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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  August 24, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PDT

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smiley. tonight a conversation with lenny kravitz. now he is out with a long- awaited project. he is also preparing a world tour for his first new record in three years. we are glad you joined us for a conversation with lenny kravitz, coming up now. >> every community has a martinit's the cornerstone we all know. boulevard, but a place where better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and answer, help tavis improve financial literacy and remove obstacles
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to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> at toyota we celebrate differences and the people who make them. proud supporter of the washington, d.c., martin luther king, jr., memorial foundation. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- tavis: what an honor to have lenny kravitz on this said. he is about to embark on a world tour in support of his new cd, "black and white america."
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here is a video from "to come on, get it." i feel like a canine ♪ come on and get it ♪ love, in love with your and i am coming to get it ♪ you know i am good for your love, and you know that i need it ♪ tavis: are you all right? >> i am beautiful. >> you are beautiful. i did not mean it that way. >> everyone i know says the same
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thing. tavis: i was the all-star game. you killed its. >> thank you. tavis: i thought it was so cool the way they staged a concert. you look like you had a good time. >> they went all out. it was a good way to come back. tavis: how do you -- now that you have so many records behind you, is there a concept behind each project? >> i never know. whenever i try to come up with a concept, by the time i get to a studio and open up, it always ends up taking a turn.
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i need to go to a place where i am open and i hear the music. i did not tell it what to do. it tells me what to do. i wake up, i have a tape recorder, i could sit down, i run to the studio, and i make it happen. i have no idea. >> how would you describe this new projects? >> i feel like it is the best work i have done, and i feel like it truly represents who i am now, where i am going, where i come from. there is something about it and really completes the circle. tavis: the critics will have their say in the coming days, but when you say you think it is the best work you have done, you mean what upo? >> it means i am 100% satisfied.
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that did not usually happen. tavis: 100%? >> there are always times i listen to a record and i should have turned it up, i do not know about that lyric. 100% satisfied. that has never happened before, and another interesting thing because a person i was being interviewed by brought it up to me. now the question they ask, do you a right better songs when you are happy or sad? the vote to bring out deep emotions, but this is the first of an -- they both bring out the promotion, but this is the first one fed does not bring out any sadness, which i found interesting. i am in a good place. older i get a more comfortable i become your guide -- i become.
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tavis: does that mean you are in a good place in your life? >> i am in a good place. i went to the bahamas, and i spent a good part of two years down their recording on and off, and i live on a beach with no people. now there are about 400 people in my town. it is just me and my dog and a couple guys i work within the studio, and i spend a lot of time alone, and i woke up one day, and i realize i was alone but i was not lonely. something has shifted, and i was really just communicating with god and listening to myself and doing this music, and i just became comfortable, and there is also something to be said for excepting oneself. >> as the serenity, lyrically in
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this project? -- goes the serenity come out lyrically in this project? >> yes. it sounds like a theme album. people think of all fema is going to be about black-and- white and race, but that song came about because of where i come from, who my parents were, and where we are today. i was watching a documentary, and it was during the time obama was running, and it was a group of people in middle america saying this was not america and that this was absolutely disgusting and they were going to do whatever they could to make sure it does not happen down to death. if the black man wins, we are going to riots. we are going to make sure he gets killed, and this is a
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travesty. we all know this exists, but to hear it like that, so strong, in this day and age, it kind of shocked me for a second, and that is what inspired the song, and then i started going back to the past with my parents and what they went through. they were in new york city. they were not in the south, and they have hard times common people sitting, yelling. -- with people standing and yelling. tavis: you are the son of which leads meparents, to ask, because i am curious. i watched "the jeffersons." i see your mother all the time. do you ever watch the stuff? what do you see?
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>> i do watch it. i watch it quite often. when i feel like i want to see my mother, i turn it on your get i get to see her moves. i get to see her seat. i get to see her laugh. it is comforting. it was amazing how revolutionary that shows. that was the first interracial kiss on prime-time television. it was the first interracial couple on prime-time television, and i remember the mail she used to get back then. tavis: pretty ugly? >> really bad. people love her, but i am talking about the people with the racial thing. with all of these shows, you look back and see that there was some real substance there besides the comedy. now they got away with things we
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could not get away with today. tavis: what you make of that? >> i see how far we've come, but i also see how far we have got. we would be politically incorrect it is not really, but we are different today. tavis: you are making the submerged deeper, because you keep giving me stuff. you remember as a child the kind of mail your mother was getting for being part of an interracial couple on "the jeffersons." you were of biracial kid growing up in los angeles at the time. how those that influence you musically, artistically? >> first, i grew up not really knowing about race until i was 6
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years old and i went to school, because in my parents' household, everyone was mixed. the first day i went to school, my parents were the only ones affected not match, and we walked in, and i remember this kid ran into the hallway, looked at all of us, and he goes, your dad is white, and that is the first time i said, what does that mean? i knew they looked different, but that was not an issue, so i grew up not thinking about it. the interesting thing was that my mother told me you need to embrace both sides of your culture but understand society is going to view you only as black. she told me that as a 6-year- old, and i did not understand that completely until later.
