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Somebody to Love

The Music of American Rock Band Jefferson Airplane

The title refers to a classic song from the 1960s sung by the American rock band Jefferson Airplane, who became known as hippie revolutionaries.

Birth of a Band

It all came together in 1965 when the former member of the acoustic group The Town Criers—Marty Balin met guitarist Paul Kantner at a San Francisco, California club called The Drinking Ground. In the very beginning, they formed a folk-rock group and were joined by lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, drummer Skip Spence, singer Signe Anderson and bassist Bob Harvey (later replaced by Jack Casady). After their first show, RCA Records signed them on as Jefferson Airplane and their first album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off in 1966 went gold. 

The band’s first album included such popular hits as “Tobacco Road” and “Let’s Get Together."

Changing the Line-Up

One of the well-known members of the group Grace Slick came along when Signe Anderson left to have a baby. Slick was a former member of the group The Great Society in 1965. Slick brought with her two Great Society songs which became part of Jefferson Airplane’s second album— "Somebody to Love" and “White Rabbit." The album sold half a million copies.  

After their second album, the band chose to take a direction toward psychedelic rock and released their third album After Bathing at Baxter’s. This album created their first conflict with RCA over the use of obscene language. This album produced no hit singles and wasn’t well received. It included such songs as “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil."

They bounced back with their fourth album Crown of Creation, which became a commercial hit. The band was now referred to as the San Francisco psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane. Among the songs on this album were “Lather” and “Triad.

The last album with the “classic” line-up of this group was released in April 1969 titled Volunteers. It included songs like “We Can Be Together” and “Wooden Ships”.  

Jefferson Airplane performed at the Woodstock and Altamont Festivals. Afterward, more changes came their way. Dryden left the group in 1970 to join the New Riders of the Purple Sage and was replaced by Joey Covington. Slick became pregnant and the band stopped touring.

While Slick was housebound she and Paul Kantner recorded Blows Against the Empire. The album was released and billed as Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship. This album featured Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and other friends. It also became the first musical work to be nominated for the science-fiction writers’ Hugo Award. Songs on the album included “Have You Seen the Stars Tonight."

They released a greatest hits album titled The Worst of the Jefferson Airplane in 1970. In January 1971 Slick gave birth to a daughter named China.

Their last studio album came out in July 1972 titled Long John Silver with songs such as the title track.

Jefferson Starship

In February 1974 Slick and Kantner officially formed the Jefferson Starship. Their debut album was Dragonfly and it became a success and went gold with songs like “Ride the Tiger” and “Caroline."

Jefferson Starship also did well with their next album Red Octopus which rose to number one on the charts and sold four million copies. A hit single on this album was “Miracles." Two other albums followed Spitfire in 1976 and Earth in 1978 both of which went platinum

After many different problems and changes like Slick leaving the band,  they all came together once more in February 1981. At this time they rose in the charts with a string of Top 40 hits like “Be My Lady” in 1982, “Winds of Change” in 1983 and “No Way Out” in 1984. 

When Kantner bowed out in 1984 he took the name Jefferson with him and the band became known as Starship. They enjoyed further success and their album Knee Deep in the Hoopla went platinum with successful songs like “We Built This City," “Sara," and “Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter Tonight."

Their album No Protection in 1987 included their third number one hit Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and “It’s Not Over (‘Til It’s Over)," which later on was adopted for some time as the Major League Baseball theme song

Despite this, the band finally broke up in 1990. However that didn’t mean that they would not rise again and in 2000 Balin, Kantner and Casady began touring as Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers. Even though this evolved some conflicts the group released an album Tree of Liberty in 2008 which included protest folk cover songs. Among them were Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty,"  Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom,” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” once performed by such groups as Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Meanwhile Slick has remained true to her vow to no longer perform and now has turned to painting. She declined to appear with Jefferson Airplane during their performance at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 1996. 

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