Grace Slick fronted the Jefferson Airplane during the 1960’s
The Iconic Acid Queen Grace Slick turns 80 today
Grace Slick, it’s one of the most recognizable voices in Rock music, with her distinctive natural vibrato, she was one of the main figures during the late 1960’s Psychedelic Rock scene, singing and composing memorable Psychedelic anthems that last to this day.
“The Acid Queen” was born Grace Barnett Wing on October 30th, 1939, in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois. While growing up her family moved several times, until they finally settled in the San Francisco suburb of Palo Alto, California in the early 1950’s. On August 26, 1961, Wing married Gerald “Jerry” Slick, an aspiring filmmaker, and after the couple briefly moved away from San Francisco, Grace Slick worked as a model at an I. Magnin department store for three years, it was also around this period she started to compose music, although she was not at first inspired to follow a musical career. In 1965, Slick watched Jefferson Airplane, a newly formed band, live at The Matrix, and it was then she decided to follow a musical career. Together with her husband Jerry Slick they formed the Great Society,and on October 15, 1965, the band made its debut performance at a venue known as the Coffee Gallery, and soon after Slick composed the psychedelic piece “White Rabbit”, reportedly in one hour while after taking LSD, the composition, which is now regarded as the most emblematic of all Psychedelic Rock songs, was musically inspired by Miles Davis album “Sketches Of Spain”. By late 1965, they had become a popular attraction in the Bay Area but despite recording some songs including the also composed by Grace Slick “Somebody To Love”, it wasn’t really capturing any attention from record labels. That autumn, Jefferson Airplane’s singer Signe Toly Anderson left the band to raise her child and Grace was asked to replace her in the band. With Slick on board, the Airplane began recording new music, and they turned in a more psychedelic direction from their former folk-rock style. Their second album “Surrealistic Pillow” included new recordings of “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love”, both of which became top 10 singles. Jefferson Airplane became one of the most popular bands in the country and earned Slick a position as one of the most prominent female rock musicians of her time. They released several Rock classics during the 1960’s including “After Bathing At Baxter’s” and “Volunteers”. In 1968 the band embarked on a European tour with The Doors and that same year, never a stranger to controversy, Slick performed “Crown of Creation” on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in blackface and ended the performance with a Black Panther first. In an appearance on a 1969 episode of the Dick Cavett Show, she became the first person to say “motherfucker” on television during a performance of “We Can Be Together”. Jefferson Airplane played some of the most important 1960’s Rock Festivals, Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, Woodstock in 1969 and even the controversial Rolling Stones Altamont Festival in 1969 where the band’s performance had to be interrupted when they got into a fight with the Hell Angels.
Look back at Grace Slick’s life in photos
By the early 1970’s Slick started to see some of best friends such as Janis Joplin, and others like Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison dying at a very young age due to drug addiction. Slick publicly has acknowledged her alcoholism, discussed her rehabilitation experiences, and commented on her use of LSD, marijuana, and other substances in her autobiography, various interviews, and several celebrity addictions and recovery books. That was one of the factors that made her slow down her drug and alcohol abuse, in 1971 her only daughter China Wing Kantner was born from a relationship with Jefferson Airplane’s guitarist Paul Kantner, during her hospital stay after China’s birth, Slick joked to one of the attending nurses that she intended to name the child “god” with a lowercase g, as she “wished for the child to be humble.” The nurse took Slick seriously, and her report of the incident caused a minor stir, as well as the creation of a Rock N’ Roll urban legend. Another Rock N’ Roll legend involving Slick is the one where she was invited to a tea party for the alumnae at the White House in 1969, as Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia was alumnae of Finch College like Grace. She invited political activist Abbie Hoffman to be her escort and planned to spike President Richard Nixon’s tea with 600 micrograms of LSD. The plan was thwarted when they were prevented from entering after being recognized by White House security personnel, as Slick had been placed on an FBI blacklist. Slick later speculated that she only received the invitation because it was addressed to “Grace Wing” (the singer’s maiden name) and that she never would have been invited if the Nixons had known that “Grace Wing” was the anti-establishment singer Grace Slick. After Jefferson Airplane ended in the early 1970’s, Slick formed Jefferson Starship with Kantner and other bandmates, and also began a string of solo albums with Manhole, followed by “Dreams”, “Welcome to the Wrecking Ball!”, and “Software”. By the 1980’s Jefferson Starship changed their name to Starship and during that period while Slick was the only former Jefferson Airplane member in Starship, the band went on to score three chart-topping successes with “We Built This City”, “Sara”, and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”. Despite the success, Slick since has spoken negatively about the experience and the music. Grace Slick decided to retire from the music industry during the 1990’s, in a 2007 interview she stated: “You can do jazz, classical, blues, opera, country until you’re 150, but rap and rock and roll are really a way for young people to get that anger out”, and, “It’s silly to perform a song that has no relevance to the present or expresses feelings you no longer have.” After retiring from music, Slick began painting and drawing. She has done many renditions of her fellow 1960’s musicians, such as Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, and others. In 2000, she began displaying and selling her artwork. She attends many of her art shows across the United States. She has generally refrained from engaging in the music business, although she did perform on “Knock Me Out”, a track from In Flight, the 1996 solo debut from former 4 Non-Blondes singer, and friend of daughter China, Linda Perry. The song was also on the soundtrack to the film “The Crow: City of Angels” and appeared on some Jefferson Airplane’s concert reunions. Slick is one of the first female rock stars, alongside her close contemporary Janis Joplin, that played a very important role in the development of rock music in the late 1960s. Her distinctive vocal style and striking stage presence exerted influence on other female performers, including Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith and she is an absolute Rock icon. Grace was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as a member of Jefferson Airplane.
Look back at Grace Slick performing “White Rabbit” live with the Jefferson Airplane in 1967
Watch the 1987 music video for “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, Starship’s hit with Grace on leading vocals
Listen to some of the best Grace Slick songs with Jefferson Airplane, Starship and solo compiled by Pop Expresso on Spotify (there are some seminal solo Grace Slick songs missing)
Watch the music video for “Dreams”, from 1980 Grace Slick album “Dreams” (missing from the above playlist)
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