In a year when the world has lost a slew of rock and roll icons, let's take a moment and celebrate the living legend, Grace Slick.
Born in Illinois before her family eventually settled in San Francisco, Slick would drift towards rock and roll in the mid-'60s, starting a band called The Great Society. Drifting over to the Jefferson Airplane, the union would prove fateful. The band's first album with Slick in the fold, Surrealistic Pillow, would go on to become one of the most pivotal projects in the burgeoning psychedelic rock scene emerging from the Bay Area in the late '60s. Among the songs were two instant classics: "Somebody to Love" (originally recorded by The Great Society) and "White Rabbit."
As the band wove its way through the late '60s towards Woodstock in 1969, they became a fixture on the San Francisco scene and pioneers to emerging bands influenced by the group's expansive sound and Slick's powerhouse vocals.
"It’s always good to see the people. I played a lot of festivals in the summer and it was set up for various kinds of performances and they had spotlights that are bolted in place, and they’re blinding. I wore a white dress with fringe," Slick remembered of Woodstock to Rolling Stone in 2014. "I packed it in California and I didn’t even think about the weather. I just assumed it would be marvelous. That day [after it rained], I thought, 'Christ, I don’t have anything else I can wear — this is it!' So I had to keep my feet out of the mud."
The '70s would bring tumultuous change to the Jefferson Airplane and rock at large, with the group splintering apart in 1972. From the ashes arose the Jefferson Starship, with Slick at the helm. The band's second album, Red Octopus, would prove to be a blockbuster. It was in large part due to the single, "Miracles,' which would peak at #3 on the Hot 100.
The album's second single would be a showcase for Slick and her soaring vocals: "Play for Love." Only reaching #49 on the charts, the song remains one of the most popular in the band's catalog.
As the '80s approached, Slick would bail out of the band, reemerging on 1981 album, Modern Times, and the appropriately titled Top 30 comeback single, "Find Your Way Back."
The mid-'80s would prove to be particularly fruitful for the Starship, culminating with the wildly popular and divisive Knee Deep in the Hoopla album. It features the most notorious song in the band's discography, "We Built This City."
"I was such an asshole for a while, I was trying to make up for it by being sober, which I was all during the '80s, which is a bizarre decade to be sober in," Slick told Vanity Fair in 2012 about leaving music to pursue painting. "So I was trying to make it up to the band by being a good girl. Here, we're going to sing this song, 'We Built This City on Rock & Roll.' Oh, you're shitting me, that's the worst song ever. I could do it, I could get up and imitate myself, but that doesn’t feel right."
Now Slick is happy to spend her time painting and doing pretty much whatever she wants to do. The only one telling her what to do is her agent, who encourages her to incorporate rabbits and marijuana leaves in her work.
"Because of the relationship with 'White Rabbit' and the 60s, [and] bunnies are cute, gentle, and harmless, a lot of women, in particular, buy my pictures of a white rabbit," she explained in 2014. "I can draw a white rabbit blindfolded by now, so I’ve drawn a lot of pictures of a white rabbit in various poses and conditions. That is a reoccurring thing, and that’s fine. I was born in the year of the rabbit, and the whole thing about rabbits has just continued all through my life. It’s not exclusive; it’s just part of my deal. I’ve done pictures of rock-and-roll people, obviously. Woodstock, Monterey Pop . . . a lot of stuff that is known to me. I really like this thing with the old lady, but maybe nobody will ever buy it—what do I know? I just do the work and send it to my agent."