Singer. Songwriter. Visual artist. Grace Slick. The voice of a generation.

Grace turns 71 years old on October 30th. She stepped out of the singing spotlight long ago because she said she was past her prime. I have to give her credit for making that decision. She focuses her creative energy on her painting these days.

Grace Slick's singing career started off by forming the band The Great Society in 1965 and by 1966 they had a devoted following in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a quick segway into the Jefferson Airplane and she helped define the acid rock sound of the times as well as being amongst the first female rock stars to front a band. Her writing skills soon surfaced and White Rabbit as well as Somebody to Love  (W.Rabbitt written by Grace when she was still in The Great Society) became  iconic songs of the era and hits for the group.

Surrealistic Pillow was on my Open Call list of the 15 important albums of my life. It was the first album Grace recorded with Airplane.

 

White Rabbit- Grace's powerful vibrato is unique and unmistakable.

Monterey Pop Festival - Somebody to Love

Woodstock- Won't You Try/ Saturday Afternoon

The band was scheduled to be the headliner on Saturday at Woodstock but ended up taking the stage very early Sunday morning.

Jefferson Airplane lineup at Woodstock:

  • Marty Balin - vocals, tambourine, maracas
  • Grace Slick - vocals. tambourine, maracas
  • Paul Kantner - guitar, vocals
  • Jorma Kaukonen - guitar, vocals
  • Jack Casady - bass
  • Spencer Dryden - drums
  • Nicky Hopkins - piano

Reminiscent of The Beatles rooftop gig the Airplane plays in 1968 in NYC.

A year later they played the infamous Altamont concert. My sister attended this show which was a mere 30 minutes from our house. Grace tries to calm things down by repeating ," Easy, easy..."It all goes to hell after that. 

  Jefferson Airplane dissolved and evolved into Jefferson Starship from a 1970  science-fiction themed album by Paul Kantner entitled Blows Against the Empire. Grace stayed as part of the original line up of Starship.

  • Paul Kantner, rhythm guitar/vocals
  • Grace Slick, vocals
  • Papa John Creach, violin
  • John Barbata, drums
  • David Freiberg, vocals/bass/keyboards
  • Craig Chaquico, lead guitar
  • Peter Kaukonen, bass (brother of Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen)

But by 1978 Grace's battle with the bottle and drugs made it impossible for her to continue to perform with the band. Her final performance in June 1978 ended in disaster when she was too drunk to be on stage and 10,000 German fans rioted upon learning the concert had been cancelled. Grace wandered in and out of the band when sober in 1981 and then rejoined in 1985. She eventually departed to focus on solo projects.  

Some of Grace's solo work. Let it Go 

By 1989 Grace was ready to hang up the life of the rock star. In an interview she said, "All rock-and-rollers over the age of 50 look stupid and should retire." Hmm. I'll disagree with her on that one.

Grace began to draw and paint and has made a new career for herself in the visual arts.

Grace at work on a portrait of Jerry Garcia. 

 

Grace has always been outspoken. She's also known for her outrageous behavior during her drug and alcohol fueled days. One famous story Grace tells is of being invited by Tricia Nixon to the White House.Hear her tell it in her own words in the video below.

Grace's contributions to Jefferson Airplane will always be appreciated by me. She was a pioneer, didn't appear to take herself too seriously and left behind some incredible musical moments. Happy birthday, Grace!
(images from bing.com)

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