“Johnny Cash has kept me when my mother died’
Lenny Kravitz has always worn his influences with pride, including the classic rock of Led Zeppelin and the socially-conscious soul of Marvin Gaye.
It is not so entirely devoted to, surprisingly, a song, Johnny Cash on his last album, Raise the vibration.
But the gorgeous, slide-guitar-backed ballad conceals a deeply personal story of grief and compassion.
It starts off as a pretty red love-song with Kravitz singing, “I need your love in every way,” before it takes an unexpected turn in the chorus,
“Hold me Johnny Cash / If I were my mother lost,” the star sings. “Whisper in my ear / just like June had.”
“It is strange,” says Kravitz. “It is also a little strange to me. And I know what it is.””Humanity and love”
The musician tells how a chance, circumstance meant that Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash, the only people were there, when he found out that his mother is Roxie Roker had died in 1995.
Roker was a star in her own right – playing half of the TV, the first inter-racial couple in the long-running CBS series, The Jeffersons.
She and Kravitz were exceptionally tight, but he was on tour, when she was seriously ill with breast cancer at the age of 66 years.
As soon as he could, the singer flew to California to be at your side. Because he had no house in Los Angeles at the time, he was with producer Rick Rubin, who was working with Johnny Cash on his album American Recordings II: Unchained.
“I have a plane from Tokyo and I immediately went to the hospital,” Kravitz recalls. “My mother was alive, but she was slipping.
“I thought that you had perhaps, a couple of days [so] I went home to shower and get something to eat.
“I’m going back to the hospital, but when I went from the hospital to the house of Rick, my mother passed on.
“I got the call when I was in the house, and I’m standing there with the portable phone in my hand, just take this and Johnny and June are the stairs to walk down.
“So Johnny said to me: ‘Hi, you’re back. How are you?’
“And I said: ‘My mom just died’.
“I was a bit fazed by it and out of it. And the two of them came to me and surrounded me and held me. The two of them.
“We were friends for life. I didn’t know for so long. We have been roommates. But she decided in that moment [to treat] me as you treat someone in your family.
“It was a beautiful moment of humanity and love.”
Kravitz says that he will never write with the intention, on the meeting – but the Text and the melody for his song came to him in a dream.
“I heard the melody I heard the music, but I don’t understand why, I was always the words ‘Johnny Cash’,” he recalls.
“It’s obviously something, what influences me and has been sitting in my mind.
“They were nice, real people – and I think this might have been the last time that I was comforted.”
The song is on the Vibration Increase, the this Friday. Two days later, Kravitz is playing on the Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park, next to Kylie Minogue, Carrie Underwood and Rita Ora.
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