Lenny Kravitz's 10 greatest songs, ranked

25 October 2023, 11:01

Age-defying rock god Lenny Kravitz is one of the the most successful rock stars of the past thirty-five years.
Age-defying rock god Lenny Kravitz is one of the the most successful rock stars of the past thirty-five years. Picture: Virgin Records

By Thomas Edward

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Lenny Kravitz = rock god.

With the voice, the looks, the swagger, and the soul to match, Lenny Kravitz has been one of the most successful rock stars of the past thirty-five years.

Still obscenely youthful as he approaches his sixtieth year on Earth, the age-defying rocker has released a total of eleven studio albums, with a twelfth on the way.

A storytelling artist who effortlessly blends rock, soul, funk, blues, R&B, pop, reggae, and even disco on occasion, Kravitz was regarded as the artist who could deftly toe the line between American music legends in Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix.

His mantlepiece brimming with Grammy Awards proves it - Lenny holds the record for winning the Best Male Rock Vocal Performance award the most number of times, including a hot streak of four years in a row between 1999 and 2002.

That's aside from the 40 million records he's sold worldwide since his debut album Let Love Rule hit record shelves in 1989.

With a hefty back catalogue of soul hits and head-bangers under his belt, here's the 10 greatest Lenny Kravitz songs, ranked:

  1. 'Always On The Run'

    Lenny Kravitz - Always On The Run (Official Music Video)

    'Always On The Run' was a collaboration with guitar-slinging rock god Slash from Guns N' Roses, who were in fact old school friends - the pair attended Beverly Hills High School, though barely knew each other before their fame.

    Recalling how the track came together, Kravitz told Rolling Stone magazine how it was a spur-of-the-moment, vodka-fuelled session that brought it together.

    "He had me get a gallon of vodka and a bag of ice, and we went in the studio and bang, there it was. The two of us wrote and cut the tune. I played drums; he played guitar; then I played my guitar, bass and did the vocals."

    "I brought the horn players in and it was done. Then he got on a plane the next morning and went to LA. It was a wild day."

    Kravitz took the title of his 1991 album, Mama Said, from the song's first lyrics: "My mama said, that your life is a gift."

  2. 'Black Velveteen'

    Lenny Kravitz - Black Velveteen

    One of his first forays into disco, 'Black Velveteen' proved that Lenny's hips were as slinky as Prince's.

    Though the song's subject matter was slightly more dystopian, and Kravitz lamented the rise of technology and the demise of human relationships.

    In 2000, he mused: "We give up quickly. Divorce is an easy option. So why not just create your own mate? And synthesize a human being. You get tired of it, you turn it off and put it in the closet, you know, like the vacuum cleaner."

  3. 'Lady'

    Lenny Kravitz - Lady (Official Music Video)

    One of the most rhythmic and infectious riffs he's ever written, 2004 hit 'Lady' was the final time Lenny reached the top thirty of the US Billboard charts.

    'Lady' was the final single and most successful song from his seventh studio album, Baptism.

    Fun fact: the song was reportedly inspired by Kravitz' love affair with ex-girlfriend Nicole Kidman, who dated each other from 2002 to 2003 and were even engaged.

  4. 'Believe'

    Lenny Kravitz - Believe

    Singing about the power of his faith, Kravitz revealed that 'Believe' was about "the power of God, self and positive thinking, which all equates to love."

    The second single from his lauded 1993 album Are You Gonna Go My Way, the psychedelic, soul-searching ballad was a top ten hit in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, hitting the top spot in Iceland of all places.

    In 2018, Kravitz said: "This is a song that represents the way I was raised and what I was taught by my grandfather on my mother's side about belief. He taught me that anything my mind could see, I could achieve."

    The Stanley Kubrick-inspired music video was directed by acclaimed director Michel Gondry, who also directed era-defining videos for Kylie Minogue, Sheryl Crow, Sinead O'Connor, Björk, The Chemical Brothers, The Rolling Stones, and Terence Trent D'Arby.

