Jefferson Airplane guitarist Paul Kantner dead at 74

SAN FRANCISCO - Paul Kantner, an original member of the 1960s rock group Jefferson Airplane who stayed with the San Francisco-based band through its transformation from hippies to hit makers as the eventual leader of successor group Jefferson Starship, has died at age 74.

See Full Article

Kantner, who drew upon his passion for politics and science fiction to help write seminal favourites such as "Wooden Ships" and "Volunteers," died on Thursday of organ failure and septic shock at a San Francisco hospital where he was admitted after falling ill earlier in the week, his former girlfriend and publicist Cynthia Bowman, the mother of one of his three children, told The Associated Press.

The guitarist and songwriter had survived close brushes with death as a younger man, including a motorcycle accident during the early 1960s and a 1980 cerebral hemorrhage, and gone on to recover from a heart attack last year. His death first was reported Thursday by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Few bands were so identified with San Francisco or so well-embodied the idealism and hedonism of the late '60s as Jefferson Airplane, its message boldly stated on buttons and bumper stickers that read "THE JEFFERSON AIRPLANE LOVES YOU."

The band advocated sex, psychedelic drugs, rebellion and a communal lifestyle, operating out of an eccentric, Colonial Revival house near Haight-Ashbury. Its members supported various political and social causes, tossed out LSD at concerts and played at both the Monterey and Woodstock festivals.

Formed by veterans of the folk circuit in the mid-'60s, the Airplane combined folk, rock, blues and jazz and was the first group from a Bay Area scene that also featured Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead to achieve mainstream success, thanks to the classics "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit."

Besides Kantner, who played rhythm guitar and added backing vocals, the Airplane's best-known lineup included singers Grace Slick and Marty Balin; lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen; bassist Jack Casady; and drummer Spencer Dryden. Jefferson Airplane, named in part after blues artist Blind Lemon Jefferson, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and is scheduled to receive the Recording Academy's lifetime achievement award this year.

Kantner, who looked as much like a college student as a rock star with his glasses and shaggy blonde hair, did not have the vocal or stage presence of Balin and Slick, or the instrumental power of Kaukonen or Casady.

But he became the conscience of the band and by the end of the '60s was shaping its increasingly radical direction, whether co-writing the militant "Volunteers" with Balin or inserting a profane taunt into his own incendiary "We Can Be Together," leading to an extended fight with their record company, RCA.

Meanwhile, Kantner and Slick became one of rock's most prominent couples. Rolling Stone would note their contrasting styles, labeling Slick "the Acid Queen of outrageousness" and Kantner her "calm, dry, sardonic flip side." In 1971, Slick gave birth to their daughter, whom the couple originally wanted to call God, but decided to name China. (China Kantner became an actress and MTV VJ.)

Slick and Kantner broke up in the late 1970s and Kantner had a son, Alexander, with Bowman, and another son, Gareth.

Kantner was the Airplane's only native San Franciscan and its most political and experimental thinker. He had been a science fiction reader since childhood and with friends David Crosby and Jerry Garcia among others recorded a 1970 concept album about space travel, "Blows Against the Empire," credited to Kantner and "Jefferson Starship."

Kantner, Crosby and Stephen Stills would collaborate on the escapist, post-apocalypse fantasy "Wooden Ships," a rock standard which Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills and Nash each recorded and performed at Woodstock.

With perfect timing for a '60s band, the Airplane began splitting apart at the end of decade. Kaukonen and Casady formed the blues group Hot Tuna, and Balin, the band's estranged original leader, also left. In 1974, Kantner and Slick brought in new musicians and renamed the group Jefferson Starship. Their sound softened and, with Balin back, they had hit singles with "Miracles" and "Count On Me" among others and a No. 1 album, "Red Octopus."

But by the mid-1980s, when Slick and Mickey Thomas were lead vocalists, Kantner found the music so "mundane" that he left the Jefferson Starship and successfully forced the remaining members not to use the name "Jefferson." (His former bandmates called themselves "Starship" and had three No. 1 songs, including "Sara" and "We Built This City").

Over the past 30 years, Kantner, Balin and Casady occasionally performed as the KBC Band and a reunited Airplane briefly toured and recorded. Kantner made a handful of solo and Jefferson Starships albums and used various musicians in the studio and on the road, including daughter China on vocals and son Alexander on bass.

Kantner was born in 1941, the musical and nonconforming son of a travelling salesman. He dropped out of college to pursue a career in folk music and became friendly with Crosby and future Starship member David Freiberg, spending days and nights on the beach, strumming guitars and indulging in Crosby's premium stash of marijuana.

