Jefferson Airplane/Starship co-founder was an early voice of youth rebellion—and thoughtful dissent. The sci-fi component didn’t hurt, either.
By Fred Mills
God bless you Paul. You were both a teacher and a healer.
Water brother: that’s the word that came to mind for many Jefferson Airplane fans when they heard the news come over the radio that the band’s co-founder—and, by any estimation, the spiritual heart and philosophical mind—Paul Kantner had passed away yesterday (Jan. 28) at the age of 74. The cause of death is “multiple organ failure and septic shock after he suffered a heart attack days earlier.”
The gentleman lived a full life, one which included prodigious drug usage from the early days, although it’s known that, for example, his 1980 cerebral hemorrhage was not due to drugs. He experienced a heart attack last year, in March, but was subsequently able to return to performing later that year.
Kantner—who, lyrically, was a ridiculously brainy blend of utopian philosophy (leavened, of course, by the occasional accompanying dystopian cynicism), idealized sci-fi romanticism, and sometimes just plain balls-to-the-wall hippie confrontationalism that mandated people challenge blind authority no matter the level—never surrendered his aesthetic visions regardless of the vicissitudes of the music industry within which he operated. Whether helping steer the vessel through the ‘60s and well into the ‘70s when the Airplane morphed into the Starship, or sitting out the latter group’s mega-commercial period of the MTV-centric ‘80s, or subsequently returning to the fold and going on to helm a latterday Starship/Airplane revival, Kantner retained a certain dignity that ensured he would be—and is—remembered fondly.
Below, a few sonic remembrances.