excerpt from Lenny Kravitz´s interview with the UK Telegraph´s Chris Heath, 2009: “….Sixteen years ago, we talked a fair amount about Kravitz’s emotional life. His first album, Let Love Rule, had been written while he was married to the actress Lisa Bonet, one of the stars of the sitcom The Cosby Show. They had a young daughter, Zoë, but by the time I visited they had been separated for some time and were soon to be divorced. (A Swedish model called Helene was here with Kravitz in Eleuthera (in the Bahamas) then, a fact I was encouraged to ignore.) He described to me how everyone is striving for love. ‘Because it’s the nicest feeling there is. We all seem to be striving for it like a motherf***er. Like fish swimming upstream.’ But he also said that not long ago he had gone four months without having sex. Discussing a new song, Come On and Love Me, he told me it was about ‘God and sex and guilt’, and explained what he meant with detailed reference to how the Ten Commandments were sent to quell the children of Israel’s confusion, and what Christ’s death means when it comes to following God’s laws and how human nature betrays us. He added that he believed it was wrong to have sex without being married. ‘Obviously,’ he conceded,
‘I break the law. I don’t like to, and I ask for forgiveness, and I try not to do it as much as possible. I’m just like, “God, forgive me.”’
I mention this old conversation to Kravitz as we sit in the near dark after our tuna, because it seems to prefigure his more recent history. Over the years Kravitz’s public reputation has been somewhat that of a lothario. Though at least two longer-term assignations – with the Brazilian model Adriana Lima and the Australian actress Nicole Kidman – were said to be heading towards marriage, he has remained single. Then, last year, he let it be known that he had been celibate for the previous three years, and had resolved to remain so until married. It was only when re-reading my notes of our earlier encounter that I realised it was an issue that had long preoccupied him.
‘But I wasn’t being celibate then at all,’ he clarifies. ‘It took years to get it right. To actually do it, and really try to walk the walk and not just talk it. It’s not like it’s not important – I think sex and intimacy and all that is very important. It’s just that I’m going to do it with my wife.’ He laughs. ‘And not everybody else.’
This summer, not long after he turns 45, it will be four years. The final trigger came after a night in the Carlyle Hotel in New York. (His apartment was under renovation.) ‘I was doing my normal thing and I was with somebody, and I remember waking up in the morning thinking, “What am I doing?” It’s not that I was all over the place. It’s not, like, groupies or somebody you’d pick up on the street. I didn’t carry on like that. It was somebody that I know. But it was still, “What am I doing? And why?” And that morning I was just talking to God, as I do, and I said, “You got to help me to stop this. I just really want to stop this.” And that was the day that it changed.’
Had the other person left by then?
So you were lying there thinking this?
Presumably you didn’t bring it up. It’s not great morning talk.
‘No, it was just a personal thing.’
Can you put your finger on what, at that moment, seemed upsetting about what you had been doing?
‘I knew it was not consistent with my beliefs. So that’s hypocritical, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite. And I could just feel the emptiness… it didn’t feel good. The feeling afterwards. Just that empty sort of… weird space. And I’d had enough.’
You knew there and then that this was a decision you would stick with?
‘Yeah. It’s very hard. For some periods of time it’s easy, and then it’s really hard. It goes back and forth. It’s not hard just walking through life, and you see women, and I admire them – I love being around women. But if you’re seeing someone, you’ve got to explain, “Well, this is what I’m doing in life – so that’s not going to be part of it.”’
When I ask him if he is in a relationship he says, ‘Right now I’m just kind of sailing and watching and waiting and trying to be patient. There are times when I’m patient and there’s times when I’m, “Come on, Lord, bring this for me…”’
Kravitz of course comes from a country where people are more open to those who will say, as he does, ‘I really do use Christ as my example and try to live this life and not just bullshit with it.’ The modern British cake-and-eat-it way is simultaneously to query the rationality of someone’s faith, but then also to scrutinise their consistency in living up to it. When it comes to the religious declarations of American entertainers there is a tendency to treat these less as an expression of deep belief than as one more kind of insincere celebrity affectation. But I don’t think there’s a chance to even begin understanding Kravitz without understanding the seriousness of his faith. (And, whatever his complexities and inconsistencies, four years without sex is a fairly emphatic emblem of seriousness.)
Kravitz did not grow up in a deeply religious environment. His father’s family were Jewish, but his father was a non-believer. His mother was Christian but not, he seems to suggest, in any intense way back then. When he was 13 he was at choir camp – he was in the California Boys Choir and performed regularly with the Metropolitan Opera – and found himself sick in the infirmary with another boy, the son of a minister. ‘He was telling me about God, asking me if I knew about God and if I knew about Christ. We were in there for a couple of days, really talking about it, and I don’t know if we were praying or talking about it at that point but this energy came in the room. It was that kind of thing where you felt the intensity and you felt the heat. And we both felt the same thing because both of us were crying. There wasn’t anything sad or anything. This thing we were feeling… tears were streaming down my face. It was a really strange experience. I know the presence of God just came in the room and touched me. That’s really the simple explanation. And I knew that’s what it was, and he knew that’s what it was.’
After that, he started going to church – ‘I think my dad thought I was a little strange,’ he recalls – and his faith has endured. About 10 years ago he got a large tattoo across his shoulder blades. It reads, ‘my heart belongs to jesus christ.’ Like most tattoos, it was a message to himself. ‘I just wanted to have this tag on me,’ he says…..”
- Lenny Kravitz´s account of his decision to be celibate reflect what would seem to be a drastic decision motivated by religious guilt. However, further perspective is contained in additional material from the same article, “One day, during his parents´ break-up, his father sat down with his mother and Lenny. His mother asked his father, ‘What do you have to say to your son?’ Kravitz expected some kind of apology, or at least some kind of explanation, for the cheating. Instead, the words his father said to his son, looking him in the eye, were something else altogether. Awful words, it seemed, for a father to tell a son. Words that he would struggle to shake off:’You’ll do it too.’
‘It took me years to realise how powerful that was. There are things called word curses. You talk to Bahamians out here and if you say something, they’ll say, “Don’t put word on me.” And it was a word curse when he said to me…’ – Kravitz thumps on the table between us to punctuate each word of his father’s curse – ‘…“You’ll… do… it… too.” If you go and look at his history, his dad did it, he hated his dad for doing it. And then he passed the buck to me. He kind of handed that to me. And I had to wrestle with that.’ Wrestle with the fact that his father would say such a thing, with the fact that such a thing had been placed in his head, and with the fact that yes, he, too, would sometimes come to act this way.”
In the OP, Kravitz mentions, “what Christ’s death means when it comes to following God’s laws and how human nature betrays us.” What factors do you think help you evaluate an issue like sexually healthy behavior?
2. Kravitz had an experience as a youth with the son of a minister that involved his and their feeling something that he described as an intense energy and “the presence of God.” How do you understand his experience?
3. The original article also refers to Kravitz´s non-believing culturally Jewish father who was sick with and dying from leukemia when he had an unusual visionary experience of impending death and a conversion to God through Christ, with a further heavenly kind of vision. Thoughts?