Lenny Kravitz had just woken up when he saw back-to-back notifications that rock & roll architect Little Richard and influential Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell had both died. “My God, I hadn’t even gained consciousness yet,” he says, calling from his home in the Bahamas where he has been self-isolating since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kravitz and Harrell had known each other for years through Sean Combs, whose career was developed under Harrell’s mentorship. Kravitz and Combs were neighbors in New York City as they were both beginning to rise in the music industry, living on 35th Street on Manhattan’s East Side. “As [Puffy] jokes, he used to come over and borrow a cup of sugar or I’d go over to his house to get some food,” he says.
Kravitz and Harrell kept in touch over the years. The last time they saw each other was at the MTV Video Music Awards last year. Kravitz posted a picture of the pair taken backstage at the event while paying tribute to his old friend.
“Andre had such a way of reading people and knowing people. He would sit with me and tell me things about myself that I didn’t see in myself,” Kravitz says. “He would just go on this whole thing, telling you about yourself and your vibe and what you represent. It was always inspiring to hear him talk and get his take on things.”
Both Harrell and Kravitz were born in New York, and Kravitz respects the impact Harrell had on how the city’s hip-hop scene transformed with Harrell’s help and guidance. “He really understood the culture and helped create the culture, obviously. He brought us so much legendary music. He was a great businessman.”
Of course, it’s their decades-long friendship that Kravtiz regards highest of all. “He was such a wonderful person. He was always the life of the party, always smiling, always in a good mood. He was wonderful to be around.”
The Ambassador. 9/26/1960 – 5/8/2020 pic.twitter.com/KdiOMqAlI9
— Lenny Kravitz (@LennyKravitz) May 9, 2020