The man behind the rocker

Nicole Kidman and Lenny Kravitz are the hottest item on the gossip circuit. Sheryn George profiles the multi-talented, multi-faceted Kravitz.

Shock is the prevalent reaction to the romance between Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman and rock star Lenny Kravitz. On the surface, they seem worlds apart. White girl from Sydney. Black guy from New York.

But examine their lives, and you discover the pair have an enormous amount in common.

Both endured intense media scrutiny when their high-profile relationships broke down; both are devoted to their children; both share close bonds with their families; both have worked enormously hard for their success; and both have remained true to their own vision, regardless of the vast pressure of the entertainment industry to conform.

Although Kidman’s life has been laid bare, leaving her fighting to maintain some semblance of privacy around the relationship, Kravitz remains something of a mystery.

Most know him as a rock musician who had a string of hits in the ’80s and ’90s, but there’s so much more to Lenny Kravitz than his hair, his stomach muscles and his nipple ring.

Lenny Kravitz was born on May 26, 1964, to TV news producer Sy Kravitz and his wife, actress Roxie Roker.

“I grew up in an old-fashioned West Indian family — as well as a Jewish family,” Kravitz says.

“I didn’t realise my Dad was white until I went to school and people told me.

“I knew they looked different, but until I went to school and people started telling me, ‘Your mother’s black, your father’s white’… it was then, all of a sudden, that it became an issue.”

Kidman grew up in Sydney with a strong family background. Father Anthony and mother Janelle are still the people she looks to for guidance and confidence.

“I am still motivated, more than anything, by the desire to make my mother proud,” Kidman says.

Kravitz, too, has strong, traditional family bonds. His grandparents, Bessie and Albert Roker, gave him a dose of strict West Indian values.

“It was know your place, know when to speak, listen,” he says. Kravitz’s grandfather was keen for his grandson, an only child, to remain unspoiled.

Kravitz grew up listening to jazz, rhythm and blues, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Sarah Vaughn and Count Basie. He knew he wanted to be a musician from the time he was three.

He played the drums first, then the guitar. At 12, he sang Mahler with the LA Philharmonic — in a tux, ruffles and his afro.

Kidman, too, knew what she wanted to do from an early age, eschewing regular school and concentrating on forging a career as an actress.

Her life changed forever when she met Tom Cruise and he asked her to test for the lead female role in Days Of Thunder.

When Kravitz was 23, his life exploded into the public eye under similar circumstances.

“I met Lisa Bonet. I was backstage at a concert. She was 19,” he says.

Bonet said at the time: “Everything changed. We were friends for ages. We hung out. We used to pretend we were brother and sister. And then one day I looked at him, and I knew: he was my man.”

When Kravitz and Bonet eloped and married in a Las Vegas ceremony in 1987, Bonet was in the number-one hit on American television, The Cosby Show, and the star of box-office smashes such as Angel Heart. She was, as Kravitz says, hot.

The pair struggled not to let the glare of publicity interfere with their romance. Success finally came at 25 for Kravitz when his father funded his first album, Let Love Rule. He was inspired by Bonet, who co-wrote many of the tracks, and in December, 1988, their daughter, Zoe, was born.

When Kravitz went on the road to promote Let Love Rule, the temptations of success took their toll on the relationship. “I was all over the place,” he says.

Then came his collaboration with Madonna, for whom he wrote Justify My Love, inflaming gossip that the pair were having an affair. His marriage broke under the strain.

“Lisa and I split, and it was a very heavy time,” Kravitz says.

He poured out his heart to Bonet in songs such as It Ain’t Over (‘Til It’s Over), but there was no reconciliation.

It appears Kravitz has grown up and is ready for a committed relationship. He split with Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima earlier this year, about the time he met Kidman.

Neither have spoken publicly about their relationship, but Kravitz remains eager to spread the word on love and peace.

And now, with his second high-profile relationship well under way, more people than ever are bound to hear the man’s music — and his message.

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