Lenny Kravitz's mother, Roxie Roker, was an actress most famous for 'The Jeffersons,' while his father, Sy Kravitz, was a producer for NBC
Lenny Kravitz is the son of two Hollywood powerhouses.
The "Fly Away" rocker is the son of Roxie Roker, an actress best known for portraying Helen Willis on Norman Lear's classic sitcom The Jeffersons, and NBC producer Sy Kravitz. Growing up in New York before moving to Los Angeles for his mother's work on The Jeffersons, his parents fostered Lenny's love of music, taking him to concerts from the Jackson 5 to Duke Ellington.
Plus, self-proclaimed "mama's boy" Lenny said he knows his mother Roxie would be "very proud" of his daughter Zoë Kravitz, whom he shares with ex-wife Lisa Bonet and has become an actress in her own right, starring in films like The Batman and Divergent and series like Big Little Lies and High Fidelity.
"She's her own person with her own identity, and it's a wonderful thing to see," he told PEOPLE in 2020. "I know that my mother is very proud of her — not just her accomplishments, but her behavior, her attitudes, the way she has done what she's done and the kind of human being that she is."
Lenny's mother Roxie died of breast cancer in 1995, while his father Sy passed away in 2005.
So, who are Lenny Kravitz's parents? Here's everything to know about Sy Kravitz and Roxie Roker.
Roxie was a groundbreaking actress best known for portraying Helen Willis on The Jeffersons
Lenny's mother Roxie Roker was an actress best known for playing Helen Willis on the long-running, Norman Lear CBS sitcom The Jeffersons. While Roker was in an interracial marriage in her personal life, she was also part of one on-screen: Roker and her costar Franklin Clover, who played her fictional husband Tom Willis, were among the first interracial couples shown on primetime television.
Roker also had roles in series like Roots, Punky Brewster, Murder, She Wrote, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Additionally, Roker was a distinguished theater actress, winning an Obie Award and being nominated for a Tony for her role of Mattie Williams in The River Niger.
In his 2020 memoir Let Love Rule, Lenny wrote that Roxie was raised in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, by her father Albert Roker, a Bahamian immigrant, and her mother, who was born in Georgia and worked as a domestic. Roxie graduated from Howard University as a drama major with honors before studying at the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-Upon-Avon and joining a theater company in Copenhagen.
Lenny was very close with his mother, writing that "Mom was and is my heart." When he was little, he explained that Roxie "introduced a game where she became a character named Ruff Ruff, a magical dog."
"Ruff Ruff wanted to hear whatever was on my mind, all the bad things that might have happened during the day, all my fears … Ruff Ruff always understood me," he wrote. "Roxie Roker was a gifted actress, mother and empath who understood how to combine all three roles."
Sy was a television news producer for NBC
After starting as a page, Sy Kravitz worked his way up to become a journalist-producer for NBC when he met Lenny's mom Roxie, Lenny wrote in his memoir. Before his career in news, Sy was an Army Green Beret who served in the Korean War and remained in the Army Reserve after he returned to the United States. His parents, Joe and Jean Kravitz, resided in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, in a Russian-Jewish community.
Lenny wrote that his father shared the family's love of the arts, but this creativity was usually tamped down by his army training.
"He loves music, especially jazz and theater," Lenny wrote. "He has his artistic side, but it's overpowered by order and discipline."
Sy and Roxie married in 1962, welcoming Lenny in 1964
Sy and Roxie met at 30 Rock, where Roxie supported herself being an assistant to a high-ranking NBC boss while performing in Off-Broadway productions on the side. In his memoir, Lenny wrote that Roxie was initially suspicious of the relationship because Sy had been married before to a woman named Erika and wasn't close with his two daughters, Laurie and Tedi; to win her affections, Roxie encouraged Sy to form a relationship with them.
The couple married in 1962, with Lenny adding that "Dad's parents, heartbroken that their son is marrying a Black woman (and a gentile to boot), refuse[d] to attend." Ultimately, he said, it took "my birth to bring them around."
The couple welcomed Lenny on May 26, 1964. He was named for Sy's younger brother Leonard Kravitz, who died in the Korean War at 20 years old while sacrificing his life protecting his platoon. For his service, he was ultimately awarded a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor.
Al Roker is Roxie's second cousin once removed
Turns out, Lenny has another famous relative: NBC weatherman Al Roker. Roker is Roxie's second cousin once removed — her father, who's also named Albert Roker, is cousins with the journalist's grandfather.
"All I know is I'm going with it," Al said at the time. "Kids think it's cool!"
His parents encouraged his love of music
In his memoir, the musician shared that his parents shared a love of soul music, including Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Curtis Mayfield. When Lenny was six years old, Sy took him to a Jackson 5 show at Madison Square Garden, which further encouraged him to become a musician.
"Michael [Jackson]'s soulful, angelic voice soared," he wrote. "It was surreal. I jumped out of my seat. This was the best moment of my life."
