“It was intimidating. He's just that good. In the studio, we used to play with our bands, or just us, as we both played everything”: Lenny Kravitz on jamming with Prince, having to tell Michael Jackson to stop singing and being blown away by Mick Jagger

As he promotes his new album, Blue Electric Light, Lenny Kravitz has been reflecting on his career and the time he spent working with the likes of Prince, Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger.

In a new interview with Apple Music, Kravitz tells Zane Lowe that he knew Prince “very well”. When Lowe suggests that his new album leans into some of the sounds that the Minneapolis legend used back in the ‘80s, Kravitz is quick to sing his praises.

“He owns the Linndrum,” Kravitz says of Prince. “They were on so many records, by so many artists. But he really took that and it just became part of the fabric of his sound for so long.”

Recalling his memories of Prince, Kravitz says: “He used to call me late, late at night to meet him at a club to go play. You know, just set up and go play. You know, an audience would be there, obviously, knowing that we were coming. Those were really great nights that were just so free and fun. Just going to his house to watch funny movies or comedians - he was really, really funny. He had an amazing sense of humour.”

How was it to actually be on stage performing with Prince, though? “It was somewhat intimidating,” Kravitz admits. “He's just that good. He's just that good. You know, being in the studio with him, we used to play with our bands together, or just he and I, being that he and I both played everything. We’d just go in the studio - I grabbed something, he grabbed something, then I'd go there, and then I'd get on the drums. Then we'd switch guitars and we'd make tracks…”

Tracks, you say?

“Yeah, there's recordings,” Kravitz confirms. “And there's also sorts of things that he would call, you know, sort of ‘mementos’. Like, there's Prince tracks where I'm singing background, and you don't know, and I can't tell you. I'll give you that, but if I played it for you, you'd say, ‘Oh, wow, that's you?’ And it's only me. It's not me mixed with him. It's only me.”

Lenny Kravitz and Prince

(Image credit: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images and KMazur/WireImage)

Elsewhere in the chat, Lowe also reveals that there were times that Prince would pick him up and they would “go see Michael [Jackson] in the studio and just mess with him.” Given that there was always said to be a serious rivalry between Prince and The King Of Pop, Lowe seems slightly taken aback by this - was this dynamic evident when they were together?

“I mean, I don't know about that,” replies Kravitz, diplomatically. “I'm sure there was some kind of, you know, healthy competition, but it was more about having fun and sort of joking around with him. Like, let's go fuck with Michael, you know.”

Kravitz is also happy to discuss the track he wrote for Jackson and co-produced with him. (I Can’t Make It) Another Day was originally recorded for 2001’s Invincible album, but ended up appearing on the posthumous Michael LP (a record that Kravitz now describes as “wack”). 

“He wanted me to write a song for him, produce it,” Kravitz explains. He said ‘you come up with it’. I had a matter of days to do it. I had nothing. And it came, I recorded it, finished the track, played the instruments, got it together. He came in. I wrote the words down for him and I had a dummy vocal on there that I kept playing to him. And he went in the vocal booth and he said, ‘You stop me when I don't do it right’. He’d just learnt the song so, you know, anybody would be not remembering everything. And I thought, ‘How am I gonna push this button and tell Michael Jackson to stop singing?’ But, you know, we got into it. We had a lot of fun. I laughed so much with him. Super funny, and a perfectionist and a gift of an experience.”

Finally, there’s the time Kravitz spent with Mick Jagger. The two men co-wrote and co-produced God Gave Me Everything, from the Rolling Stones frontman’s 2001 solo album Goddess in the Doorway, and when the time came for them to get in the studio together, Kravitz got a glimpse of Jagger’s own levels of perfectionism.

“He came to my place in Miami. I'd written the track. I had a little bit of melody, but I didn't want to finish it because I wanted him to come up with the verses, especially. So I played him the track. I sang him the basic melody, the hook, and he said, ‘OK, I'll be right back.’

“He asked for a pad and a pen, and he went to this little corner of my house for about 30 minutes. Comes back with the words. He's got it. So I said ‘OK, why don't you go in there and do a vocal?’ In his mind, he was doing a dummy vocal. It was just a guide vocal. So he goes in there. And I'm sitting behind the console. He starts singing it. And Craig [Ross, guitarist] was sitting next to me and I looked over at Craig and I said, ‘Holy shit, it sounds like Mick Jagger.’ Like, all of a sudden it was a record. And that was blowing my mind to hear his voice coming through the microphone, into the studio, on this song that we're writing.

“And so he comes out, he kills it. One take comes out. And he says, ‘Yeah, that's cool, but I'll get the real vocal later. And I'm thinking to myself, ‘are you out of your mind?’ That vocal was incredible. Feel, pitch… everything. Rhythm…”

Kravitz goes on to explain that Jagger would return to the studio “day after day after day” in a bid to get the perfect take, until he was finally convinced - after the pair had “got into it a bit” -  that he’d nailed it on his first try.

“Finally after doing it, like, 10 times, he finally gave in. And I thought, ‘thank God’. And that's the vocal you hear on the record. One take. Done.”

Lenny Kravitz’s new album, Blue Electric Light, is out now.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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