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Lenny Kravitz in Israel

Half-Jewish rocker to make an extended first stay

Adam Chandler
August 16, 2012

There’s a tendency to make a fuss when a big act goes to Israel for the first time. There’s something normalizing about it (even if it sometime signals that a star is in decline and even if ticket prices tend to be offensively high).

I’m happy to put all this on the shelf for Lenny Kravitz who will be making his first trip to Israel in October. The Tel Aviv show will be at the end of his most recent tour and so, word on the street is that he’s going to hang out for a little bit in Israel.

For those who don’t think this is a big deal, I happen to be a recovering Lenny Kravitz fan so I’ll try to convince you otherwise with an embarrassing amount of Lenny Kravitz information. His mother wasn’t Jewish, but his father was. If you really think about it, the probability of a modern rock star with the name Lenny Kravitz seems low. His mother famously starred on The Jeffersons and his father Sy, was a television producer. Lenny Kravitz is actually named for his paternal uncle Leonard who died heroically in the Korean War and was given the Distinguished Service Cross.

Kravitz grew up listening to a combination of rock and soul music and, in some ways, may have embodied the “sense of other” that many American Jews felt as record labels rejected his work for not being either white or black enough. Undeterred, Kravitz struck out on his own, recording an album where he played most of his own instruments, and despite tepid critical reviews, he managed to open for the likes of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Tom Petty.

Kravitz helped write Madonna’s song “Justify My Love,” which was controversial because of its racy video (which was banned) and because it led to rumors of Kravitz having been unfaithful to his wife, actress Lisa Bonet, with Madonna. Kravitz’s break-up with Bonet prompted Kravitz to write the album “Mama Said,” which is one of the most devastating break-up albums of all-time, full of really earnest and shlocky lyrics with really great rock music behind it (including multiple appearances by the guitarist Slash).

Kravitz eventually would go on to blow up with a bunch of songs that he’s best known for now including “Are You Gonna Go My Way” (the riff for which is rumored to be purloined from the Israeli song “Yo Ya”), a cover of “American Woman,” and “Fly Away.” Despite this, most of his songs are heavily about faith (he has two different songs called “Believe”), love, and reconciliation, themes which should play well in Israel. He has an activist streak as well, his songs “Mr. Cab Driver” and “Bank Robber Man” are about race, the latter of which a re-telling of when Kravitz was detained by police in Miami for fitting the description of a bank robber.

Kravitz is calling his trip to Israel “monumental.”

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.