Monday, June 17, 2024

Another Rock Legacy Death: Paul Kantner, Founder of Jefferson Airplane- Jefferson Starship


Paul Kantner was the leader of the San Francisco rock scene in the 60s and piloted (sorry) both Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship.

Their many hits included “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit” aka “Go Ask Alice.” He was 74 and died of multiple organ failure according to reports.

Younger people are not going to know Jefferson Airplane because their time ended before the Sixties were over, really. They were an amazing group that represented the psychedelic, Haight Asbury hippie world of San Francisco. Grace Slick and Marty Balin, Jorma Kakounen, Spencer Dryden and Jack Casady were the other superstar members of the original group.

Kantner and Slick had more commercial success in the mid 70s to the early 80s with Jefferson Starship, initially with an Airplane like hit called “Miracles” but then with much reviled top 40 stuff like “We Built this City.” (Everyone has to pay bills, right?)

Kantner and Slick’s many musical collaborations weren’t their only one. They also have a daughter, China, who I am shocked to see is 45 years old! (I remember when she was born.) Kantner and Slick never married, but they were together from 1969 to 1975. Kantner has two sons, as well.

To a New York kid, the Jefferson Airplane was the coolest, along with the Mamas and Papas and Hot Tuna, the Airplane’s spin off group. They were from what seemed like a more distant planet than the British Invasion gang. Promoter Bill Graham was their guru and leader. And you read about it in those days in a folding newspaper called Rolling Stone, which came from San Francisco. It’s been moribund for about 30 years. (But I think of my friend, the late Chet Flippo, their great writer.)

Besides the Airplane hits, Paul also co-wrote “Wooden Ships” with David Crosby. The Airplane recorded their version before Crosby, Stills & Nash. He also wrote my favorite Airplane song, “Today,” with Marty Balin.

RIP, Paul Kantner. At this point, the Grammy show is going to be one long In Memoriam.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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