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leading to going to school, there were always clicks. when i went to be a junior high, mexicans were in one click. i was in santa monica on edge of venice, so you have the mexicans, the surfers, the dungeons and dragons, and star trek kids. you have all of these groups of people, and i kept it moving. i was into parliament and led zeppelin. everyone had their groups, and it influenced me greatly being open to all kinds of music. >> you reference president obama earlier in this conversation. the mismatch of his parentage is a little different from yours. what empathy -- i do not want to
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be prescriptive, but what does the do for you in terms of your empathy or sympathy or maybe lack thereof? you tell me how you see him against given that parentage and what you know from your own? >> just him as a person? i thought that speech on race was absolutely astonishing. tavis: in philadelphia? >> yes, because somebody finally said it. he had both perspectives. he knew both sides. the pluses and the so-called minuses, and i think what that does for people like us, there is a richness that comes with a diversity, and i know how to maneuver in many circles because of it, and i think that is the
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same for him. >> political you think it has led to him being treated unfairly? i speak to the fact that your mother said when you were six years old you were going to be seen as black. >> we are like that in this country. we label. we say he is the first african- american president. that is cool. he is, but it is always the first black president. the man has another 50% that we are discounting, and that is what we have to learn. you have to fill out those things for race, and there is of fox. -- is a box. it will happen over time, but one spot of blood, and there you are.
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tavis: how do you process all of this musically, artistically? i am sure when you walk into a studio, i suspect i could name certain artists when they go into the studio, they know exactly what they are looking for for the audience they are speaking to given the genre's , even though there are no record stores anymore. musically, how does that liberated you? >> there are formulas, and there are people who work within those formulas, and there are writers who work within those. >> does this liberates you or make you feel boxed in? >> it liberates me, but i have been told my strength is part of my weakness, because there is no box. there is no direction, and when
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i got signed, when you think about it, 1989, the music is rock-and-roll. they did not know what to do with me. they sent me to europe, and i did what nina simone did, what do ellington, miles davis and everyone else did. i went to paris. i went there and came back, because they were not interested in these categories. when i make a record, i do not know what is going to happen. i cannot say whether it is going to be a hit. i have no idea, because i am just making music that comes out of me. tavis: how much of the risk is that for the record label? they do not know what he is going to give us. >> i have creative control, and i turn the records in at end and
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say, deal with it. think there must be some kind of trust. tavis: when you go back to europe these days -- i would love to go to tour with you. i would love to go to paris. many said i could go on the airplane. >> the last juror in paris, you should go. -- the last show in paris, you should go. tavis: i would love to see now how the europeans respond to you. they must go crazy. >> there is a loyalty, and they grow with you during the ups, downs, all the albums, and they do not move. tavis: speaking of moving, not
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that you had a dream of this, but since you dream so much, is your career on folding in the way that you dreamt it is it living of to your expectations hammond -- to your expectations? >> i never planned on being a lead singer. i thought i would be a guitar player, bass player, a drummer. i had no idea it was going to happen, and it has unfolded in a way that is interesting, because i have gone from nowhere to building to this great place, and now it is unfolding in a way that is sweet to me. now i think i understand what i want and where i am going this will be coming back to america as well, and i feel like i am enjoying it more. there were times when i did not.
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tavis: and when did you see -- i was just in a conversation not long ago about how tragic is that the overwhelming majority of americans do not own a passport, which means they never get a chance to participate, 3 -- critique, fall in love with, check this country from the outside, looking in. they cannot see it from the distance. to your point about being out of the country and coming back in, what is it you see about america endowments -- about america? >> america seems to believe they are the center of the universe, and they clearly are not. i learned so much from just traveling. i grew up in school. european history, and when we look at that map, that was a place i was never going to see. somehow, that was over there.
