Jefferson Starship Guitarist Paul Kantner Dead At 74

Paul Kantner, the co-founder and singer-guitarist for Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, died Thursday, reports Rolling Stone. Paul had a heart attack a few days before and passed away from septic shock and massive organ failure.

Kantner’s long-standing friend and publicist Cynthia Bowman confirmed his death. He had been having quite a number of health issues in the past few years, including experiencing a previous heart attack last March, reported San Francisco Chronicle.

Jefferson Airplane was formed by Kantner and Marty Balin in 1965. They created a new style of music known as the San Francisco sound, a psych-folk-rock beat. They quickly became a staple in the San Francisco counter-culture scene, alongside David Crosby, Jerry Garcia, and Janis Joplin.

Bill Graham, a concert promoter, scheduled them to play San Francisco’s Fillmore, resulting in a record contract with RCA Victor. The first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, was released in October 1966. Grace Slick soon joined the band, writing one of the band’s greatest hits, “White Rabbit.” Another hit, “Somebody to Love,” was written by her brother-in-law, Darby Slick, reports Consequence of Sound.

Out of the first seven albums produced by Jefferson Airplane, five of them went gold, including Surrealistic Pillow, which contained the songs written by the Slicks. The band played at Woodstock in 1969. Kantner recalled the event 40 years later.

“We were due to be on stage at 10pm on the Saturday night but we didn’t actually get on until 7.30am the following day.”

Kantner had a tempestuous romance with Slick, which, combined with the band’s drug use, eventually led to the breakup of the band.

In 1969, Kantner and Slick publicly moved in together. Rolling Stone called them “the psychedelic John and Yoko,” reports Wikipedia. When Slick became pregnant, a song called “A Child is Coming” appeared on the next album.

Kantner and Slick then recorded the successful Blows Against the Empire, a solo album they credited to Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship. The tracks on the album were about a group of people escaping Earth in a hijacked starship, which resulted in a nomination in 1971 for the science fiction Hugo Award, reports Wikipedia.

The child, China Kantner, was born in 1971. Slick eventually left Kantner and married a Jefferson Starship roadie, Skip Johnson. However, Slick remained with the band.

In 1974, Jefferson Starship was formalized with Kantner, David Freiburg, Pete Sears, Craig Chaquico, Grace Slick, and Papa John Creach. Their debut album, Dragon Fly, was released, and the band went on to record platinum and gold records, achieving even greater success than Jefferson Airplane.

Paul experienced a cerebral hemorrhage in October 1980 and was treated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Although he fully recovered, he talked about the experience a year later.

“If there was a Big Guy up there willing to talk to me, I was willing to listen. But nothing happened. It was all just like a small vacation.”

Another brush with death experienced earlier in his life actually saved him from dying from the hemorrhage. Paul hit a tree while on a motorcycle at about 40 miles an hour, nearly shattering his skull. The hole left from that accident relieved the cranial pressure from the later hemorrhage, saving him from severe consequences.

Paul left Starship in 1985, but then rejoined the band in 1992 and played until his death, reports Rolling Stone.

Members of the Doors wrote about Paul Kantner’s death on their Facebook page.

“Our condolences go out to the friends, family and fans of Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane on the news of his passing. Music would not be the same without the sounds of The Doors and Jefferson Airplane, which both contributed so heavily to the signature sound of the Sixties and Seventies.”

Paul Kantner is survived by his three children, China, Alexander, and Gareth.

Rest in Peace: Jefferson Airplane Guitarist Paul Kantner, dead at 74.

[Photo by Hulton Archive/GettyImages]