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

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