The 1960’s was a decade marked by societal upheaval, a war without a strategy, and a revolutionized music scene. When one ponders music of the 1960’s, certain artists come to mind. Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, and Creedence Clearwater Revival to name a few. However, there was one notable female- fronted group that rocked the radios all the way from San Francisco to Vietnam; Jefferson Airplane. The group perfectly mastered commercial viability, whilst still holding true to the anti-establishment mantra of the times, bringing to the table a completely unique branding of left-wing progressivism which many of the band members would later describe as “fervent paranoia of ‘the man’.” Unfortunately, the world lost two bonafide revolutionaries after the passing of Jefferson Airplane’s founding vocalists, Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson.
About a half-dozen great albums and groups came out almost at once right before Sgt. Pepper’s changed the music scene for good, and Jefferson Airplane was one of them. Primed to jump on the nascent flower-power movement, Jefferson Airplane premiered in 1966 with their album Takes Off. At this point in the band’s evolution they were cautious and commercially-oriented enough to stick with the classic three-minute pop song format. Jangly, occasionally folky guitar, thunderous bass, and blurry group harmonies define the sound. Kantner’s classic, “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love” are the best examples among many, and would be played from the streets of California to the battlefields of Vietnam. None of these iconic songs would have been possible without the writings and vocalizations of Airplane’s founding members, Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson.
Kantner passed away on January 28th of this year as a result of complications suffered from a heart attack. Shortly after Kantner’s passing, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart reflected, “He was kind of the backbone of that band…I don’t think he got the credit he deserved.” On the same day, his co-founder Signe Anderson also passed away. Jefferson Airplane is to be credited as being one of the first bands with a unique brand of politically motivated melodies brought to the world of rock. Many greats such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin credit their inspirations to the band. As we look into a new political era, let us take a moment to reflect on the works of Jefferson Airplane and see how music can inspire political movements and change the world.