Paul Kantner, founding member of both The Jefferson Airplane and The Jefferson Starship, passed away yesterday at the age of 74. Kantner had suffered a heart attack a few days earlier.
Kantner’s health had begun to decline last year following a heart attack although he recovered sufficiently to rejoin Jefferson Starship on tour. He had survived two earlier brushes with death – a motorcycle accident in the 1960’s and a cerebral hemorrhage in 1980, but it was not to be this time around.
Kantner played rhythm guitar and occasionally contributed vocals and songs to both groups. He co-wrote “Volunteers” with Marty Balin, a song that would have a prominent place during their set at Woodstock. Kantner also co-wrote “Wooden Ships” with David Crosby and Stephen Stills. While primarily known as a CSN song, Jefferson Airplane also recorded a version which you hear in the video above.
In addition to Woodstock, The Jefferson Airplane also performed at the Monterey Pop Festival, The Isle of Wight Festival and the ill-fated Altamont Speedway Free Festival. It was at Altamont that a member of The Hell’s Angels attacked Balin and Kantner publicly reproached the gang from the stage.
Kantner was in a relationship with fellow Jefferson Airplane member Grace Slick for six years. This relationship produced a daughter named China. Upon learning of Kantner’s death, Slick posted the following words on Facebook, “Rest in peace my friend. Love Grace.”
UPDATE: Kantner died the same day as Jefferson Airplane’s original lead singer Signe Toly Anderson who left the group in 1966 shortly after giving birth and would be replaced by Grace Slick. Marty Balin took to Facebook and wrote that Kantner and Toly Anderson “woke up in heaven and said ‘Hey what are you doing here? Let’s start a band.'” Have a listen to Toly Anderson’s pipes on “Chauffeur Blues”.