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Music / Jefferson Starship

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The classic line-up of Jefferson Starship. From left to right: John Barbata, David Freiberg (top), Marty Balin (middle), Craig Chaquico (bottom), Grace Slick, Paul Kantner (top) and Pete Sears (bottom).

Jefferson Starship (named after the ad-hoc supergroup that played on Paul Kantner's Hugo-nominated science-fiction concept album Blows Against the Empire) is an American Arena Rock band formed in 1974. It is the Spiritual Successor to Jefferson Airplane, which had broken up two years earlier and features Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, David Freiberg, Papa John Creach and John Barbata from the old band (with Marty Balin joining soon after formation). Other founding members include teenage guitarist Craig Chaquico and bassist/guitarist Peter Kaukonen, the brother of Jorma from Jefferson Airplane (Peter Kaukonen was gone after their first tour, replaced by the British Pete Sears). Balin officially rejoined shortly after the release of their debut album Dragon Fly from 1974. Their second album, Red Octopus would become their most successful album, and with a little help from the main single from that album ("Miracles", which hit no.3 in the charts) they became more commercially successful than Jefferson Airplane ever were. However, today they're probably best remembered as, "That band that showed up in The Star Wars Holiday Special".


Importantly, Slick was sacked due to her out-of control alcoholism and a disastrous concert in Hamburg in 1978. Then came the Star Wars Holiday Special, and not long after that, Balin was gone. The following year, lead vocalist Mickey Thomas joined the band and subsequently became the effective leader of the band in the 80's. John Barbata left in 1979 after a car crash, and was first replaced by famous British session drummer Aynsley Dunbar, and then by Donny Baldwin. By 1981, Grace Slick was back, but all of these line-up changes took its toll on the band. Finally, with Paul Kantner's departure in 1984, none of the founding Jefferson Airplane members were left, and that marked the end of Jefferson Starship. Out of the ashes of this band would come Starship.

That's not the end of the story for Jefferson Starship though. Paul Kantner re-formed Jefferson Starship in 1992, and for the first few years they used the name "The Next Generation" next to Jefferson Starship (a reference to Star Trek: The Next Generation). They eventually dropped that, but they remain active today with a revolving-door line-up mainly as a touring act. As Kantner said: 'I'm working on erasing the bad history of Jefferson Starship, in the '80s when it went bad. I had to leave the band, it got so bad. I'm usually the last one at the party, as a general rule'. They released two studio albums (Windows Of Heaven in 1998 and Jefferson's Tree Of Liberty in 2008) and several live albums before Kantner died from multiple organ failure and septic shock following a heart attack in 2016.


Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):

  • Mark "Slick" Aguilar - guitar, vocals (1992-2012)
  • Signe Toly Anderson - backing and lead vocals (1993-1994; died 2016)
  • Donny Baldwin - drums, percussion, vocals (1982-1984, 2008-present)
  • Marty Balin - lead vocals, guitar (1974-1978, 1994-2008; died 2018)
  • John Barbata - drums, percussion, backing and lead vocals, congas (1974-1979)
  • Gary Cambra - keyboard, synthesizer (1995)
  • Jack Casady - bass (1992-2000)
  • Craig Chaquico - guitar, vocals, synthesizer, drums (1974-1984)
  • Papa John Creach - violin (1974-1975, 1992-1994; died 1994)
  • Aynsley Dunbar - drums, percussion, marimba, synthesizer (1979-1982)
  • Barry Flast - keyboard, synthesizer (1995)
  • David Freiberg - vocals, keyboard, organ, piano, bass, synthesizer (1974-1984, 2005-present)
  • Jude Gold - guitar (2012-present)
  • Tim Gorman - keyboard, synthesizer, vocals, piano (1992-1995)
  • Darby Gould - backing and lead vocals (1992-1993, 1994-1995, 2005, 2008)
  • Chico Huff - bass (1998-2000)
  • Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar, banjo, keyboard, synthesizer (1974-1984, 1992-2016; died 2016)
  • Peter Kaukonen - bass, guitar (1974, 1994-1995)
  • Diana Mangano - backing and lead vocals (1993-2008)
  • T Lavitz - keyboard, synthesizer, piano, organ (1995-1998; died 2010)
  • Tom Lily - bass (2000)
  • Prairie Prince - drums, percussion, marimba, rainstick, snare, kick, bodhran (1992-2008)
  • Cathy Richardson - backing and lead vocals, harmonica, guitar (2008-2015)
  • Rachel Rose - backing and lead vocals (2015-present)
  • Trey Sabatelli - drums, percussion (1995)
  • Steve Schuster - saxophone (1978-1979)
  • Pete Sears - bass, piano, harpsichord, organ, synthesizer, clavinet, celeste, guitar, vocals (1974-1984)
  • Grace Slick - lead vocals, piano (1974-1978, 1981-1984)
  • Chris Smith - keyboard, synthesizer, piano, bass, squeezebox, drone, pennywhistle (1998-present)
  • Mickey Thomas - lead vocals (1979-1984)
  • Jack Traylor - guitar, vocals (2005)
  • Bobby Vega - bass (1998-2000)

Studio Discography:

  • 1970 - Blows Against the Empire note 
  • 1974 - Dragon Fly
  • 1975 - Red Octopus
  • 1976 - Spitfire
  • 1978 - Earth
  • 1979 - Freedom At Point Zero
  • 1981 - Modern Times
  • 1982 - Winds Of Change
  • 1984 - Nuclear Furniture
  • 1998 - Windows Of Heaven
  • 2008 - Jefferson's Tree Of Liberty

Live Discography:

  • 1982 - RCA Special Radio Series Volume 19
  • 1995 - Deep Space/Virgin Sky
  • 1999 - Greatest Hits: Live At The Fillmore
  • 2000 - Live At B. B. King's Blues Club
  • 2000 - Live At Vinoy Park
  • 2001 - Post Nine 11
  • 2001 - Across The Sea Of Suns
  • 2002 - UK
  • 2003 - Live
  • 2005 - Galactic Reunion Concert
  • 2011 - Air Play
  • 2013 - Live In Central Park NYC May 12, 1975

Nuclear Tropes:

  • Control Freak: Mickey Thomas by all accounts.
  • I Am the Band: This is very much so for Paul Kantner, the only member to be a part of every incarnation, until his death in 2016.
  • Intercourse with You: "Miracles".
    • The lines "I got a taste of the real world (oh baby)/When I went down on you girl" can still be heard on the radio today.
  • One-Woman Song: "Caroline", "Jane".
  • Put on a Bus / The Bus Came Back: Grace Slick was sacked in 1978 due to her worsening alcoholism and her behaviour during their Hamburg shows. Slick returned in 1981 though, in time for Modern Times.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Marty Balin had enough and quit in 1978, though he returned in 1994 - only to quit again in 2008.
  • The '70s: Jefferson Starship successfully morphed into an Arena Rock group along the lines of Toto (as a matter of fact, their hit song "Jane" was accused of aping Toto's single "Hold The Line", right down to the piano triplets).
  • Shout-Out: The album Blows Against the Empire was inspired by, and referenced, another Heinlein novel, Methuselah's Children, again with permission. (Heinlein commented that his plots had been used by others many times, but this was the first time someone had asked first).
  • Spiritual Successor: To Jefferson Airplane. Starship is the same for this band.