Paul Kantner – March 17th, 1941 – January 28th, 2016
Paul Kantner was known for founding the psychedelic band “Jefferson Airplane”.
I wanted to take a couple of days to let this sink in. As we approach the jump-off into our own 2016 World Tour, Paul Kantner died a few days ago from complications due to a heart attack. His organs failed and the “Jefferson Airplane” great did his “final approach” to Heaven.
I remember Paul from the old days. Where bandmate and partner (they had a child together – China) Grace Slick was the reigning “Queen of Acid Rock”, Paul was the calm voice in the shadows keeping things moving forward.
Queen Grace wasn’t just “the Mother of Acid Rock”. She also gave birth to Princess China, who went on to become an actress and an MTV VJ.
It was because of Paul and Grace Slick that I wanted to grow up to be a “Rock ‘N Roll” star.
Jefferson Airplane – 1967 – American Bandstand
There was something about Grace dressed up as nun singing her demonic lil heart out about love that just pushed my buttons… even at the ripe old age of eight. Every time I saw her backstage or at a venue, I admit that my heart skipped a beat.
But, this is about Paul…
Paul and I were both signed to RCA and he left his mark there, usually with his middle finger. He was nothing short of “outspoken” about his views on life, love and capitalist corporate enterprise. He was nothing less than cynical. LOL!
His views on “government and corporate suits” was best illustrated by an obscene (albeit unprintable on a family show) taunt on his song; “We Can Be Together” from their “Volunteers” album;
All that said, he once told me that he spent most of his youth “chasing the devil and he sure as hell wasn’t headed for heaven.”
Let’s hope he was wrong.
Of course, he also told me that he wanted to outlive Keith Richards and we all KNOW that Keith Richards IS the DEVIL! LOL!
Like many bands, Jefferson Airplane was birthed in a bar (in San Francisco in 1965) right in the middle of a “music explosion”. American youth espoused sex, drugs and rebellion and in my view there wasn’t anyone better to write anthems to that voice than Paul Kantner.
He told me once that; “You may be thinking it, but I’m actually SAYIN’ it.”
Marti Balin, Jefferson Airplanes original founder embraced Paul not only for his musical abilities, but for his manual dexterity. Marti once told me that Paul was “one of the few people he knew in the timeframe that actually knew how to roll a decent joint.” LOL!
From a middle-class house they took over in Haight-Ashbury, Jefferson Airplane became foundation to many social and political causes, usually between concerts in places like Woodstock and The Monterey Pops Festival.
Jefferson Airplane’s roots began as muddy as many. The band started out as a bunch of “60’s folkies” and evolved to combine folk, rock, blues and jazz into a fused mix that we now refer to as “psychedelic” music. Named after Blind Melon Jefferson, the band was surrounded by cats like Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead) and Jimi Hendrix, where Paul once confided in me that “the 60’s was a time when inspiration moved back and forth across streets like leaves blown around in the wind.”
He said that “in the 60’s, the stars just aligned and the doors to Rock opened wide.”
And, Paul answered the door. His body of work certainly testifies to that fact.
Like many 60’s bands, Jefferson Airplane spawned several bands after it’s break-up, including bands like Hot Tuna, Jefferson Starship (which was later known as simply “Starship”) and others.
Paul Kantner played rhythm guitar and backed the vocals behind greats like Grace Slick and Marty Balin.. With Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady playing guitars and bass and Spencer Dryden on drums, the band went on to become one of Rock’s legends.
For a time, Jefferson Airplane literally grabbed lightning out of the sky and then trapped it in a bottle. Whatever “it” was, they had it and they had an entire bottle of it.
Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and is scheduled to receive the Recording Academy’s lifetime achievement award later this year. As one of the masterminds (and one of Jefferson Airplane’s most prolific songwriters) it’s a shame that Paul didn’t live to see it.
Rock Trivia; Paul Kantner was on David Crosby’s sailboat and together with David and Steven Stills they wrote the rock classic “Wooden Ships”. I know this is true as David told me so, himself.
“Starship” may have built their city on Rock and Roll, but Paul Kantner certainly did his part by paving the roads leading to it.
So long, Baron. May you find that tollbooth in the sky.
(David Crosby referred to Paul as “Baron von Tollbooth” and to Grace Slick as “The Chrome Nun”. Paul later used those nicknames on his studio album (with Grace Slick) – “Baron von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun”.)
May he rest in peace.