Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner Dies at 74

Iconic San Francisco musician Paul Kantner died Thursday, Jan. 28, of multiple organ failure and septic shock.

A founding member of the Jefferson Airplane, Kantner, 74, suffered a heart attack earlier this week, reported the San Francisco Chronicle, adding that he had experienced many health problems in recent years.

S Malinski - Jefferson Starship - Ridgefield Playhouse-2

With Jefferson Airplane, Kantner defined the mid-1960s psychedelic sound and created hits like “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit” featuring Grace Slick’s narcotic vocals. Most notably, the band was the first headliner at Bill Graham’s legendary Fillmore Auditorium and performed at Woodstock. Kantner and Slick transformed the group into Jefferson Starship in 1974; Kantner departed 11 years later, although the couple had a daughter together.

S Malinski - Jefferson Starship - Ridgefield Playhouse-17

In 1996, Kantner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he continued touring up until his death. Most recently, Steve Malinski witnessed Kantner perform with several bandmates for a 50th anniversary celebration at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Connecticut this past August:

The Starship’s presence on stage was bold and cohesive – original members of the Airplane Paul Kantner and David Freiberg kept the sound true and original to the Airplane along with longtime Starship drummer Donny Baldwin, keyboardist Chris Smith and guitarist Jude Gold. The animated and exhuberant Cathy Richardson fulfilled the big-shoes role created by Grace Slick’s powerful vocals, to whom she gave a tip of the hat to near the end of the set. Together they made the performance feel engaging to the audience with down to earth, unscripted banter and humor between songs, which has been a consistency for the group through the past several years.”

Paul Kantner at the Woodstock 40th Anniversary Concert, Bethel Woods Aug. 15, 2009
Paul Kantner at the Woodstock 40th Anniversary Concert, Bethel Woods Aug. 15, 2009

Paul Lorin Kantner is survived by three children: sons Gareth and Alexander, and daughter, China. At press time, funeral arrangements had not been released.

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