Paul Kantner, who made his name as a co-founder of Jefferson Airplane, died recently, at age 74 after suffering a heart attack, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Kantner teamed up with Grace Slick and Marty Balin in the mid-1960s to create the San Francisco sound which included hits such as “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.” The group served as the first headliners at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium which was opened by promoter Bill Graham. The group later morphed into Jefferson Starship after Bailin was knocked unconscious by Hell’s Angel’s members at the controversial Altamount Concert.
The group had its birth in 1965 when he and Balin met in a bar, according to Wikipedia. Kantner helped pioneer the popular psychedelic sound which included simple, fuzzy guitar lines steeped in dreamlike reverb. Five of the bands first seven albums went gold.
With a breakup of the group imminent in the early Seventies, Kantner recorded a solo album, “Blows Against the Empire.” The album was nominated for a Hugo Award presented to the best science-fiction and fantasy works, according to an article in Rolling Stone.
Jefferson Airplane formed after Kantner started performing in a folk group with former actor Marty Balin and vocalist Signe Toly Anderson, who would later die on the same day as Kantner. The group continued its development by bringing in guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady. Balin chose Skip Spence as a drummer and the original composition of the band was completed. They became the first San Francisco band to sign to a major label.
The group’s 1966 debut album was a modest success, climbing to the lower half of the Top 200. But when model-turned-singer Slick joined the group a year later, the group’s fortunes dramatically changed. Slick’s strong voice contributed to several hits which climbed to the top of the charts.
When Kaukonen and Casady left the group to form Hot Tuna, Kantner’s guitar took on a larger role in the group’s music along with Slick’s voice. “Blows Against the Empire” featured members of Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Grateful Dead. Balin left the group but returned in time for “Red Octopus”, a number one album.
Kantner was the only original member of the group by 1980 when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. He recoverd and continued another long successful run with the band. With the recent deaths of Glenn Frey of the Eagles and Kantner the rock music world has lost two of its giants.