The Story and Meaning Behind “Let Love Rule” by Lenny Kravitz

Every once in a while, an iconic artist arrives on the scene with a debut single that’s so potent that it holds up as one of their most memorable tracks, even after years of other hits. Lenny Kravitz is certainly an iconic artist, as evidenced by his nomination this year for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And “Let Love Rule” is just such a song.

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Kravitz certainly isn’t backing away from the song’s importance, considering he named his 2020 memoir after it. Let’s find out how this song came to be and what it means.

An Impressive Debut

Kravitz grew up in the world of the visual arts, with a television actress mother and a TV producer father. But it was music that lit his artistic fire, as he grew up performing in operas while idolizing rock and soul greats. With that kind of background, it’s no surprise the music he ended up making once he did start to record would be an eclectic mix.

In fact, it’s a testament to how striking Kravitz’s talent is that he was able to find a following. Because his music slid so easily in between genres—even within the course of a single song—marketing and categorizing him was never going to be an easy task. It certainly helped that he was an instrumental virtuoso who also produced, meaning that he could play most of the instruments and craft the sound to his liking.

Hence, his 1989 debut album is very much a DIY affair, despite the fact that it doesn’t really sound like one thanks to Kravitz’s multiple talents. For the album’s title track and lead single, Kravitz explained to Rolling Stone in 2018 that it was inspired by a self-coined motto:

“It was 1988, and I was living in a loft over on Broome Street in New York City. I had written ‘let love rule’ on the wall next to the elevator on my floor just because it was something I was thinking. I loved the phrase. One day I got off the elevator and saw it and thought I should write a song called ‘Let Love Rule.’ I went into the apartment, grabbed a guitar and wrote it. It just hit me.

“Then I went to the studio the next day in Hoboken, New Jersey, and I cut it. It was just magical. It embodied about where I was musically. It had shades of gospel, R&B and psychedelic rock and roll. To me, that was the signature of the album. It was the beginning of my musical life. It was mine. It belonged to me.”

The track that Kravitz put together did indeed display a mélange of influences. His strutting bassline gives a swayable vibe to the bottom end, while the backing vocals sounded like something from The Beatles circa ’67. Stabs of organ brought some funk into the picture, while a saxophone solo delivered by session player Karl Denson hearkens back to Stax soul.

What is the Meaning of “Let Love Rule”?

“Let Love Rule” doesn’t try to disguise its meaning; the title pretty much says it all. Kravitz’s direct pronouncements speak to the malleability of love’s power. On the one hand, it’s gentle as a rose; on the other, it can conquer any war.

The second verse also shows the flexibility of love. It’s vast enough that it transcends all space and time. But applied in reality, it can affect work wonders in the life of an individual. We can’t do it alone, Kravitz implores, calling upon the listeners to cosmically join the forces of good.

“Let Love Rule” proved to be an ideal introduction to what Lenny Kravitz could do. With Lennonesque directness, he breaks it down so that even a child can understand it. The urgency in his voice, however, suggests that some people still tend to ignore or openly defy this message, even when it’s delivered as memorably as it is here.

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Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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