Have you seen his star tonight: R.I.P. Paul Kantner

By Dennis Hartley



Lemmy started it. Then Bowie, Frey…what, they come in fours, now?!

“If you can remember the 60’s…you weren’t there.” The man who may have coined the phrase (a tired old debate still rages as to who actually did) is no longer earthbound. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Paul Kantner, founder of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship (to paraphrase Dennis Hopper) is out there, man…he’s really out there.

When you think about the 1960s “San Francisco sound”, it’s nearly impossible to not think about the Airplane. Yeah, they were a bunch of dirty fuckin’ hippies, but there’s no denying that they have a pretty deep catalog, and a lot of those songs have held up pretty damn well.

They’re typically lumped in with Bay Area  contemporaries like the Dead, Moby Grape, Quicksilver, Big Brother, It’s a Beautiful Day, the New Riders, etc., but I always thought they had a slightly bolder sound. Consider this 1969 appearance on  Dick Cavett , tearing it up with an uncensored rendition of Kantner’s  “We Can Be Together”:

A bit X before X, n’est-ce pas? And Jorma’s man-bun seems…prescient.

But Kantner wasn’t strictly all about revolution and proto punk.  I’ll sign off my tribute with his most beautiful song (co-written with David Crosby), from the Starship’s Blows Against the Empire album:

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