OBIT: Paul Kantner (1941-2016)

Paul Kantner, who evolved as the driving force behind first Jefferson Airplane, and subsequently Jefferson Starship (not The Starship, mind you) has passed away at the age of 74.

It is hard for me to believe that almost six years ago I posted this piece right here on the Remnants as I declared the Airplane the best rock band of the San Francisco psychedelic era. That article was on the passing of drummer Joey Covington, and sadly, now it is Kantner.

It is cool that Peter already published Have You Seen the Stars Tonight?, for that was the first song I thought of posting for Kantner, but there are certainly a zillion more I love.

I was lucky enough to live in the Bay Area during the heyday of the SF bands, so I got to see the Airplane more than a few times, even at Winterland, with the Dead, Big Brother, and Quicksilver. Good as those other bands were, the Airplane were easily my fave.

For starters, this clip of Crown of Creation, from The Smothers Brothers Show in 1968, is emblematic of the band–which did feature three singers unlike most bands at the time–in their flower power heyday. (Note that Paul plays a Rickenbacker!)

It was largely Kantner’s vision that pushed the band through five great studio albums along with a killer live one before the metamorphosis into Jefferson Starship,

Kantner was soft-spoken, but equally outspoken with respect to the causes of the left, but he was ultimately a musician and artist whose band left a significant body of great work.

Like this fantastic treatment of the traditional song, Good Shepherd from Volunteers, performed at the Fillmore East in 1969.


But, my favorite moment of Kantner occurred in 1981, when U2 first was gaining a buzz. I went to see the up-and-coming Irish band, and who should be sitting behind me at a little table, all by his lonesome, but Paul Kantner?

I will leave with two treatments of Fred Neil’s The Other Side of this Life. This first is the band, interrupted during play at the infamous Altamont gig in which Kantner, clearly the leader of the band confronts Hell’s Angel Ralph “Sonny” Barger.

But, this second treatment, from the wonderful live Bless Its Pointed Little Head just fucking smokes.

I will see the stars tonight Paul, and will see you among them.

2 thoughts on “OBIT: Paul Kantner (1941-2016)

  1. Watched the Smothers Brothers video and it amazes me how much of this wonderful band who hit my radar within the past six months I see in there. (I’ve seen Ruby The Hatchet three times since September.) Especially similar are the male/female dual vocals. The words probably not so much, but who cares about words anyway?

    So, I’m trying to figure out whether or not Paul Kantner was part of “We Built This City” or not. Finding points for and against, but nothing definitive. I sure hope not; the afterlife will go a lot easier on him.

    Anyway, here’s the video. The long intro (not on the CD) works a lot better live than here, so feel free to skip two minutes in to get to the actual song:

  2. Paul was, as noted on Peter’s post, not in the band for city.

    He did not like the direction of the band, quit, and took the “Jefferson” part of the moniker with to make the point.

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