Paul Lorin Kantner
born March 17, 1941
is most noted for co-founding the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane. He was the bandʼs leader and captained thegroup through various successor incarnations of Jefferson Starship. A politicalanarchist, Kantner is an advocate of mind expansion and spiritual growth, and is aprominent supporter of the legalization of marijuana. His primary instrument is 12 stringguitar but he also plays banjo and glass harmonica and sings lead or backup vocals.
Kantner was educated in strict Catholic schools, causing him to escape by immersing himself in science fiction novels and music. When he became a teenager he went into total revolt against all forms of authority, and became determined to become a protestfolk singer in the manner of his musical hero Pete Seeger. After leaving home, heentered the San Francisco Bay folk scene where a brief affair led to the birth of Kantner's first child, a son named Gareth.
During the summer of 1965 singer Marty Balin saw Kantner perform and recruited himas part of the original Jefferson Airplane. Kantner would be the only member to appearon all Jefferson Airplane/Starship albums bearing the Jefferson prefix. Kantner's songwriting often featured whimsical or political lyrics with a science-fiction or fantasytheme, usually set to music that had a hard rock, almost martial sound.
Despite its commercial success, the Airplane was plagued by intra-group fighting,causing the band to begin splintering at the height of its success. During the transitional period of the early 1970s, as the Airplane started to disintegrate, Kantner recordedBlows Against The Empire, a concept album featuring an ad-hoc group of musicians whom he dubbed Jefferson Starship. This earliest edition of Jefferson Starship included members of CSN (David Crosby and Graham Nash) and members of Grateful Dead (Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart), other members of Jefferson Airplane (Grace Slick, Joey Covington, and Jack Casady), as well as Quicksilver Messenger Service co-founder David Freiberg, who would later join Jefferson Airplane and along with Kantner. co-found the touring Jefferson Starship.
In Blows Against the Empire, Kantner (and Slick) sang about a group of people scaping earth in a hijacked starship. The album was nominated in 1971 for the science fiction Hugo Award. A sequel was released in 1983 and included most of the same musicians, performing this time under the name The Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra.
It 1969 Kantner and Grace Slick and began living together publicly as a couple. Rolling Stone magazine called them "the psychedelic John and Yoko." Slick became pregnant, and a song about their love child's impending birth "A Child Is Coming" appeared on Blows Aganist the Empire. Kantner and Slick's daughter China Kantner was born in 1971. Kantner and Slick released two follow-up albums. Sunfighter was an environmentalism-tinged album released in 1971 to celebrate China's birth. 1973's Baron von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun was titled after the nicknames David Crosby had given to the couple.
After Kaukonen and Casady left the Airplane in 1973 to devote their full attention to Hot Tuna, the musicians on Baron von Tollbooth formed the core of a new Airplane lineup that was formally reborn as Jefferson Starship in 1974. Kantner, Slick, and David Freiberg were charter members along with late-Airplane holdovers drummer John Barbata, and fiddler Papa John Creach, along with Pete Sears (who, like Freiberg, played bass and keyboards), and Craig Chaquico. Marty Balin also joined Jefferson Starship while their first album, Dragonfly, was still in the works, co-writing with Kantner the albums biggest hit "Caroline."
After the 1978 release of the album "Earth" - Jefferson Starship endured major personnel changes. Slick took a leave of absence, and Balin quit the group to pursue a solo career. In 1979, an album dominated by Kantner compositions called "Freedom at Point Zero" was released to commercial success. Grace Slick returned for the follow-up album "Modern Times" which was another record featuring Kantner's science fiction themes.
In 1984, Kantner (the last founding member of Jefferson Airplane remaining) left the group, complaining that the band had become too commercial and strayed too far from its counterculture roots. Upon quitting Kantner took legal action against his former bandmates over the Jefferson name (the rest of the band wanted to continue as Jefferson Starship). Kantner won his suit, and the group name was reduced to simply "Starship." Under the terms of the settlement, no group can call itself Jefferson Starship without Paul Kantner as a member, and no group can call itself Jefferson Airplane unless Grace Slick is on board.
In 1985, following his departure from Jefferson Starship, Paul Kantner rejoined with Balin and Jack Casady to form the KBC Band, releasing their only album,KBC Band (which included Kantner's hit, "America"), in 1987 on Arista Records. There was a video made for "America" as well as a national KBC tour. With Kantner reunited with Balin and Casady, the KBC Band opened the door to a fullblown Jefferson Airplane reunion. In 1988, during a San Francisco Hot Tuna gig where Kantner was performing, they found themselves joined by Grace Slick. This led to a formal reunion of the original Jefferson Airplane (featuring nearly all the main members, including founder Marty Balin and a self-titled album was released by Columbia Records. The accompanying tour was a success, but their revival was short-lived, although the band never formally disbanded.
In 1992 Kantner reformed Jefferson Starship and continues to tour and record. Today Jefferson Starship is primarily a Paul Kantner solo band, with various former Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship members dropping in for tours or specific shows.
In 2007 Jefferson Starship headlined The Summer of Love 40th Anniversary Tour and performed at the site of the original Monterey Pop Festival with many of that eraʼs luminaries including The Doors.
With their latest female vocalist Cathy Richardson and an all-star cast, Jefferson Starship released their first studio album in a decade titled Jefferson's Tree of Liberty in September 2008. The album was a return to Kantner's musical roots featuring covers of 1950's and 60's protest songs and received worldwide critical acclaim. In 2009 Jefferson Starship headlined The Heroes of Woodstock tour and performed in Bethel, NY at the site of rockʼs greatest festival, on the exact date of its 40th anniversary.
In 2010 Paul Kantner & Jefferson Starship celebrate the bandʼs own 40th anniversarywith a schedule of non-stop touring … both - co-headlining The Heroes of Woodstock Summer of Love Rock & Roll Circus featuring The Doors, Canned Heat & others … and performing their own specially themed concerts, presenting some of the classic Jefferson Starship recordings in their entirety.
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