When he was seven, Sy bought Lenny his first guitar, a Yamaha acoustic. Lenny wrote that Roxie, on the other hand, loved hearing him sing along to Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train to Georgia" and sent him to the Harlem School of the Arts for guitar lessons when he was nine.
Lenny and his father had a turbulent relationship
But Lenny and his dad didn't always have the best relationship. In his memoir, the "It Ain't Over 'til It's Over" singer detailed his dad's reaction to Lenny falling off his bike in Central Park.
"I started crying — and Dad got angry," Lenny wrote. " 'If you don't stop crying,' he said, 'I'll give you something to really cry about.' … Instead of consoling me, he grabbed me by the arm and rushed me home. When we got there, he told Mom that she had a crybaby for a son."
Their "epic" fights, which Lenny attributed to his dad's strict military discipline, continued throughout his childhood until he left home at 15, after Sy wouldn't allow Lenny and best friend and drummer Dan Donnelly (now known as Zoro) attend a Buddy Rich concert.
Sy and Roxie divorced in 1985, which had a profound effect on Lenny
Lenny and Sy's relationship continued to deteriorate, coming to a head when Lenny discovered his father was having an extramarital affair when Lenny was in his early 20s.
In Let Love Rule, Lenny detailed overhearing his father on the phone with his mistress, with his father reported to have said, "Baby, baby. I can't hide the last $50,000."
Lenny realized his father was funding his mistress' lifestyle with his mother's acting money. From there, he flew to the Bahamas to tell his mom about the affair in-person.
"At that moment, I saw something I'd never seen before," he wrote. "I saw my mother's face crack and her soul fall to the floor. I watched the life drain from her body. She became an empty shell."
Roxie confessed that this wasn't the first time Sy had cheated on her. In the beginning of their marriage, she said she'd often visit his girlfriend's house with baby Lenny in her arms, asking for Sy to come home.
When the two confronted Sy, his father didn't deny it, only telling Lenny, "You'll do it too." Sy and Roxie ultimately divorced in 1985.
"It was the most horrific thing he could have said," Lenny told the New York Times in 2020. "Those words burned through me. It's taken me my life to deal with. In that situation? Tell a lie. My mother thought this was his moment to say: 'Son, this was horrible. This is wrong, and I hope you learn from this.' The kind of thing you'd see on Leave It to Beaver. He said, 'You'll do it, too,' grabbed his bag, and walked out the front door. It couldn't have been better directed."
Roxie died in 1995 at 66 years old
Roxie Roker died on Dec. 2, 1995, of breast cancer. She was 66 years old at the time of her death.
Lenny paid tribute to his mother in his 2020 memoir Let Love Rule, telling PEOPLE "I was a mama's boy."
"She was a woman who never spoke badly about anybody, even if they deserved it," he said. "At her funeral, late actor Brock Peters said, 'If Roxie met the devil himself, she'd say to him, "What a lovely red suit." The whole place burst out laughing because that was my mother. She's going to find the positive thing that she can say or do in any situation."
Lenny went on to share that, even though it's been over 25 years since her passing, he thinks of his mother "every day."
"I have her pictures around, and there's always a big portrait of her in my homes, wherever I am," he said. "I know that I wouldn't be here if it weren't for her and all those who came before me."
Sy died in 2005 at 80 years old
Sy Kravitz died on Oct. 29, 2005, of leukemia. He was 80 years old at the time of his death.
Before Sy passed away, he and Lenny mended their relationship, with Lenny ultimately writing "A Long and Sad Goodbye" about the experience.
"I think he had a spiritual awakening [on his deathbed]," Lenny told Piers Morgan in 2011. "He made mistakes, he wished it wasn't the way it was, he wished he could change it, but didn't know how. He just admitted it and it was beautiful. From that moment on — he lived another month — it was the best month of our lives and it made up for everything."
In 2020, Lenny moved to his mother's native home of the Bahamas
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lenny relocated full-time from Paris to his property on the 112-mile-long Bahamian island of Eleuthera, which he purchased in 1989. The country is the birthplace of his grandfather, Albert Roker, and home to most of Roxie's family.
After childhood trips visiting Nassau with his mother, Lenny recalled visiting Eleuthera for the first time with then-wife Bonet.
"We pulled into Hatchet Bay at midnight. I didn't know where I was," he told Travel + Leisure in 2019. "I woke up in the morning, and realized I had arrived home — and I never left."
Lenny is passionate about bringing visitors to the country, becoming a Bahamas tourism ambassador in 2019 and even helping to design the famous Baha Mar Resort on the island of New Providence. His music is heavily inspired by the country's culture, including junkanoo, a celebratory style of music created by the enslaved descendents of Africans for holidays and other celebrations.
"I've recorded several of my albums [in the Bahamas]," he explained. "'Fly Away' was recorded there, at the famous Compass Point Studios in Nassau. That song was written in the car, driving my daughter to school one morning along the beach."
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