Sunday, January 31, 2016

Blues From an Airplane

Bummer. Another music death.

The death of Paul Kantner, co-founder of both Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship went mostly unnoticed this last week.

While most people would be hard-pressed to know who he even was or what bands he was in, was probably due to being overshadowed by the other two singers in the band - Marty Balin and his never-actual wife, Grace Slick.

Still Kantner was instrumental in founding Airplane in the mid-60s and getting it up and running. He stayed with them for their duration, only to form Jefferson Starship with Grace Slick a few years later - and then Balin came along for the ride.

Kantner had nothing to do with Starship (sans Jefferson) which had two big, albeit questionably talented hits, with "We Built This City", "Sara" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now".  Kantner actually had to sue this band to stop using the name "Jefferson Starship".

And one would be hard-pressed to say he was the only driving force behind Airplane. Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassady (later forming the band Hot Tuna) were equal in those roles. But it was Slick and Balin who had the hits.

Slick, but mostly Balin had the hits in Jefferson Starship too. Still, Katner was the driving force for that iteration's debut with Dragon Fly.  I even featured his song, "Ride the Tiger" in a My Music Monday slot a few years ago. It was one of the few he took the lead on vocals and writing.

Still Kantner, for me, had a lasting impact. I was way into both Jefferson Starship's music, then the Airplane's songs. Red Octopus was one of my first disks to purchase back in 1975.

But he was a founder of the rock San Francisco psychedelic rock scene of the mid to late 60s - along with Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. They bridged the gap between the folk days and the rock days - touting freedom and love.  .....and drugs.

Kantner and Jefferson Airplane are rightfully ensconced in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That organization makes some iffy choices, but they certainly got it right with that one.

I'd say that Paul Kantner would be missed, but in ways he has been so overshadowed by his band members, he was never really out there. While, like all of us, are blips in the universe, it would have been nicer if more news outlets reported on his passing.

Song by: Jefferson Airplane


wcs said...

Red Octopus was also one of my first albums. Wow. 1975. Was it that long ago?

anne marie in philly said...

I forgot all about "ride the tiger"!