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Lenny Kravitz looks back at recording Madonna's 'Justify My Love' 30 years later

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Lenny and Madonna = HOT!!!! I love him and everything he said about Madonna and "Justify My Love" in this interview. I may have to buy his book!

Lenny Kravitz looks back at recording Madonna's 'Justify My Love' 30 years later

It was 30 years ago this week that Madonna’s racy, Jean-Baptiste Mondino-directed “Justify My Love” music video made its television debut, on ABC’s Nightline, after it had been rejected by MTV the week before. Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment while promoting his fascinating new memoir Let Love Rule, Lenny Kravitz, who cowrote the trip-hoppy track with former Prince protégé Ingrid Chavez, still finds it amusing that the artsy clip, which featured fetish imagery and partial nudity, generated so much controversy at the time. But he marvels at how his savvy friend turned what could have been a career setback into a groundbreaking marketing opportunity. “Justify” went on to sell 5 million copies in the U.S., and it still holds the record for best-selling video single of all time.

“The video was banned, which when you look at it now, you wonder why,” says Kravitz from his Bahamas home. “It looks very light now, you know, but it was beautiful and sensual and gritty, a beautiful black-and-white film. And since MTV banned it, [Madonna] decided to sell the video [on VHS, for $9.98], and each video counted as a single. … I remember people being lined up around Tower Records, around the block, to get this video of Madonna, and the thing went No. 1. And it was No. 1, globally, for I don't know how long. It was enormous. In fact, it was her biggest hit at that point in her career.”

Kravitz was just getting started in his own career at that point — his debut album, also titled Let Love Rule, had come out the year before and had peaked at No. 61 on the Billboard 200, mostly on the strength of college radio airplay. And his friendship with Madonna, which had developed while touring that record and hanging out in the European club scene, was still new. Yet he already had the confidence to know that “Justify My Love,” despite not seeming like a typical pop single (and certainly not like a typical Kravitz song), would be a mainstream smash. And he had the confidence to try to talk Madonna into recording it herself.

“It was super-sexy and hard at the same time. I just felt it. I just knew that there was something very special about the track and the minimum quality, because it was so minimal. Just a gut thing,” Kravitz muses, revealing that he is sitting on his own unfinished version of the song, which he might release someday.

“I was working on some demos, and ‘Justify My Love’ came up and I loved it, but I knew it wasn't for me,” Kravitz recalls. “I thought it would be perfect for Madonna. So I called her and I said, ‘I have a No. 1 song for you.’ And she said, ‘No, you don't.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I do. … Where are you? I'll bring it over.’” That very same day, in New York City, Kravitz found himself standing in front of Madonna, “Justify” demo in hand. (The demo included Kravitz’s moaning guide vocal, which ended up on the final version and can be better heard on an amusing fan-made, isolated-vocal YouTube video.)

“She said, ‘Put it in. Go ahead.’ And I put it in the cassette deck, turned the console up to 10, and out it came,” Kravitz recalls of the fateful Madonna meeting. “And the whole room got really quiet. And it ended and she said, ‘Play it again.’ I pushed play, played it again, and she said, ‘Let's record it.’ And I think we started the next day.”

Kravitz, who has always maintained and he and Madonna never dated, gets a sly grin on his face as he recalls the “Justify My Love” recording session — and it seems he’s saving its juicier details for a possible second memoir. “It was just the two of us and my engineers, and it happened in one day. It was very quick. And, uh, there are details about that session that I cannot tell you, but it was fun. It was fun — and very sensual,” he says coyly. “Just know that it was all very authentic.”

Kravitz’s Let Love Rule book instead focuses on his “golden childhood” in New York and Los Angeles, as well as his struggle to find his musical identity in his teens and early twenties. This was a time when he temporarily adopted the cobalt-contact-lensed new wave alter ego Romeo Blue and turned down multiple career opportunities — including an offer from Motown’s Berry Gordy to record the eventual Rockwell smash “Somebody’s Watching Me,” a chance to be in a pop group envisioned as a “Black Duran Duran,” and a Capitol Records deal with a short-lived funk-rock band called Maggie’s Dream. Ironically, it was when Kravitz finally found his real voice, and switched back to his real name, that he had trouble finding the right record label.

“Here was the odd thing: When they were saying I sounded ‘too white,’ they were referring to rock ‘n’ roll, which made no sense, because Black people invented rock ‘n’ roll. So I could never understand,” Kravitz says. “When I was shopping this material, at that time you still had the ‘Black A&R’ [department], and then you had ‘pop.’ So, they'd see the color of my skin and say that I should go see the people in the Black department. I'd play the material, and of course they said it ‘wasn't Black enough.’ And then they sent me over to the pop side, and they’d say ‘it's too Black,’ or whatever. So, I was caught in the middle with all the sounds that I was working with, and it took a moment.”

