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Music / Jefferson Airplane

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The classic line-up of Jefferson Airplane. Clockwise from bottom-left: Jorma Kaukonen, Spencer Dryden, Jack Casady, Marty Balin, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick.

"Don't you want somebody to love?"

Jefferson Airplane was an American Psychedelic Rock and Folk Rock band with a sound comparable to The Byrds and the Lovin' Spoonful. According to Jorma Kaukonen, the name came from a friend, Steve Talbot, who jokingly nicknamed him "Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane" as a parody of the sort of nicknames Blues singers usually adopted (and possibly had Blind Lemon Jefferson in mind), and when nobody else could think of a band name, Kaukonen remembered Talbot's joke and shortened it appropriately. This didn't stop rumours that the original name referred to an impromptu method of holding a too-short marijuana joint.

When they first formed in 1965, Jefferson Airplane consisted of Marty Balin and Signe Anderson on lead vocals, Jorma Kaukonen and Paul Kantner on guitar, Bob Harvey on bass and Jerry Peloquin on drums. Harvey and Peloquin didn't last long, and were quickly replaced by Jack Casady and Alexander "Skip" Spence on bass and drums respectively. Airplane would release one album (Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, 1966) with that line-up before Spence moved on to form Moby Grape (and subsequently suffered from mental illness, dying in 1999), and Anderson left to raise a family.


They were replaced by Spencer Dryden (the nephew of Charlie Chaplin) and iconic front-woman Grace Slick. Now the classic line-up was set, and with the release of their 1967 album, Surrealistic Pillow, they established themselves as a leading Psychedelic Rock band. They enjoyed Top 10 hit singles in America with "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit", are the only band that played at the three most famous rock and roll festivals of The '60s (Woodstock, Monterey and Altamont) and headlined the first Isle of Wight Festival. Unfortunately, the group seemed to run out of steam with the onset of The '70s; Dryden was fired in early 1970 (Replaced first by Joey Covington, then by former drummer of The Turtles, John Barbata), and Balin, disillusioned with the psychedelic scene after the death of his close friend Janis Joplin, and with the gradual decline of his influence and involvement, quit his band. After a series of revolving members (Including violinist Papa John Creach and vocalist David Freiberg), they finally called it a day in 1972. Kaukonen and Casady went on to further success with Hot Tuna, and the remaining members went on to form Jefferson Starship.


However, in 1989, the classic line-up of Jefferson Airplane reunited for one last album. However, Spencer Dryden was excluded as Kantner still held a grudge against him for his role in firing one of their managers in 1968. The album was not very well-received, but the tour supporting it was a big success. By then at the age of 50, Slick chose to retire from the music industry, saying that 'All rock-and-rollers over the age of 50 look stupid and should retire'. Papa John Creach died from heart failure in 1994, and the Airplane reunited once more in 1996 for the induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This time Dryden participated and Slick was absent. Skip Spence died from lung cancer in 1999, Spencer Dryden died in 2005 from colon cancer, and Joey Covington died in a tragic car accident in 2013. In 2016, Paul Kantner died from multiple organ failure and septic shock following a heart attack, and Signe Anderson died from COPD on the same day as Kantner. Marty Balin passed in 2018.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold):

  • Signe Toly Anderson - backing and lead vocals, percussion (1965-1966; died 2016)
  • Marty Balin - lead vocals, guitar, bass, percussion (1965–1971, 1989, 1996; died 2018)
  • John Barbata - drums, tambourine, percussion (1972)
  • Jack Casady - bass, guitar (1965–1972, 1989, 1996)
  • Joey Covington - drums, percussion, backing and lead vocals, congas, tambourine (1970-1972; died 2013)
  • Papa John Creach - violin, vocals (1970–1972; died 1994)
  • Spencer Dryden - drums, percussion, piano, organ, steel balls, vocals (1966–1970, 1996; died 2005)
  • David Freiberg - vocals, tambourine, guitar (1972)
  • Bob Harvey - bass (1965)
  • Paul Kantner - guitar, backing and lead vocals (1965–1972, 1989, 1996; died 2016)
  • Jorma Kaukonen - guitar, backing and lead vocals, sitar (1965–1972, 1989, 1996)
  • Jerry Peloquin - drums (1965)
  • Grace Slick - lead vocals, piano, organ, recorder, keyboard (1966–1972, 1989)
  • Alexander "Skip" Spence - drums (1965-1966; died 1999)

Studio Discography:

Live Discography:

  • 1969 - Bless Its Pointed Little Head
  • 1973 - Thirty Seconds Over Winterland
  • 1991 - Live At The Monterey Festival
  • 1996 - Feed Your Head: Live '67–'69
  • 1998 - Live At The Fillmore East
  • 1999 - Through The Looking Glass
  • 2006 - At Golden Gate Park
  • 2007 - Last Flight
  • 2007 - Sweeping Up The Spotlight: Live At The Fillmore East 1969
  • 2007 - At The Family Dog Ballroom
  • 2009 - The Woodstock Experience note 
  • 2010 - Live At The Fillmore Auditorium 10/15/66: Late Show: Signe's Farewell
  • 2010 - Live At The Fillmore Auditorium 10/16/66: Early & Late Shows: Grace's Debut
  • 2010 - Live At The Fillmore Auditorium 11/25/66 & 11/27/66: We Have Ignition
  • 2010 - Return To The Matrix 2/1/68

Non-album singles:

  • 1966 - "It's No Secret" note  / "Runnin' Round This World"
  • 1970 - "Mexico" / "Have You Seen The Saucers?"

"Feed your tropes!":


Example of: