The Essential Jefferson Airplane

The Essential Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship


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The fact that this direction was more or less a 180-degree turn from the counter-cultural stance of the Jefferson Airplane’s early records wasn’t at all lost on the members of the band, but times were changing, and the Airplane’s flower-powered political ideals had fallen out of favor about as rapidly as their messily unpredictable (but rarely dull) original sound. It’s hard to argue with hits, however, and for at least a little while, Jefferson Starship managed to find a middle ground that kept the band’s old guard happy while still capitulating to FM trends.

, later known as and , American best known for its biting political lyrics, soaring harmonies, and hallucinogenic titles such as Surrealistic Pillow and “” The Jefferson Airplane was an important standard-bearer for the counterculture in the 1960s, but in its later incarnations it had hits with more mainstream material in the 1970s and ’80s. The original members were Marty Balin (original name Martyn Jerel Buchwald; b. January 30, 1943, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.), Paul Kantner (b. March 17, 1941, San Francisco, California, U.S.—d. January 28, 2016, San Francisco), Jorma Kaukonen (b. December 23, 1940, Washington, D.C., U.S.), Signe Anderson (b. September 15, 1941, Seattle, Washington, U.S.—d. January 28, 2016, Beaverton, Oregon), Skip Spence (b. April 18, 1946, Ontario, Canada—d. April 16, 1999, Santa Cruz, California), Jack Casady (b. April 13, 1944, Washington, D.C.), and Bob Harvey. Later members included Grace Slick (original name Grace Barnett Wing; b. October 30, 1939, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.), (b. April 7, 1938, New York, New York, U.S.—d. January 10, 2005, Penngrove, California), Papa John Creach (b. May 28, 1917, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, U.S.—d. February 22, 1994, Los Angeles, California), David Freiberg (b. August 24, 1938, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.), Craig Chaquico (b. September 26, 1954, Sacramento, California), and Aynsley Dunbar (b. January 10, 1946, Liverpool, Merseyside, England).

Kantner (left) and Jack Casady jam with the Jefferson Airplane, 1969

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The Essential Jefferson Airplane

The Jefferson Airplane (formed 1965): Signe Anderson (vocals); Marty Balin (vocals, rhythm guitar); Jack Casady (bass); Paul Kantner (rhythm guitar, vocals); Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar, some vocals); Skip Spence (drums). Anderson and Spence quit, mid-1966, replaced by Grace Slick (vocals, piano, recorder) and Spencer Dryden (drums). Spence went on to form . Balin quit, Dryden quit to join , replaced by Joey Covington, 1970. Papa John Creach (violin) added, 1970. Covington replaced by Johnny Barbata, 1972. David Freiberg (vocals) added for the group's final tour, 1972.

The band, its membership constantly shifting, released albums for 20 years as the Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and Starship. Although it experienced commercial success—most notably with 1975’s chart-topping Red Octopus and its Top Ten single “”—the band never recaptured the moment when its stood for something more, when the Airplane spoke for change on behalf of the culture that produced it. The Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.