Jefferson Airplane

by Erika Cox
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Jefferson Airplane was a 1960's band that embraced the whole "hippie" or flower child concept of the late 1960's. The band originated in San Francisco, California, which was where the "hippie" generation formed, developed, and grew.

Jefferson Airplane was the epitome of the psychedelic culture of the 1960's. Their music and lifestyle portrayed and embodied the flower child generation, which included free thinking, social change, engaging in new experiments and ideas.

The group formed in San Francisco and became one of the most popular groups during the psychedelic time of the 1960's along with other groups such as The Grateful Dead and Big Brother and The Holding Company.

Marty Balin formed the Jefferson Airplane in 1965 while looking for a new band to play at his club. Grace Slick replaced the previous female singer who chose to leave the group to raise a family.

Jefferson Airplane consisted of Marty Balin on vocals, Jack Casidy on bass, Spencer Dryden on drums, Paul Kantner on vocals, Jorma Kaukonen on guitar and vocals, and the only female in the group, Grace Slick, on vocals and keyboard. Jefferson Airplane was similar to Big Brother and the Holding Company in many ways including the fact that both groups had a very popular female lead singer. The band recorded and released their first album in 1966.

Jefferson Airplane's musical background combined blues, folk, rock, and psychedelic music. Their musical combinations came about from the different musical backgrounds of the group's members. Kantner had a folk background, Kaukonen had a blues background, Casady played R&B, Balin's background was pop music, and Grace Slick had a literary background.

Out of all the San Francisco bands that formed in the 1960's, Jefferson Airplane was the first to perform a dance concert, the first to sign with a major record label, RCA, and the first to tour both America and Europe.

The group spoke out against what they felt were social and political ills and opted for major social changes. Many of their songs depicted their views including, "White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love." The group recorded and released five albums in two years, which is really outstanding.

The group had a hit song that lasted in the top ten for more than a year. The group's concert performances were electric. They performed at some of the top shows and festivals during the height of the "hippie" culture including the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock, and the Altamont.

Because of the diversity of the band members' background, tensions developed regarding the musical direction of the group. Certain members of the group focused on certain styles, while others focused on another style. Eventually, the band would split into two factions, Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. Jefferson Starship was formed in the early 1970's.

The group continued to make records in the early 1970's but eventually Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship. Despite the fact that the band was a complete 1960's band that embodied the spirit of the late 1960's, they did have some success in the 1970's and beyond.

The band, now called Jefferson Starship, continued to record songs throughout the 1970's and even had a string of number one hits in 1985 with, "We Built This City", "Sara", and Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." In 1989, the group released their first album since 1970 as Jefferson Airplane.

Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

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