10A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, September 13, 1999
Kravitz thinks records reflect time
The Hartford Courant
When Lenny Kravitz got the first Grammy of his career this year for best
rock performance, it was also the first Grammy any black has won in the
"I feel great about that," Kravitz, 35, says, in a phone interview from
Toronto. "But it doesn't make sense to me that I would be the first one to do
that. But I'm thankful and accept it on behalf of all those who invented the
The black rock 'n' roll pioneers include such pivotal names as Chuck
Berry, Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix.
But Kravitz is one of a few black rock performers, and his audiences tend
to be overwhelmingly white.
"I don't understand it," Kravitz says. "How can black people invent some-
thing and then throw it out? I don't understand that concept at all."
It's happened before in the culture, he notes.
"Jazz, blues - it's sad," he says. "I guess we just keep inventing stuff and
moving on. I guess at some point black people won't be listening to rap any-
more either. It will be a totally white art form. We'll throw that away and go
on to the next thing to invent."
Kravitz grew up "listening to everything - opera, you know, jazz, blues,
gospel, reggae, classical, you know, gospel. Everything - rock, funk, pop,
Modeling himself after Prince in high school, it took 10 years for Kravitz
to finally get a recording contract, coming at a time when he was better
known as the boyfriend, then husband, of TV actress Lisa Bonet. Kravitz
made his mark with music that echoed the past even as it stormed modern-
His most recent single this summer was his most directly retro: a straight
cover of a '60s hit for the movie "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged
He was asked to record Guess Who's "American Woman," although the
song may have made more sense in the original version, coming from
"I didn't look at it that way," Kravitz says. "I looked at the lyric as what it
was. I understand why it would make more sense for a Canadian. But I still
could relate to the song."
Still, he adds, "a lot of kids don't even know it's not my song. You know,
they ask me why did I write that? What am I talking about? Well, I didn't
"American Woman" did well enough as a single and video - the first to
show Kravitz in his new post-dreadlocks hairdo -- that it was included in
updated versions of his 1998 album "5," along with another song that didn't
make it on the album the first time, "Without You."
The song that became the biggest hit from "5" - and the Grammy-win-
ner - was "Fly Away."
Kravitz was a little surprised at its success. "That song almost didn't make
it on the album," he says.
It's hard to predict, at the time of recording, what will resonate with fans
and what won't. "I know what I feel is strong," he says. "But I don't know
the public's perception or radio's perception."
"Fly Away" slowly began getting play on a number of formats and even-
tually boosted sales of his album to 2 million; "5" became the first album
to simultaneously top three rock formats: modern rock, active and main-
Leave it to Kravitz, who has been criticized for having a retro sound, for
being a throwback to the days when a song had enough universal appeal to
be embraced by different kinds of fans. It also explains why his 10-year,
five-album reign in a fickle modern-rock world is about nine years and four
albums longer than most acts.
The recording of "5" followed a long period of struggle for Kravitz.
"It's kind of like a new beginning, in certain ways," he says. "It's not at all
yet where I'm going, but it's a start."
It follows what was his darkest record, "Circus," recorded about the time
his mother, Roxie Roker, known to many for her role as Helen on TV's "The
Jeffersons," was dying.
Some have dismissed the 1995 "Circus" as an aberration between the
commercial heights of "Are You Gonna Go My Way" and "5."
But, Kravitz says, "Each album is a collection of experiences. A lot of
people really enjoy this album and say it's much more positive than the one
before, and so much better.
"But it's funny. I listened to 'Circus' last night, which I haven't listened to
in years. And it's one of the best albums I ever made. It was heavy and
maybe a hard record for some people to swallow. But each record is just
what it is."'
Each of his records tends to reflect time like a photograph album, he says.
"Things do age. But I'm quite pleased at the way all of my albums have
Mablean Ephriam settles disputes in the new Fox television series. Assoc oted Pr
LA attorney presides,
over 'IXv'orce C; ourt'.
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'" S~t is S
Los Angeles Times
Order in the court.
Who will go home with a disputed
mink coat - the soon-to-be-ex-wife or
her cross-dressing husband? They both
should try it on and see who looks better,
ordered Mablean Ephriam, the veteran
Los Angeles attorney who presides over
a revival of "Divorce Court," on Fox.
