Sadly but fittingly, Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson passed away on the same day last week: Thursday, January 28th, 2016. Kantner and Anderson both were members of the original lineup of Jefferson Airplane when the band formed in San Francisco in 1965. Anderson is not much more than a minor footnote in rock history: she sang co-lead vocals on Jefferson Airplane’s first album and toured with them for a few months while she was pregnant, then left the band in October 1966 to start her family. Kantner, on the other hand, would grow into a leadership role with the band and became the only permanent member from the original lineup.
Jefferson Airplane enjoyed success in the Sixties as one of the most popular groups to emerge from San Francisco’s psychedelic counterculture, with co-lead vocalists Marty Balin and Grace Slick (Anderson’s replacement) fronting a talented core of musicians. After changing their name to Jefferson Starship the band had another successful run in the Seventies with a string of hit singles.
Jefferson Airplane has the distinction of being the only act to perform at all four of the landmark outdoor music festivals of the late Sixties: Monterey in 1967, Isle of Wight in 1968, Woodstock and Altamont in 1969. I was unable to find any footage from Isle of Wight, but I found surprisingly good quality footage from the other three. In the second verse of “High Flying Bird” from this performance at Monterey, Paul Kantner gets a rare turn on lead vocals. It is hard to imagine a song more appropriate for Woodstock than this rendition of the (supposedly) LSD-inspired “White Rabbit” featuring a hypnotic vocal performance from Grace Slick. Altamont was supposed to be the west coast version of the Woodstock dream; it turned out to be violent nightmare instead. As we see in this footage, the events that unfolded during Jefferson Airplane’s onstage appearance proved to be an ominous foreboding of the horrific violence that exploded while the Rolling Stones were onstage that night.
For tonight’s featured video, I chose a television performance of Jefferson Airplane’s most famous song, “Somebody to Love,” with David Crosby making a cameo appearance on background vocals and Nicky Hopkins sitting in on piano.
The 2016 death parade continued on Monday this week with passing of Jon Bunch, former front man for Reason to Believe, Sense Field, Further Seems Forever and War Generation and vocalist of Lucky Scars under the name Johnny Scars. I confess that I was not familiar with Bunch or with these bands, but with help from YouTube I gave myself a crash course and found some really nice stuff, such as this live performance of “Killed For Less” and this video for “Save Yourself.”
I hate to push the death theme any farther, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention the anniversary of “The Day the Music Died” on February 3rd 1959 when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in a plane crash following a concert in Iowa.
Enough of this morbidity! Enjoy the videos and enjoy Super Bowl Weekend. And don’t forget to augment your Big Game experience by following the stellar in-game Twitter commentary by @DSimpson88.