2016 is not shaping up to be a good year for rock icons. Glenn Frey of the Eagles and David Bowie are now joined by Paul Kantner, guitarist and co-founder of Jefferson Airplane in death. Kantner died at 74 this past Thursday of both septic shock and organ failure. It has also been reported that he suffered a heart attack. Kantner is remembered as being a very influential figure in the San Francisco rock scene of the 1960’s.
“Paul was a key architect in the development of what became known as the San Francisco Sound,” Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said in a statement released to the LA Times. “The music community has lost a true icon, and we share our deepest condolences with Paul’s family and friends.”
As the story goes, Kantner and Marty Balin, who served as the guitarist and vocalist for Jefferson Airplane, began the group in a bar called the Drinking Gourd. Their original intentions were to be folk-rock, but aided by the rampant drug usage in San Francisco, the project took a completely different turn.
Their local following continued to grow in the San Francisco scene and aided by this the group released their first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off in 1966, and their second Surrealistic Pillow in 1967. Their iconic songs, “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” helped spark the hippy revolution in the United States. The band also played at the iconic American rock festivals, Monterey in 1967 and Woodstock and Altamont in arguably the most important year during the hippy movement, 1969.
“Jefferson Airplane had the fortune or misfortune of discovering Fender Twin Reverb amps and LSD in the same week while in college. That’s a great step forward,” Kantner had said to Harvey Kubernik, an author and music historian in the past according to Billboard.
“We went into it our normal selves… the point is if you find something that makes you joyful take note of it,” he further said to Kubernik. “Tell other people about it. That’s what San Francisco was about. Both musically, idealistically and metaphorically and every other way. That’s what we did here.”
The rest of the original Jefferson Starship members are still alive. Following his success with Jefferson Airplane, Kantner also co-founded Jefferson Starship.