What if the Sun isn’t strictly a debut, even though it’s Lenny Zenith’s first album under his own name. The pioneering transgender writer and rock musician has been releasing music for the past 30 years with bands like Jenifer Convertible, Tenterhooks, Minor Planets, and RZA (he had the name first, by the way). He’s worked with producers like James Murphy (pre-LCD Soundsystem!) and Wharton Tiers (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.). He’s opened for legends including U2, Iggy Pop, The Replacements and X, to name just a few, and he’s also performed everywhere from the USS President to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (opening for The Neville Brothers and Stevie Ray Vaughn, no less).
It’s only now, however, that he’s ready to go full bore under his own name. This is a musician coming of age late of age, embracing all aspects of his dynamic life for an effort that is wholly, fearlessly Lenny Zenith. As with his forthcoming memoir, Before I Was Me (due out later this year), Zenith’s story begins in 1970s New Orleans. After his parents divorced, Zenith moved to California, where he surreptitiously enrolled in junior high as a boy. The West Coast gave him his first brush with rock & roll, something he pursued upon returning to the Crescent City to attend the prestigious New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. Post graduation, he became a regular figure in the local scene, mounting performance punk shows alongside outsider artists like Chuck Crosby and Daria Gabriel.
t would be impossible for Zenith not to talk about being transgender. He does so on lines like “A little bit of surgery and a pronoun change/To find your little spot along the gender range” from “Suddenly Someone”. Co-written by LoBue, the anthemic “Still I Rise” most directly addresses standing proud as a trans man. But Zenith says writing only about gender would be disingenuous to the full scope of his life experiences. “I think it’s important for trans kids, trans individuals, to know that there are other people out there who are not just being trans, but are also writing and performing and being visible,” he explains.
What If The Sun is indeed the work of a trans artist, and a portion of profits from the record will be donated to organizations like Trans Women of Color and Trans Lifeline. However, it isn’t solely a trans record. It’s the life and career of someone who has never given up on music and is finally ready to go all in. It’s an album that asks, “What if the sun fell out of the sky?”, and decides not to waste time. It’s Lenny Zenith, in sum.