Old Music Tuesday: Lenny Kravitz's 'Let Love Rule'

Yes, you are getting old. Lenny Kravitz's breakthrough hit, Let Love Rule, celebrates its 20th birthday this year.

The question is: Is this an homage to a bygone era, or a shameless rip-off?

Here's a simple explanation for why this album mattered: The birth of punk (bear with me) in 1977 was a direct response to the wimpish, white-bread pop and disco dominating popular radio. The people who fell in love with punk (like All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen) saw it as a salvation of sorts — a powerful liberator freeing them from the gooey-sweet emptiness of bands like Bread and The Carpenters. Similarly, Let Love Rule was a direct response to the ineffectual synth-pop of the '80s. After a decade of hits by bands like Wham! and Air Supply, Lenny Kravitz parachuted in with an album of classic guitar rock, funk and soul. I'm not saying Lenny Kravitz and this one album held the same historic significance as the entire punk movement. But at the time, it was an enormous breath of fresh air to me and everyone else who had had enough of the '80s.

I shared all of this with Bob, which led to this exchange:

BOB: You are NOT doing Lenny Kravitz.
ROBIN: I am.
BOB: But you just did a 20th-anniversary 'Old Music Tuesday.'
ROBIN: That was Sinead O'Connor. This is Lenny Kravitz.
BOB: (clearly sickened) But he's... just... awful!
ROBIN: No, he's not.
BOB: (turning pale) I've not heard one note of his I could stand.
ROBIN: (singing) "You've got to LET love ruuuuule!"
BOB: Just HEARING that...
ROBIN: Lenny Kravitz helped make the '90s great, along with Bjork and Beck and...
BOB: (interrupting) You cannot say his name in the same breath as those other artists!

I played part of the title track for Bob and said, "If this song had come out 25 years earlier, you would have loved it." This, he noted, is what he sees as inherently wrong with the song: It's a rip-off of something that had already been done. I say it's an homage. What do you think?

By the way, I also told Bob that I'd put a Lenny Kravitz show I saw in 1998 in my Top 5 favorite concerts of all time. It was just an incredible performance. And so hot! There wasn't a person in that audience — man or woman — who didn't want to rush the stage.

All of which is to say that I'm happier than ever to share this cut with you from a fantastic 20th-anniversary deluxe edition of Let Love Rule. It's a solo acoustic, home-demo version of the title track:

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Thanks to the label for letting us share it with you. There are plenty of other great extras on the deluxe edition, including a second disc of live performances, so check it out if you're a Lenny Kravitz fan.

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