Kravitz eventually found the right label home at Virgin Records in 1989 — “They said, ‘We don't know how we're going to market this, or really how to approach this, but we believe in the music’” — and he started building a following in Europe. He crossed over to the U.S. mainstream in the early ‘90s with his first top 10 hit, “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” (which went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100) and, of course, with “Justify My Love.” Kravitz’s Let Love Rule autobiography ends shortly after the release of his debut album and wedding to actress Lisa Bonet — and before that “sensual” Madonna recording session — but its final line is “to be continued...” So, Kravitz quips, “When and if I get to that [second] book, I may let [the “Justify My Love” studio details] out then.”

Kravitz adds: “I didn't want this [first] book to be about fame or anything like that. This is really about me finding my voice and my expression. That's why I ended it when I was embarking on the Let Love Rule tour. … Because from that point on, it gets real interesting. It gets complicated. It gets really complex. And so, that's where the next chapter will begin.”

Watch Yahoo Entertainment’s full, extended interview with Lenny Kravitz about his book, his childhood, his early career struggles, his self-image, his friendship with ex-wife Lisa Bonet, and how songs like “Let Love Rule” and “I Built This Garden for Us” still politically resonate in 2020 HERE.

 

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Interesting he never mentions Ingrid Chavez when he talks about that song. Feel bad for Ingrid because it really did come from her poem and vocal style. She kinda got screwed over. However, she's released her own (updated) version today... 

https://www.traxsource.com/track/8200273/justify-my-love-radio-edit?fbclid=IwAR170nCLHr761PhJW7AB8yhC3lbB1r3g1sR64U5BZPoxPSSfNGgbxtukcbg

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2 hours ago, rlittler81 said:

Interesting he never mentions Ingrid Chavez when he talks about that song. Feel bad for Ingrid because it really did come from her poem and vocal style. She kinda got screwed over. However, she's released her own (updated) version today... 

https://www.traxsource.com/track/8200273/justify-my-love-radio-edit?fbclid=IwAR170nCLHr761PhJW7AB8yhC3lbB1r3g1sR64U5BZPoxPSSfNGgbxtukcbg

I guess being sued by Ingrid at the time doesn't help. Am I wrong or Lenny and her made a personal agreement that she broke when the song exploded, cause she could obviously make more money from it? I guess nobody thought a spoken trip hop "simple" song was going to be THAT big with all the video controversy, etc.

EDIT: found the video :)

 

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28 minutes ago, Prayer said:

I guess being sued by Ingrid at the time doesn't help. Am I wrong or Lenny and her made a personal agreement that she broke when the song exploded, cause she could obviously make more money from it? I guess nobody thought a spoken trip hop "simple" song was going to be THAT big with all the video controversy, etc.

 

It was Prince that influenced Ingrid to sue.

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17 minutes ago, deathproof said:

It was Prince that influenced Ingrid to sue.

Yeah, Prince knew Ingrid was behind the song as soon as he heard it. He was miffed that it was released just before Ingrid's album on Paisley Park Records and people would think Ingrid had copied Madonna rather than the other way around. I think Lenny screwed Ingrid over and she was very naive about the industry at that time.

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The Prince story makes sense. There's something very "Princesque" about Ingrid's vocal spoken delivery - in fact she's the female vocal opening his 1988 "Lovesexy" album right?

Kinda off-topic but Prince-Madonna back and forth in the 80s and early 90s fascinates me. We should start another topic about that maybe :hearteyes:

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18 minutes ago, Prayer said:

The Prince story makes sense. There's something very "Princesque" about Ingrid's vocal spoken delivery - in fact she's the female vocal opening his 1988 "Lovesexy" album right?

Kinda off-topic but Prince-Madonna back and forth in the 80s and early 90s fascinates me. We should start another topic about that maybe :hearteyes:

Yes, Ingrid inspired the Lovesexy album and went on to release her own album on Prince's label in 1991. It's a great record and should have been bigger. She also wrote another hit in 1991 for Natural Selection called "Do Anything" that had Niki Haris replace Ingrid's vocal on the released track (small world!)

I always kind of found it strange that Ingrid was at the recording of JML... on Madonna's birthday, and she wasn't given any cake! (cold!)

Yeah, Prince and Madonna had an interesting relationship over the years. I'm just glad they got to see each other in 2015, just before he passed. Makes me think he knew and was making peace with people from his past.

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What exactly was Madonna's contribution to the song then? Its as said then when Ingrid Chavez sued Lenny Krawitz that Madonna's writing input was never questioned. But from that preview it seems as if the lyrics are identical. Or did Ingrid record the finally lyrics altered by Madonna for that version?

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1 hour ago, ShantiAshtangi said:

What exactly was Madonna's contribution to the song then? Its as said then when Ingrid Chavez sued Lenny Krawitz that Madonna's writing input was never questioned. But from that preview it seems as if the lyrics are identical. Or did Ingrid record the finally lyrics altered by Madonna for that version?

Madonna got credit for "additional lyrics".

