Paul Kantner Biography

17 March 1941, San Francisco, California, USA. Kantner abandoned ambitions of a career in folk music on becoming a founder member of Jefferson Airplane in 1965. Although this revered unit was initially a vehicle for lead singer Marty Balin, his influence was gradually eclipsed by those of Kantner and new vocalist Grace Slick, particularly when the pair became linked romantically. An early predilection for love songs was replaced by an espousal of hip politics and science fiction; the latter was a particular Kantner favourite. Volunteers included ‘Wooden Ships’, written with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, and a collaboration reflecting a growing desire among many musicians to break the constraints of a single group. 1970’s Blows Against The Empire, credited to Paul Kantner with Jefferson Starship, enshrined this desire by featuring contributions from Slick, Crosby, Jerry Garcia and Graham Nash. Although the storyline was slight - a group of friends hijack Earth’s first starship - it contained several excellent songs, notably ‘Have You Seen The Stars Tonite’ and ‘A Child Is Coming’. The album was nominated for a Hugo science fiction award.

Kantner and Slick used several of the same artists on the following year’s Sunfighter and although the duo remained members of Jefferson Airplane, many queried their long-standing commitment in the light of the superior material appearing on ‘outside’ projects. Baron Von Tollbooth And The Chrome Nun emphasized their growing independence and when the parent group disintegrated, Kantner and Slick assembled a permanent Jefferson Starship line-up. Kantner remained at the helm of this highly popular attraction until October 1980 when he suffered a brain haemorrhage, but resumed his role upon making a full recovery. In 1983, he recorded Planet Earth Rock And Roll Orchestra, an ambitious sequel to his solo debut which was produced by the Durocs team and featured many Bay Area acolytes. The soundtrack to an as yet unrealized science fiction novel, the set appeared as relations within the parent band soured to the extent that Kantner left the following year.

In 1985, Kantner rejoined two former colleagues, Marty Balin and Jack Casady, in KBC, but this much heralded unit was a great disappointment. Kantner subsequently concentrated on his activities with the re-formed Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. More than any former member of these two bands, Kantner has the moral right to their name, and continues to fly the flag for both.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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