The Jefferson Airplane co-founder and guitarist Paul Kantner was born on this day in 1941

Kantner, who wrote many of the band’s best songs, passed away in 2016

The Jefferson Airplane co-founder and guitarist Paul Kantner was born on this day in 1941

Paul Lorin Kantner was born on March 17, 1941, in San Francisco, California. After his mother’s death, his father, who was a traveling salesman, sent young Kantner to Catholic military boarding school, that resulted in the teenager Kantner going into total revolt against all forms of authority, deciding then to become a protest folk singer in the manner of his musical hero, Pete Seeger. In 1965 he co-founded Jefferson Airplane with Marty Balin. The band became one of the West Coast Psychedelic Rock movement leaders and produced several Rock anthems and classics that endure to this day, including what is considered to be the No.1 Psychedelic song of all time “White Rabbit”. Other songs by Jefferson Airplane are “Somebody To Love”, “Plastic Fantastic Lover”, “Today” and “Volunteers” among others. The band initially featured Signe Toly Anderson as the female lead singer and she recorded their first album “Takes Off” released in 1966, however, she left the band later that year and was replaced by Grace Slick who brought new songs and a personal charisma to the band. Their second album “Surrealistic Pillow” released in 1967, features an impressive string of Rock classics, including “White Rabbit”. As rhythm guitarist and one of the band’s singers, Kantner was the only musician to appear on all albums recorded by Jefferson Airplane as well as Jefferson Starship. Kantner’s songwriting often featured whimsical or political lyrics with a science fiction or fantasy theme, usually set to music that had an almost martial hard rock sound. Although the band retained a relatively egalitarian songwriting structure, Kantner became Jefferson Airplane’s dominant creative force from 1967’s “After Bathing at Baxter’s” onward, writing the chart hits “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil”, “Watch Her Ride” and “Crown of Creation”; the controversial “We Can Be Together”; and, with Balin, “Today” (an earlier effort from Surrealistic Pillow) and “Volunteers”. He also co-wrote the song “Wooden Ships” with David Crosby and Stephen Stills but was not credited initially due to pending litigation with Jefferson Airplane’s first manager. As a member of the Jefferson Airplane, Kantner played in the three most important Rock festivals of the late 1960’s, Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, Woodstock in 1969 and Altamont also in 1969. Kantner appears in the documentary film about the Altamont concert, Gimme Shelter, in a tense on-stage confrontation with a Hell’s Angel regarding the altercation. During the transitional period of the early 1970’s, the Airplane started to come apart and mutated into the Jefferson Airship. Kantner and Grace Slick were romantically involved, although never married, and together had a daughter China Wing Kantner who was born in 1971. In June 1984, Kantner left Jefferson Starship, complaining that the band had become too commercial and strayed too far from its counter-cultural roots. At the time, he was the only remaining original member of Jefferson Airplane in the group. Identifying as a political anarchist, Kantner advocated the use of entheogens such as LSD for mind expansion and spiritual growth and was a prominent advocate of the legalization of marijuana, which he regularly consumed for most of his adult life. When Kantner suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1980, his attending physician at Cedars-Sinai, Stephen Levy, was quick to point out it was not a drug-related issue, saying: “There is zero relationship between Paul’s illness and drugs. He doesn’t use drugs. Paul Kantner died in San Francisco at the age of 74 on January 28, 2016, from multiple organ failures and septic shock after he suffered another heart attack days earlier. Oddly enough, he passed on the same day as the first Airplane singer Signe Toly Anderson.

Watch the Jefferson Airplane performing “Somebody To Love” at the Dick Cavett Show in 1969, fresh out of the Woodstock Festival stage


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