Airplane Starship Paul Kantner

Airplane Starship Paul Kantner

Remembering Paul Kanter
March 17, 1941 – January 28, 2016

2016 was not kind to Boomer music fans. Of course, the reality is that their musical heroes are in or approaching their eighth decade and the actuarial tables are weighted against many or any additional decades.

I prefer to recognize these people by remembering their birthday, not the day they left us.

Like John Sebastian, the other person whose birthday is today, Paul Kantner didn’t have to move to find himself in the middle of the musical revolution. John was in the Village. Paul was in San Francisco.

Airplane Starship Paul Kantner

Jefferson Airplane Takes Off


Kanter’s mother died when he was eight and his father, a traveling salesman, sent him to boarding school. The lonely motherless child discovered science fiction in the school library and that influence became a bedrock for the Airplane’s and later the Starship’s music.

Paul Kantner formed the Jefferson Airplane with Marty Balin in 1965. In 1966 the Airplane released its debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. It did well locally, but the Airplane’s success grew when Grace Slick became its vocalist.

By 1969, the Airplane was successful and popular enough to close out day two of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair on day 3. The Who played until dawn and the Airplane came on.

Airplane Starship Paul Kantner
Sunday 17 August dawn at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. (photo by J Shelley)

Kantner was the key to the Airplane’s evolution into the Starship. In fact, Paul Kantner had the longest continuous membership with the band (19 years); at times he was the only founding member still in the band from the original Jefferson Airplane lineup.

Airplane Starship Paul Kantner

Paul Kantner

The Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Its performance at the induction ceremony was the first time original members Marty Balin, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden and Kantner had played together since 1970.

From WikipediaKantner died in San Francisco at the age of 74 on January 28, 2016 from multiple organ failure and septic shock after he suffered a heart attack days earlier. Shortly after Kantner’s passing, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart reflected, “He was kind of the backbone of that band. It was always about Grace and Jack and Jorma (Kaukonen), I don’t think he got the credit he deserved.”  He died on the same day as Airplane co-founder Signe Toly Anderson.

Airplane Starship Paul Kantner

Starship Sails On

In August 2020 the Starship released Mother of the Sun, their first album in 12 years. Grace Slick contributed some of the lyrics to one of the songs, “It’s About Time”


Airplane Starship Paul Kantner

John B Sebastian

John B Sebastian

Happy birthday to you
March 17, 1944
Lovin Spoonful John Benson Sebastian
2013-08-15 Richie Havens Memorial Service @ Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (photo by J Shelley)
John B Sebastian

Another Greenwich Villager

The common thread to the story that many musicians of the 1960s share is that they moved to Greenwich Village in New York City to be part of its burgeoning folk scene and Bohemian lifestyle.

John Benson Sebastian didn’t have to move there. He was born there to a father who played classical harmonica and a mother who wrote for a radio program.

Early Villagers such as Burl Ives and Woody Guthrie visited his home regularly, so it was no surprise when he became part of the Even Dozen Jug Band. From that platform others observed his skills on guitar, harmonica and autoharp. Soon he accompanied artists such as Fred Neil, Tim Hardin, Jesse Colin Young, Tom Rush, Mississippi John Hurt, Judy Collins, and Bob Dylan.

John B Sebastian

Lovin’ Spoonful

It was the Lovin’ Spoonful and “Do You Believe In Magic” that brought Sebastian national recognition. Here is a live performance of that song from 1965. How many of you remember wondering what that thing he was playing?

John B Sebastian

Solo Sebastian

John Sebastian left the group in 1968 to go solo and other than an occasional return to the group format (J-Band), he continued and continues to perform as such. Of course, he also continues to be in demand as an accompanist.

John B Sebastian

Woodstock Sebastian

One of his most famous moments was his unscheduled performance at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. After the Festival’s laborious delivery on Friday, Saturday dawned damp and the organizers faced a worrisome day.

The band Quill opened but the stage crew needed time to set up the next scheduled group. Organizers “volunteered” Country Joe McDonald and borrowed a strapless guitar (he found a piece of rope).  Santana’s awesome set followed McDonald’s rousing songs, but again time was needed for Keef Hartley to set up.

 John was living in Woodstock  and wandered to Bethel to party. A much larger party than he or anyone realized was going to happen.

John was volunteered and filled in admirably.

John B Sebastian

Welcome back John

His second moment of national fame came in 1976,  when he had an unexpected #1 single with “Welcome Back”, the theme song to the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter.

As part of the Lovin’ Spoonful, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

John continues to live in Woodstock, NY (“Where Woodstock is, but not where Woodstock was.”) and regularly shows up to play at Levon Helm’s Barn.

And in 2021 he helped promote the refurbished  Bearsville Studio with a wonderful video.

Also in 2021, he and Arlen Roth released John Sebastian and Arlen Roth Explore the Spoonful Songbook.