Friday, January 29, 2016

Paul Kantner

Today we lost another stellar musician in Paul Kantner,  co-founding member and singer-guitarist of Jefferson Airplane. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Kantner suffered a heart attack earlier this week and passed away Thursday (January 28th) from multiple organ failure and septic shock. He was 74 years old.

Alongside Marty Balin, Kantner formed Jefferson Airplane in 1965. Their pro-drug stance and psych-folk-rock sound quickly made them a fixture in San Francisco's counterculture scene. Jefferson Airplane released their first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, in October 1966. A month later, singer Grace Slick joined the band. She proved instrumental in their commercial success. Surrealistic Pillow, which peaked at No. 3 on the album charts in 1967, is still considered a turning point in the 60s rock scene.

The Jeffereson Airplane website says of Kantner: "As the '60s wore on, the Airplane became a symbol of the burgeoning counterculture, and Paul reflected this in songs such as "Crown of Creation" (1968) and "We Can Be Together" (1969). To Paul, the "Establishment" included everything from cops who unplugged the band during curfew to the band's own record company, RCA. In "We Can Be Together," he included the line, "Up against the wall, motherfucker," which launched a bitter contest of wills between the band and RCA over its inclusion; the company finally backed down.

On the same album (Volunteers), Paul combined music and science fiction for the first time on "Wooden Ships" (co-written by David Crosby and Stephen Stills and simultaneously recorded by Crosby, Stills & Nash), a song about a group of people who escape from a totalitarian society to start a free colony elsewhere. This concept would become a major theme of much of Paul's subsequent efforts.

Kantner was a part of San Francisco's soul. "I've always loved San Francisco better than anywhere," he said. "It's always had its problems, but just the weather alone, the views. This corner alone has proved so nourishing." Paul Kantner is survived by three children; sons Gareth and Alexander, and daughter China, and a whole world of fans.


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