R-4415724-1364298867-6217.jpeg.jpg

I guess some line or some word changes?

Maybe we can check it out when Ingrid's version is out :) 

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Ingrid is the main composer of the song, she is (finally and rightly enough) first on the credits issued for the digital EP. Madonna just copied her vocal on the demo and got a writing credit for adding or removing a couple of words:

https://ew.com/article/1991/02/01/controversy-over-justify-my-love/

 

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45 minutes ago, Dance_Freak said:

Ingrid is the main composer of the song, she is (finally and rightly enough) first on the credits issued for the digital EP. Madonna just copied her vocal on the demo and got a writing credit for adding or removing a couple of words:

https://ew.com/article/1991/02/01/controversy-over-justify-my-love/

 

 

Figures that M would take credit for it.  :Madonna040:

 

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Not only the Lyrics from Ingrid have been stolen but also the music ! They literally stole the whole beat from Public enemy "Security of the first world". Public enemy took a sample from James Brown and reworked it their own way, then Lenny Kravitz took their beat for Justify my love without asking or giving credits.

Here is the James Brown sample Public enemy took inspiration from :

 

and now here is the reworked Public enemy version.

It is basically "Justify my love" !  Lenny spokeperon said Public enemy said it for publicity and that they didn't sample anything which is absolutely disgusting cause no one can denie Lenny stole their music. 

 

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33 minutes ago, TonyMontana said:

Not only the Lyrics from Ingrid have been stolen but also the music ! They literally stole the whole beat from Public enemy "Security of the first world". Public enemy took a sample from James Brown and reworked it their own way, then Lenny Kravitz took their beat for Justify my love without asking or giving credits.

Here is the James Brown sample Public enemy took inspiration from :

 

and now here is the reworked Public enemy version.

It is basically "Justify my love" !  Lenny spokeperon said Public enemy said it for publicity and that they didn't sample anything which is absolutely disgusting cause no one can denie Lenny stole their music. 

 

Public Enemy never credited James Brown either which is also why they never actually sued Kravitz over Justify My Love. 

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Are you people for real ? Have you heard the James Brown sample and the reworked version of Public Enemy ?LENNY stole the beat of Public enemy, i mean it's so obvious. Even if that drums sequence has been used many times every artists did it his own way, reworking it with his own sound. I mean if you Listen to the Jame Brown track and the PublIc Enemy track you can hear the inspiration but you can tell the difference between the two tracks, you cannot mistake both tracks. You cannot hear the James Brown track and think this the Public Enemy track. Now listen to the Public Enemy track and the Justify my love intro, IT IS THE SAME IDENTICAL. Everything is posted in my previous post but i will post it again, i swear no one can deny it :

The origibal James brown track Public Enemy took inspiration from :

 

Now the Public Enemy track :

 

And now if anyone who likes to play the devil's advocate need anymore side by side video try this one :

 

 

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13 hours ago, Dance_Freak said:

Ingrid is the main composer of the song, she is (finally and rightly enough) first on the credits issued for the digital EP. Madonna just copied her vocal on the demo and got a writing credit for adding or removing a couple of words:

https://ew.com/article/1991/02/01/controversy-over-justify-my-love/

 

Additional lyrics refer to addition, not subtraction. If referring to the credits as shown on Spotify, they're in alphabetical order, not in order of importance or percentage. This is why Goh Hotoda is credited first in the performance credits of Justify My Love (Q-Sound Mix Version) : Performed by Goh Hotoda, Madonna, Shep Pettibone.

The original album liner displayed: "Lenny Kravitz; Additional Lyrics by Madonna". The reissued album liner displayed: "Lenny Kravitz/Ingrid Chavez; Additional Lyrics by Madonna". As for the Celebration album liner, it displayed: (Madonna Ciccone/Ingrid Chavez/Lenny Kravitz), and then Webo Girl Publishing, Inc., Madonna's publishing company, followed by the other publishers. Webo Girl somehow became one of the publishers of Justify My Love, so Madonna ended up getting a full writing credit in the end ("instead of just a mention of additional lyrics").

As for Papa Don't Preach, Madonna's only got to this day a mention of additional lyrics.

@OhBabyReadyOrNot@rlittler81@Levon

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15 hours ago, ShantiAshtangi said:

What exactly was Madonna's contribution to the song then? Its as said then when Ingrid Chavez sued Lenny Krawitz that Madonna's writing input was never questioned. But from that preview it seems as if the lyrics are identical. Or did Ingrid record the finally lyrics altered by Madonna for that version?

Asking myself the same question...

 

In this performance, the lyrics are identical (w/ minor additions not heard on The Immaculate Collection such as "I'm yearning" instead of "Yearning"). I guess Ingrid performed Madonna's additional lyrics.

A longer preview of Ingrid Chavez' forthcoming single:
https://www.traxsource.com/track/8200273/justify-my-love-radio-edit

Edited by Arckangel

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