek and I knew their routine by heart. Humor helped us get through school.
School was atrocious; if my teachers had made teaching more attractive or applied it to life, I would have been interested. But it was a question of memorizing facts, dates and formulas. I came home with bad grades, and my parents were furious. They insisted that I concentrate. I did not want. Or, should I say, I was focused on other things. I just wanted to get high, play guitar, and rock.
Source : Excerpt from LET LOVE RULE by Lenny Kravitz, with David Ritz. Posted by Henry Holt and Company on October 6, 2020. Copyright © 2020 by Lenny Kravitz. All rights reserved.