Kravitz reflected on seeing the Jackson 5 for the first time at Madison Square Garden when he was just a little boy
Lenny Kravitz is praising the Jackson 5 for not only the impact they had on him, but the way they set the standard when it came to perfecting their craft.
Speaking to PEOPLE for the cover of the Black History Month issue, the “Fly Away” singer, 59, recalls the very first time he saw Michael Jackson, Randy Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Tito Jackson, Marlon Jackson, and Jackie Jackson — five young siblings from humble beginnings born in Gary, Indiana who would go on to dominate the music industry.
“Rock and roll is something that means a lot to me, the art form, and it's something that at 5 years of age took me,” Kravitz told PEOPLE after admitting he views himself “an artist” more than a “rock star.”
He continued, “Going to see the Jackson 5 for the first time at Madison Square Garden. Those were rock stars.”
The Hunger Games actor recalled what it was like to witness the “I Want You Back” hitmakers on stage long before he was an award-winning artist himself, when he was just a little boy from New York sitting in the audience.
“Those were young Black rock stars that were doing it to the fullest. The art form, the music, the singing, the choreography, the fashion, everything was perfection. So dynamic and that's what took me. And so I am proud to be part of that lineage,” Kravitz said.
When the Jackson 5 began, the youngest member (and lead singer) Michael, was just 6 years old. He would eventually become known as the King of Pop before his sudden death on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50.
During his cover story interview with PEOPLE, Kravitz, who has never shied away from being an open book, expressed the difficulties he faced when it came time to make his mark in music.
“I was told my music wasn’t Black enough or wasn't white enough," he recalled of when he began trying to get labels and industry execs to listen to his recordings.
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The “American Woman” musician said he was urged to “make a choice” about his style, “but I never did."
Specifically, Kravitz said, "I was told that I need to make the music that Black people commercially are making that's on the radio, so you'll have success. And I just could never get with any of that. I was going to make the music that I made."
However, that was a different story when he was around the people who raised him.
"No one in my circle ever said, 'You have to choose or you should choose,’” Kravitz said.
Eventually, Kravitz found a home with Virgin Records, where he released his first eight studio albums.
"I was not going to sign a deal where people were going to tell me what I had to do, and I finally found the people that believed in me and that's where I went," the “Are You Gonna Go My Way” artist added.
For more on Lenny Kravitz's life and other Black History Month stories, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, available on newsstands now.
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