  5. 'American Woman'

    Lenny Kravitz - American Woman

    Lenny's 1998 over of The Guess Who's female-doting anthem 'American Woman' was recorded for the spy-comedy film Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

    Reinvigorating the 1970 hit with an injection of sex appeal, the song's original writer Burton Cummings congratulated Kravitz personally after hearing it.

    He revealed in a later interview: "I was called by the people making Austin Powers and they simple 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.

    "I was pleased when Burton Cummings called me to tell me how much he loved it."

  6. 'Again'

    Lenny Kravitz - Again

    The only new song to feature on Lenny Kravitz' 2000-released Greatest Hits album, 'Again' ensured it would become the rocker's best-selling album, shifting over three million copies.

    Initially meant to feature on an album of original material, the neo-soul leaning sound encouraged him to release it as a stand-alone single to propel his greatest hits compilation.

    A wise decision - in 2000, he bagged the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for the third year in a row.

    'Again' also reached No.4 on the US Billboard charts, his first top-five single for nine years at the time.

  7. 'Let Love Rule'

    Lenny Kravitz - Let Love Rule (Official Music Video)

    Lenny Kravitz' debut single in 1989 was a rose-tinted throwback to the psychedelic-inspired rock of the late 60s and early 70s, for which he was criticised for initially.

    In a 1998 interview, he recalled: "When I did 'Let Love Rule,' everyone said what a naive piece of sh*t it was. Journalists would ask, 'Don't you feel funny singing about that?' God forbid you sing about love. It's a lost concept."

    The song has very much become Lenny's mantra in life, and the music video starred and was directed by his then-wife Lisa Bonet.

    Inspired by Stevie Wonder, Kravitz said he made his debut album with Wonder's 1973 album Innervisions in mind: "You can hear the reflections of Stevie's voice."

  8. 'Are You Gonna Go My Way?'

    Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way (Official Music Video)

    Arguably the greatest guitar lick he's ever written, 'Are You Gonna Go My Way' was the moment Lenny Kravitz fulfilled his promise as a modern rock icon.

    One of the decade's most memorable guitar riffs, the track saw him channel Jimi Hendrix in a way he'd never done before.

    The song was actually written about Jesus Christ, who Kravitz claims to be "the ultimate rock star".

    'Are You Gonna Go My Way' reached No.4 in the UK, and although it wasn't released as a single in the US, it propelled his 1993 album of the same name to the top 20 of the US album charts, and the top spot in the UK.

  9. 'Fly Away'

    Lenny Kravitz - Fly Away

    'Fly Away' was a resounding worldwide smash for Lenny, becoming his first UK number one hit.

    The effortlessly cool riff and soaring lyrics came to him fairly quickly, after he'd written his 1998 album 5 in fact, but was encouraged to include it by a friend.

    Talking about why the song became so popular, Kravitz said: "People can identify with it, because it's a song about escaping and going to this other world - this other place where things are different."

    He admitted the song doesn't have a particularly meaningful backstory, saying that some of his best songwriting comes from basic ideas.

    Fair point - he won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance because of 'Fly Away', and it became one of his signature hits.

  10. 'It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over'

    Lenny Kravitz - It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

    Heavily inspired by the Motown sounds he'd loved as a youth, 'It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over' is Lenny Kravitz bringing big Marvin Gaye energy to the microphone.

    Gaye would've likely been the only other artist who could've sung this gorgeously heartfelt, orchestral ballad with the same conviction.

    Though, Kravitz didn't want to release it himself, and had Smokey Robinson in mind to sing it as he knew it'd be a massive hit.

    His label convinced him to record it himself, and he later he revealed: "I said: 'I'm not putting that song on 'cos it's a hit.' I wanted to stay underground and give it to Smokey Robinson."

    Safe to say, the song transformed Lenny into a household name after its 1991 release, launching him into global charts, though he wasn't happy about it initially.

    Kravitz realised the song was a smash hit when he walked through the streets of New York City hearing it played out of cars, soon deciding to stop taking the subway altogether as he was consistently recognised and accosted: "It f**ked up my commute," he later said.