Grace Slick

Grace Slick  (née Wing; born October 30, 1939) is an American singer, songwriter, artist, and former model, best known as one of the lead singers of the rock groups The Great Society, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and Starship, as well as for her work as a solo artist from the mid-1960’s to the mid-1990’s.  She is considered one of the best female voices in rock history.  (More from Wikipedia)
I spent a good part of last month’s post extolling Shocking Blue and managed to do so without ever mentioning Mariska Veres, the lead singer on Venus and nearly all of their songs.  Few rock bands had female lead singers in those days, though there were a few, notably Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane.  Another Dutch band of the same time period, Earth and Fire also had a fine female lead singer, Jerney Kaagman
(September 2012)
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The early female rock stars got a lot of attention for their bands, with Janis Joplin in Big Brother and the Holding Company and Grace Slick in Jefferson Airplane (and later in Jefferson Starship and Starship) being two of the biggest.  A current Broadway show called A Night with Janis Joplin features Mary Bridget Davies in the title role; Davies is good enough at her job to have previously toured with Joplin’s former band Big Brother and the Holding Company.   


(October 2013)


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Jefferson Airplane
 was one of the major bands in the San Francisco Sound of the 1960’s.  I once read frequent lead singer Grace Slick described as “the voice that launched a thousand trips”.  She was not an original bandmember, however; Slick was previously in another San Francisco band called the Great Society.  In the band’s entry in AllmusicRichie Unterberger notes that the Great Society “were nearly as popular as Jefferson Airplane in the early days of the San Francisco psychedelic scene.  Instrumentally, the Great Society were not as disciplined as Airplane.  But they were at least their equals in imagination, infusing their probing songwriting with Indian influences, minor key melodic shifts, and groundbreaking, reverb-soaked psychedelic guitar by [Grace] Slick’s brother-in-law, Darby Slick.”  In 1967Grace Slick joined Jefferson Airplane and brought with her the Darby Slick song “Somebody to Love” and her own song “White Rabbit”.  They became her new band’s biggest hit songs, with both reaching the Top Ten, and she became the most prominent member of the group.  

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Jefferson Airplane continued issuing hit albums through the end of the 1960’s but was beginning to run out of steam, so its members began spreading out and working on solo albums and side projects.  When Grace Slick was recovering from throat surgery, Hot Tuna was founded and had a oft-changing line-up of various members of the Airplane and others.  Electric violinist Papa John Creach joined Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna at the same time.  


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In November 1970Paul Kantner and Grace Slick released an album called Blows Against the Empire that was credited to Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship, though the line-up had little resemblance to the band of that name that followed. 


By this time, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick were a couple; in January 1971Slick gave birth to China Wing Kantner (Wing was her maiden name), who later became a veejay on MTV.  A well-publicized rumor is that China was originally named “god” (with a small “g”), but apparently, this was based only on a remark made by Grace Slick to a nurse. 


Jefferson Starship proper can be dated to the 1974 album Dragon Fly, but the album was still credited to Paul Kantner and Grace Slick as well as Jefferson Starship.  Their first big hit song “Miracles” had a timeless quality, to me at least – it felt as though the song had always been there.  The line-up included Pete Sears, an alumnus of past UARB the Sons of Fred


Grace Slick appeared with the band on three more albums, beginning with the following album, Modern Times (1981).  


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When Paul Kantner left Jefferson Starship in 1984, this last remaining founding member of Jefferson Airplane settled out of court with the other bandmembers that any use of the terms “Jefferson” or “Airplane” was forbidden unless all members of Jefferson Airplane, Inc. agreed.  (You could tell that it wasn’t the 1960’s anymore when there is such a thing as “Jefferson Airplane, Inc.”).  As a result, the 1985 album Knee Deep in the Hoopla was released under the name Starship.  When Grace Slick left the band for good in 1988, the last tie to Jefferson Airplane was severed. 


(June 2014)


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One of the hallmarks of the bandmembers in early punk rock bands is picking new names for themselves.  Not everyone did that, and most musicians perform under their own names.  For the record, as best I can tell, Frank ZappaFats DominoMajor LanceKris Kristofferson, and Stonewall Jackson are using their real names (with Fats being a nickname, though Major and Stonewall are not).  Grace Slick is her married name; she was born Grace Wing.  Most though not all of the one-name performers are also using one of their real names, with slight spelling changes and anglicizing here and there:  MadonnaPrinceJewel, CherBjörkEnyaBeckDonovanMorrissey,  LiberaceSadeSealShakiraRihannaAdeleDidoMelanie, Beyoncé, etc. 
(March 2017)
Last edited: March 22, 2021