We’ve lost another rocker. Paul Kantner, founding member and guitarist of Jefferson Airplane, one of the most influential groups of the psychedelic era, died Thursday, Jan. 28, of multiple organ failure. He was 74.
The Airplane was best known for their psychedelic blues-rock sound developed by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady, and the LSD-’60s-era flavour of its lyrics.
The Airplane was the first of the so-called “San Francisco sound” bands to sign a recording contract with a major label. Their debut album, The Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, was released in 1966. Grace Slick joined the band a year later (trivia: original singer was Signe Anderson) and songs like Somebody to Love and White Rabbit became hits.
The group became an important part of the ‘6os rock scene, from San Fran’s Golden Gate Park’s “Human Be-In” to Monterey Pop and their bleary-eyed appearance at Woodstock. Jefferson Airplane played the Stones infamous Altamont free concert in December of 1969. Singer Marty Balin was reportedly knocked unconscious by a member of the Hells Angels security team.
After the band was grounded by infighting and a lawsuit, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick turned the band into Jefferson Starship in 1974. He left Starship in 1984, but would rejoin in 1992 and continue to play with them until his death.
Kantner had suffered from a string of health problems in the past years, including a heart attack in March 2015.