Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Members of Rock & Roll Heaven, Part Eight

Rock & Roll Heaven* continues on Inside The Rock Era with our look at fallen stars of 2016.  One of our most painful losses was one of the leaders of Jefferson Airplane/Starship:

Paul Kantner, guitarist and co-founder of Jefferson Airplane, died of multiple organ failure January 28 in San Francisco, California at the age of 74.  Kantner had suffered several health problems in recent years, including a heart attack in March of 2015 and another the week before he died.


Kantner and Jefferson Airplane were known for the psychedelic hits "White Rabbitt" and "Somebody To Love". 

San Francisco of course now is widely recognized as a major contributor to the Rock Era, but Jefferson Airplane became the first act from the City by the Bay to achieve major international success.  The Airplane performed at all three of the most famous American rock festivals--the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and Woodstock and the notorious Altamont show in 1969, and also headlined the first Isle of Wight Festival in 1968.  The group's Surrealistic Pillow album in 1967 represents one of the key recordings in the Summer of Love (1967).  

 When the group broke up, Kantner, vocalist Grace Slick, David Freiberg (vocals, keyboards and bass), drummer John Barbata and fiddler Papa John Creach, all members of the Airplane, started the group Jefferson Starship in 1974, along with guitarist Craig Chaquico and Pete Sears, who played bass and keyboards.  Vocalist Marty Balin, also a key part of Jefferson Airplane, joined Starship while the group was still working on their debut album, Dragon Fly.

Kantner was with Jefferson Starship for over five decades, often times being the only original member of Jefferson Airplane in the group. 


Dragon Fly failed to get the group major attention, but Red Octopus in 1975 represented the new lineup's breakthrough, containing the great song "Miracles", which went to #3. 

The group released another fine album in 1978, Earth.  The single "Count On Me" led the way, going to #8.

But Slick and Balin both left the group, leaving Kantner looking for a new lead singer.  He found him in Mickey Thomas, who had sang lead for Elvin Bishop on the song "Fooled Around And Fell In Love".  When Barbata was seriously injured in a car accident, he had to be replaced as well, and the group chose Aynsley Dunbar, who had previously drummed for Journey.


The new lineup utilized a harder sound to their music than before, releasing the album Freedom at Point Zero.  The lead single was the great song "Jane", which stalled at #14.

Starship fans also know another great song on the album, unreleased as a single--"Rock Music".  Both songs are also among The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

Slick rejoined the group for the album Modern Times, which yielded the minor hit "Find Your Way Back".  But after the next album, Nuclear Furniture, Kantner left the band because of disputes over the group's direction.  Kantner took legal action to keep the remaining members from using the name Jefferson Starship, so they called themselves simply Starship, and had big success with "We Built This City", "Sara", "Nothing's Gonna' Stop Us Now" and "It's Not Over ('Til It's Over).  

In 1992, Kantner later reformed Jefferson Starship, which over the last 24 years has included most of the original members of Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and Starship at one time or another.  The group was still intact at the time of Kantner's death.

Rest in peace, Paul, and thanks for providing great music in our lifetimes!  

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