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that was a fairy tale world. i know about america across and the perception of americans that we are allowed, we do not listen, we talk too much, and we are arrogant, you see the perceptions of people around the world, and i understand why they feel the way they feel. at the same time they love american culture. tavis: speaking of being out of the country and back in, when you were in the country, you spent time in new orleans. last time we were in new orleans when i saw you, and i was on youtube and saw the school video of these kids you ran into on the street. i will let you tell the story. >> that was real. people think it was set up. i was sitting at a cafe having a drink with some kids, and we heard this music, and i said,
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that sounds like "fly away." that sounds like live musicians, so i got up and started walking with my friend who had a camera, and i realize these people were singing and playing fly away. they were from a church in taxes, and i walked up, and cool,ught it was really and i thought i would join in. it was just one of those moments. it was a real moment, and it got put on youtube. tavis: i would have been freak out. you are seeing "fly away in" and out of a blue comes lenny kravitz, and he sits in with you. >> they were really good. tavis: you suggest that when you
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put things out you never know how to receive it. what do you think that they are a church choir from texas singing "fly away." >> that makes me feel good. i am still thrilled when i hear my music coming out of a car or a house, somebody else thinning it. i am still that kid who loved buying records, going to concert, hearing music, who wanted a record deal one day. i am still that kid. that has not been lost. i am not stated. it amazes me, and i say, thank you for this life and giving me the opportunity to do what i love and use the gifts that you gave me. tavis: now you have a kid who is all grown up now. >> it was great to see my daughter in "x-men."
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it was amazing, and i am so proud of her. i am so happy she is doing what it is she wants to do. >> put the cover back up. the cover is so beautiful, and that is a real picture. >> that is real, and that is who i have always been. a lot of people think, that must be a persona. i have always been that kid. i must have been seven years old. that is what i come from. seeing the afro in the
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photo makes me wonder if you are going to bring blogs back. >> they are going to come back one day. i have never shaved my head, and now it has grown back. i am always changing. tavis: you always do. it feels like a rock and rollers need to have something to throw a round. it goes with the gain. -- gig. i am always honored to have lenny kravitz on this program. it is a new record, and i think you will enjoy it. this has been a great conversation. it is good to see you, and i love you. that is it for our show for tonight, and until next time, keep the faith. ♪ you know i cannot turn it
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down ♪ ♪ i have got to go get it it ♪ know that i mean , and get it ♪ >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a look at what post-gadhafi's libya means for the middle east plus an actress vera farmiga. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where wal-mart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and answer, help tavis improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one
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conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> at toyota, we celebrate and differences and the people who make them. toyota, prague supporters of the washington, d.c., who -- crowds of supporters of the martin luther king, jr., foundation. >> and by contributions to your thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] kcet public television]
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belonged to your grandmother, right. yes, it was her ashtray, actually. - her ashtray. - her ashtray, yes. it was on her bedside cabinet. goodness me. what an amazing ashtray. - do you think that's what it was made for? - i have no idea. it's got a few stains on the back. looks as if it might be some nicotine - that's crept in there. - and it seems terribly uneven - and crude. - yes, remarkably crude, isn't it? yeah. so i suppose you thought it might just be a bit of old junk. - i hadn't really thought. just a quirky item. - you hadn't really thought. and did you notice this in the center? i had noticed. it looks like an anchor of some sort.
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an anchor, yeah, that's exactly what it is. it's the mark of a chelsea factory. - chelsea? - chelsea, and chelsea porcelain is amongst the earliest porcelains produced in this country. - is it? - indeed. so its crudeness is really a symptom of its early date. this was made between 1749 and 1751. chelsea in london. so i can just picture granny sitting in a smoke-filled bedroom stabbing out her cigarette ends on this delightful little thing. - how on earth did it get to be there? - i really have no idea. a mid-18th century piece of porcelain amongst the earliest pieces made - in this country? - you surprise me, really. she was well traveled, the old lady, but she had a couple of shops in the london area, especially during the blitz. they were news agent shops. maybe someone bartered her or bartered her for it or paid a debt. - newspaper bill or something. - exactly. it was copied by the chelsea factory from a much earlier piece of japanese porcelain
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in what we call the kakiemon style. the piece that it copied would have dated from about 1680. - would it? - so although this is mid-18th century, you could regard it as a fake. but because it's chelsea, because it's early, because it bears this rare early mark, it's worth £1,000. £1,000? - for an ashtray? - for an ashtray. granny's ashtray makes £1,000. as an interesting aside, the 1680 japanese original, which this is copying, would only be worth £200. - so it's a measure of how special... - you surprised me. ...and how rare this piece of porcelain is. £1,000.

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