Lenny Kravitz headshot with sunglasses

Black Rock Stars You Can See In Concert Today

For Black History Month, we are celebrating some great Black rock stars.

Earlier this month, as part of GRAMMY week in Los Angeles, Lenny Kravitz was honored at the third annual Recording Academy Honors The Black Music Collective. He was presented with the award by H.E.R. She discussed his influence on her: “The fashion, the confidence, the badass walk, and the killer vocals made me at six years old say to my dad, ‘I wanna play guitar.’ ‘I wanna be a rockstar.’ ‘I wanna be like Lenny Kravitz.’\”

Kravitz recalled going to see the Jackson 5 as a kid, and fantasizing about joining the group. He also discussed the influence of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5, Marvin Gaye, Rick James, Prince, and John Coltrane. 

“So many geniuses and so many genres informed my spirit,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “I could go on all night about these musical masters who molded me. I love all of these musicians. I love this music because it feeds our hearts and strengthens our resolve to keep our hope. A healing to a wounded world. To be a part of the lineage is a privilege I cherish.”

It was a lovely moment. And in a week when lots of awards and honors are given out, it was a moment that mattered. In his recent interview with Esquire, Kravitz mentioned how he’s been ignored by traditional Black media outlets, including Vibe, BET, and The Source. “To this day, I have not been invited to a BET thing or a Source Awards thing,” he noted. “And it’s like, here is a Black artist who has reintroduced many Black art forms, who has broken down barriers—just like those that came before me broke down.” 

He added, “I have been that dream and example of what a Black artist can do.” In the same feature, he noted that an article written about him early in his career said that “If Lenny Kravitz were white, he would be the next savior of rock and roll.” The feature noted that instead, he was often criticized for being too influenced by older acts, like Led Zeppelin. This writer recalls he was often compared to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. All of those bands, and every white rock band of that era borrowed heavily from Black artists (and that’s a generous way of phrasing it). 

Later in the week, another Black artist who debuted in the late ‘80s got an outpouring of love as well. Tracy Chapman was a surprise performer at the GRAMMY Awards, joining country singer Luke Combs for his cover of her 1988 classic, “Fast Car.” The moment she appeared on stage the crowd at the Crypto.com arena went nuts, and a quick search for Ms. Chapman on social media shows overwhelmingly positive sentiment. More than that, people reacted in a really emotional way to seeing her, hearing how amazing she sounds, and seeing the smile on her face when she heard the cheers. 

So when we decided to celebrate some of the great Black rock stars (and we definine “rock” broadly), we decided to stick with the ones who you can still see today.

Lenny Kravitz 

Let’s start with Lenny: he’s preparing to release his next album, Blue Electric Light, on May 24. He’s already released the first single, the very funky, synth-driven “TK421.” Kravitz has been one of the most consistent rock stars since debuting in 1989 with Let Love Rule. But it’s been six years since his last album, Raise Vibration. And yes, he’s going to be on the road: it looks like he’ll spend the summer touring in Europe, but when he comes to the U.S. you won’t want to miss him. 

Living Colour 

Living Colour debuted in 1988 with Vivid. The album had their biggest hit, “Cult of Personality.” A song that big can be a blessing and a curse. Of course, it’s a classic that spans generations, but it also overshadows the rest of a pretty amazing catalog. 1990’s Time’s Up and 1993’s Stain were both excellent as well, and there are a lot of great songs on their post-reunion albums. Their most recent one, 2017’s Shade was one of the best albums of the year. This writer has caught them over 20 times over the years, from their days playing New York’s Ritz to their latest theater tour with Extreme. Whether headlining, opening or on a festival lineup, they empty the tank every time. No band in their right mind should ever want to follow them on stage (the one band who arguably pulled it off well, in my opinion, is the Rolling Stones). 

Ayron Jones 

Jones is from Seattle, and he sounds like it. His guitar heavy music shows the influence of Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and of course, Jimi Hendrix. Signed to John Varvatos’ record label, he’s one of active rock’s brightest rising stars, and it’s been a long time coming: he’s been at it since 2010, when he fronted a trio called Ayron Jones and the Way. A decade and thousands of miles on the road later, he’s one of the best live rock artists you can see, and you can see him this year. He’s currently on tour for 2023’s Chronicles of the Kid.

Allison Russell 

If you watched the Grammys this year, you might have caught Allison Russell along with a lot of other artists backing up Joni Mitchell’s performance of “Both Sides Now.” And if you watched the premiere ceremony on YouTube, you saw her win a Grammy for Best American Roots Performance. But who is Allison Russell? A singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist (she plays guitar and clarinet!) who has been putting out music as part of various groups for two decades. She first went solo in 2021 with her debut album, Outside Child (but you might have caught some of her non-album covers of Sade, Fleetwood Mac and Billie Eilish). If you’re not familiar with her, check out her songs “Nightflyer,” “The Returner,” and “You’re Not Alone.” The latter song features Brandi Carlile, who has often championed Russell.

Tracy Chapman

OK, including her on a list of artists who you could see in concert today is a bit hopeful on our part. One of the stunning things about her recent Grammy performance is that she hasn’t toured since 2009, and has only appeared on stage a handful of times since then. But we’d have to think that concert promoters are trying to figure out how to get her back on the road right now.