Guess who got the coat.
"He was in a dress, and he had long,
beautiful hair," Ephriam says over coffee
near her Los Angeles home. "His nails
were freshly manicured. They're better
than mine. His makeup was nice. He has
What wasn't nice, she said, was the
way the wife kept referring to her hus-
band as "It."
"I said, 'Who is 'It'? That's your hus-
band. That's a human being. You will
either refer to him by his name or you
will refer to him as your husband, but
you will not refer to him as 'It.'"
Ephriam says such lack of civility is
common when it comes to the down-
and-dirty business of dividing the spoils
of failed marriages.
"Divorce court is where you see the
average citizen at his worst, and criminal
court is where you see the worst person
at his best" she says. "Criminals put on
a suit and tie so you won't think they're
that creep who just used an ax to cut up
10 people. And divorce court brings out
the worst in people."
Ephriam, who is both tough and
funny, came by her street smarts in the
courtrooms of Los Angeles.
"I don't think they could have picked
a better person," says U.S. Rep. Maxine
Waters, D-Calif. "Not only is she a very
competent attorney. I know her to be
warm, engaging and no-nonsense."
Waters crossed paths with Ephriam in
1982 when Ephriam helped establish a
legal resource center in South-Central
Los Angeles for women coping with
domestic violence. The clinic, set up to
compensate for legal aid cutbacks, is
now located in another part of Los
Angeles and called the Harriett Buhai
Center for Family Law. Its 80 volunteer
attorneys help about 1,000 women with
their cases each year.
The Buhai center's executive director,
Betty Nordwind, credits Ephriam with
getting things done by virtue of her
"larger-than-life personality. ... She has
a basic sense of justice and a way of see-
ing the truth of the matter that many
lawyers do not have."
Ephriam, who has raised a family of
four, graduated from Pitzer College in
Claremont and got her law degree in
1978 after attending Whittier College of
Law at night.
In the early '80s, Ephriam was a
deputy city attorney battling domestic
violence on another front - she help,
start the Domestic Violence Prosecutio ,
Unit of the Los Angeles city attorney's
"At the time, society was turning its
back on domestic violence and pretend;-
ing it didn't exist," Ephriam says. "And
when we filed a criminal case, the
female victim would usually say, 'I don't
want to testify.'
"That's when the city attorney's office
said, 'We are not dismissing the case
because the victim says, "I don't want
prosecute." More police were injured in
response to domestic violence calls than
anything else, and you put them in a pre-
carious position when you do that. Also,
when you don't follow through, it saysto
the perpetrator, 'You can do this again.'
In . 1982, Ephriam started her ow
firm, which now deals with family law,
personal injury and criminal law. During
her career, she has served as the pregi-
dent. of Los Angeles' Black Wom*
Lawyers group and received the 1995
California Woman of the Year Award
from the state Assembly's 48th District.
When Ephriam heard through the
lawyer's grapevine that Twentieth
Television was looking for a judge for
"Divorce Court," she saw it as a fresh
"I'm 50. Why not change going into
my second part of the century by doing
something new and different?"
"Divorce Court's" executive producer
Jill Blackstone, says Ephriam was the
only judge wannabe out of 100 to nail
her audition on the first try. Unlike the
classic TV drama, the new "Divorce
Court" will feature real couples who
agree to televised mediation of their
property and custody disputes.
But why would people discuss their
personal grievances on the air?
"I imagine the divorce court prode
on television is cathartic," Ephriam says.
"When you're in (regular) divorce court,
rarely do the litigants speak. Most of the
courts these days don't really care about
the reasons why you're divorcing - the
underlying infidelity, the financial prob-
lems, the difficulty in raising children.
So you really don't get an opportunity to
get rid of the pent-up frustration and
anger and pain. This is a form that allows
them to do that."
But for all her close encounters wiO
divorce, Ephriam says she's still a strong
believer in marriage.
"I think it's wonderful. And I hope
to do it again sometime soon. I'm not
jaded. When you're married, you have
a partner, a friend, someone to talk'to,
to laugh with, to share your joys, your
disappointments, your fears, your
successes, all of that. It keeps you
from running around in the streetc
It's just good."
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