Soon after the release of the Airplane's first album, "The Jefferson Airplane Takes Off," the group underwent a fateful change: Vocalist Signe Toly Anderson left to have a baby in the fall of 1966 and was replaced by Slick, who had been a member of the Bay Area group The Great Society.

Slick brought a fiery, charismatic style and, just as important, "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit," anthems for 1967's "Summer of Love" and highlights of the Airplane's landmark psychedelic album "Surrealistic Pillow." Kantner, who spent much of his life in his native city, would look back years later and remember a golden age of art, free love and joyous possibility.

He joked that San Francisco was a privileged haven, "49 square miles surrounded by reality."

He believed deeply in the '60s dream, often citing an anecdote that for a few days in 1966 the stars were so aligned that you could expect any wish to be granted. "Which, needless to say, it was," he liked to add.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • School victims honoured at Billboard Awards; Janet, BTS shine

    Entertainment CTV News
    The 2018 Billboard Music Awards paid tribute to the students and teachers affected by recent deadly shootings in Texas and Florida, while the night also featured show-stopping performances by iconic singer Janet Jackson and K-pop group BTS. Source
  • Janet Jackson, Shawn Mendes, Ariana Grande set for Billboard Awards

    Entertainment CBC News
    After celebrating her 52nd birthday and the 25th anniversary of her groundbreaking janet. album, Janet Jackson will be capping off an epic week with her first televised performance in nine years at the Billboard Music Awards. Jackson will also receive the Icon Award on Sunday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, where today's hitmakers will also take the stage, from Ariana Grande to John Legend. Source
  • 'Deadpool 2' ends Avengers' box-office reign, rakes in $125M

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES - Deadpool and his foul-mouthed crew of misfits and malcontents have taken down the Avengers. Fox's "Deadpool 2" brought in $125 million according to studio estimates Sunday and ended the three-week reign of Disney's "Avengers: Infinity War" at the top of the North American box office. Source
  • 'Deadpool 2' ends Avengers' box-office reign, rakes in US$125M

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Deadpool and his foul-mouthed crew of misfits and malcontents have taken down the Avengers. Fox's "Deadpool 2" brought in US$125 million this weekend, giving it the second-highest opening ever for an R-rated movie and ending the three-week reign of Disney's "Avengers: Infinity War" at the top of the North American box office, according to studio estimates Sunday. Source
  • Saturday Night Live re-imagines royal wedding reception

    Entertainment CBC News
    The royal reception of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was off-limits to reporters, but Saturday Night Live gave commoners a glimpse of what it might have been like.After delighting crowds, newlyweds Meghan and Prince Harry celebrate at private receptionIn a sketch during the comedy show's season finale, Mikey Day played Prince Harry in what he called the "official wedding video 2018. Source
  • Japan's Shoplifters wins Palme d'Or at Cannes film festival

    Entertainment CBC News
    A tumultuous Cannes Film Festival concluded Saturday with the Palme d'Or awarded to Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's Shoplifters, a tender portrait of a poor, impoverished family, while Harvey Weinstein accuser Asia Argento vowed justice will come to all sexual predators. Source
  • 'Shoplifters' wins Palme d'Or at Cannes

    Entertainment CTV News
    Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Shoplifters" is the winner of the Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is a tender portrait of a poor, impoverished family. The director accepted the award in Japanese and dedicated it to the whole production team involved in movie. Source
  • Celebrity guests at Harry and Meghan's wedding

    Entertainment CBC News
    Contact CBC Audience Relations, CBC P.O. Box 500 Station A Toronto, ON Canada, M5W 1E6 Toll-free (Canada only): 1-866-306-4636 TTY/Teletype writer: 1-866-220-6045Contact Us Source
  • 'Arrested Development' stars stand by co-star Tambor

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES - The cast of "Arrested Development" made it clear they fully support co-star Jeffrey Tambor as the beleaguered actor made one of his first public appearances at the show's premiere. Tambor has kept a low profile since he was accused of sexual misconduct by two women who worked on "Transparent," which he denied. Source
  • YouTube picks Canadian Jessie Reyez to launch new marketing blitz platform

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Canadian singer Jessie Reyez sings about her dreams of rising to the upper ranks of music and YouTube hopes its new marketing campaign will play a role getting her there. The streaming video giant says it's picked the Juno Award-winning singer as its inaugural YouTube Artist on the Rise, a multi-platform publicity push that launches Friday. Source