Lenny Kravitz, who was born to a black mother and white father, didn’t recognize skin colour in his own home as a child.
“I grew up in a house full of every colour,” he recalls.
Things changed when he went to elementary school.
“I didn’t know anything about problems until I went to first grade and it was brought to my attention,” the rock singer and guitarist said. “I knew my father looked different than my mother, but I didn’t know that that meant anything. ... I had no idea that it was an issue.”
On his latest album, Black and White America, 47-year-old Kravitz tackles that “issue” as well as what his parents experienced as an interracial couple in 1960s New York. (Kravitz’s mother starred as Helen Willis in the hit television show The Jeffersons in the 1970s and ’80s.)
The Grammy winner’s ninth album, which debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 albums chart last month, was recorded over a two-year period in the Bahamas and Paris.
What stories do you remember hearing from your parents?
They would walk down the street (and) people would spit on them. My father would take my mother to a hotel on holiday and they would say, ‘No prostitutes allowed at the hotel’ — very disgusting things. My father lost his side of the family ‘til I was born. It took them a minute to get it together. But in essence ... none of that bothered them. They were in love and they wanted to be together and that was that.
Talk about the title track on this album.
It’s a very special song to me and it’s obviously got a lot to do with who I am. It’s my story. It’s everything I knew growing up. It’s my parents’ story — being an interracial couple growing up in the time of the civil rights movement. And it’s the story of today — what we’re going through, dealing with race and the fact that we have an African-American president.
How do you think Barack Obama is doing as our president?
It’s a tough gig. I think he’s done a lot of great things and I think that some things are challenging and difficult for him. But I don’t know how it works.