I once had a friend whose mum worked for EMI. On our first meeting, she told me that, of all the virile rockstars she’d met throughout her career, Lenny Kravitz had the most potent sexual allure.
Watching the videos for some of the tracks below, she wasn’t alone in this belief. The guitarist is never too far from a circle of adoring, half-dressed fans. He’s the kind of rockstar who makes teenagers deprived of any romantic company want to pick up the guitar and start hammering out solos like no tomorrow in an attempt to mirror his talents. In that area, Kravtiz sincerely delivers; solos are the rocker’s bread and butter.
Lenny Kravitz’s journey towards stardom began at an early age. Born to an actress mother and jazz promoter father, the young Lenny spent his formative years listening to blues, R&B and jazz records, the creators of which he was occasionally introduced to. Indeed, it is said that Kravtiz was once sat on the lap of Duke Ellington while he played the piano.
As an adult, it was blues and rock that really caught Kravitz’s attention. Deeply attracted to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, Kravitz explored various avenues into the music world, helping to pen tracks like Madonna’s ‘Justify My Love’ while honing his guitar and songwriting skills on the side.
By the 1990s, Kravitz’s name was synonymous with modern rock production, but it wasn’t until the release of Mama Said and 1993’s ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way?’ that he found success as a musician in his own right. Here, we’ve bought you a selection of the five greatest solos from Kravitz’s discography, some of which were played by the man himself, some of which come from the hands of the various guitarists he worked with over the years.
Five best solos from Lenny Kravitz songs:
‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’ (1993)
Let’s kick off with a classic: Are You Gonna Go My Way, the earth-shaking lead single from Kravitz’s third album. Echoing the fuzz-laden riffery of Jimi Hendrix, this swirling offering sees the musician don his Flying V guitar to conjure up a vintage slice of soul-infused rock. It should be said that the guitar Kravitz uses in the video to this track wasn’t actually used to record the song. Kravitz has never used a Flying V in the studio.
By this time in his career, Lenny Kravitz had made guitarist Craig Ross a permanent member of his band. The musician is allowed to take centre stage in this hit, providing a flanged solo while Lenny delivers the accented stabs beneath.
‘Fields of Joy’ (1991)
This folkish number from Lenny Kravitz’s second album was originally recorded by the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble way back in 1971. It marks a move away from usual high-octane guitar work, leaving room for an incredible solo by none other than Slash.
Kravitz was actually a classmate of the Guns’ N’ Roses guitarist at Beverly Hills High School, but they were never really friends. Slash expressed an interest in appearing on the track just as it became apparent that his original booking, Jimmy Page, wasn’t willing to record with Kravitz. “I couldn’t get him,” Kravitz said of Page, “so I thought Slash’d be the next best cat. He played his ass off on it. Unbelievable. It’s the best I’ve ever heard him play.”
‘American Woman’ (1998)
Never say Kravitz doesn’t take music seriously. The singer was asked to record this cover for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, but it’s seemingly outlived the comedic spy caper on the strength of its solo alone.
‘American Women’ was originally recorded by the Canadian group Guess Who in 1970. In Kravitz’s hands, it’s transformed from a middle of the road Led Zeppelin rip-off into a red hot road trip anthem. During a Reddit AMA, Kravitz explianed how the track came about: “I was called by the people making Austin Powers and they simply asked me to cover ‘American Woman,’ which I thought was odd but I accepted thinking it was an interesting challenge and did my best to change it as much as possible while still respecting the original.”
It Aint Over Till It’s Over (1991)
I defy anyone who doesn’t fall for this slice of mellow Motown from Mama Said. Featuring a rhythmic string section, honey-sweet Rhodes piano and another classic solo from the hands of Craig Ross, this is peak Kravitz.
The beauty of ‘It Aint Over Till Its Over’ is that it’s unlike anything else Kravitz recorded. As the man himself once told Guitar World: “I’ve never been the kind of artist that sticks to one sound. A lot of records have the exact same sounds, atmosphere and concepts throughout. I’ll go from A to Z from one track to the next. The key for a guitar player is to listen, think and ask yourself, How can I compliment this track, and not just take it over?”
‘Rock and Roll Is Dead’ (1995)
Let’s finish on a solo by Kravitz himself. 1995’s ‘Rock and Roll Is Dead’ is another track heavily indebted to classic rock acts like Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. The intensely hooky riff at the core of this offering is made all the more infectious by the pared-back production on Circus, which gives ‘Rock and Roll Is Dead’ a vintage, some might say timeless quality.
The solo that closes this track is a staccato affair bristling with energy. However, Kravitz is careful not to let his guitar work get in the way of the track’s lyrics, which the musician once said can be read as an exploration of spirituality, as well as the toxic lifestyle so many rockstars choose to adopt.