The news was confirmed by his longtime publicist and friend Cynthia Bowman, who said that Kantner died of multiple organ failure and septic shock following a heart attack earlier this week.
Jefferson Airplane formed in 1965 when Kantner met singer Marty Balin at a San Francisco club called the Drinking Gourd. They then recruited vocalist Signe Toly Anderson, guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, and bassist Jack Casady, with singer-guitarist Skip Spence brought in to play drums (because they thought he looked like a drummer). The band soon gained a following in the Bay Area and signed to RCA Victor, putting out their debut LP Jefferson Airplane Takes Off in September 1966.
Following the release of their first album, Anderson and Spence departed, replaced by Spencer Dryden on drums and former model Grace Slick on lead vocals. With this lineup, the band wrote and recorded their 1967 breakthrough Surrealistic Pillow, which included their signature hits “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit” and popularized what became known as the “San Francisco sound.” They went on to release a string of successful albums and perform at iconic countercultural music festivals like Woodstock, the Monterey Pop Festival, and the disastrous Altamont Speedway Free Festival.
He revived Jefferson Starship in 1992, and they remained a viable touring act. Jefferson Airplane were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
"He was the first guy I picked for the band and he was the first guy who taught me how to roll a joint,” Balin wrote of Kantner on his Facebook page. "And although I know he liked to play the devil’s advocate, I am sure he has earned his wings now""
Kantner is survived by his three children, sons Gareth and Alexander and daughter China. Revisit some of his work below.
RIP MR. Kantner