Co-Founder of Jefferson Airplane, Jeff Kantner dies at 74
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The founding member of psychedelic rock group Jefferson Airplane, as well as the guiding force behind Jefferson Starship has died from organ failure at the age of 74. While a figurehead for hippie utopianism, Kantner came clean in a 1981 interview. "The rock bands of the '60s supplanted the football and military heroes, and just as all those heroes had fallen when put to the test, rock musicians proved they had no more of an answer to saving the world than anybody else."
Paul Kantner left Jefferson Starship in 1984, complaining that it had become too commercial. Photo courtesy Chesher Cat.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Born Paul Lorin Kantner in San Francisco in 1941. Sent to a Jesuit boarding school following at the age of eight after the death of his mother, Kantner would have a lifelong hatred of authority and a love of protest music of the time.
After attending college, Kantner became deeply involved in San Francisco's folk music scene. Singer Marty Balin approached Kantner to begin a group based on a blues name a friend had gifted him with: Blind Lemon Jefferson Airplane.
Photo courtesy Christopher Michel.
"Jefferson Airplane Takes Off," the group's first album: was mostly folk-influenced. "Surrealistic Pillow," the group's breakout album included the Top 10 singles "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit," both featuring the haunting vocals of iconic rock singer Grace Slick.
Kantner and Slick were a couple for several years. Their daughter, China Isler, survives him, as do his two sons, Gareth and Alexander.
"Paul was the catalyst that brought the whole thing together," lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen said. "He had the transcendental vision and he hung onto it like a bulldog. The band would not have been what it was without him."
Kantner was considered the intellectual representative for the group. Anarchic politics, mind-altering drugs such as LSD and science fiction utopianism were all recurrent themes.
Jefferson Airplane broke up in the early 1970s. Kantner released a solo album entitled "Blows Against the Empire," with abundant sci-fi themes. Albums he recorded with Jefferson Starship were also along the same lines, such as "Freedom at Point Zero" and "Modern Times."
Kantner left Jefferson Starship in 1984, complaining that it had become too commercial. A lawsuit successfully prevented the group from using the name "Jefferson" in their title. It was as Starship that Slick recorded several Top 10 hits, including the No. 1 single "We Built This City" in 1985.
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Jefferson Airplane is to receive a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award this February 15.
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