Paul Kantner, a founding member of Jefferson Airplane, died Thursday of multiple organ failure.
His publicist Cynthia Bowman, who has a son with Kantner, confirmed his death to the Associated Press. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Kantner, 74, had suffered a heart attack earlier in the week.
The counterculture psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane was formed in 1965 in the Bay Area, and is said to have first defined what became known as the “San Francisco sound.”
Early hits include Somebody to Love and White Rabbit from Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 sophomore album, Surrealistic Pillow. Five of the band’s first seven albums achieved gold status.
The band gave an early-morning performance at Woodstock on Aug. 17, 1969. “Nobody went to Woodstock to make a statement,” Kantner told USA TODAY in 2009, when the group’s spinoff band, Jefferson Starship, played the 40th anniversary concert. “We just all accidentally showed up.”
When Jefferson Airplane reunited in 1989 for a self-titled album and tour, he joked to USA TODAY, “It’s like comparing the Wright Brothers to a 747. Both fly, both are charming, both have their time.”
Kantner was a singer, songwriter, guitarist and performer. He was also a political anarchist who openly used psychedelic drugs, including LSD, during Jefferson Airplane’s rise, but he swore them off in the ’70s.
After suffering a cerebral hemorrhage in 1980, Kantner told People he kept to just the occasional swig of cognac and marijuana. “Grass doesn’t seem to affect you terribly. Everybody’s got a vice. Everybody takes something,” he said.
In 1996, Kantner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is the first of Jefferson Airplane’s founding members to have died.
“Paul Kantner was a folk/rock giant and integral part of the 1960s rock scene,” said Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, in a statement. “The music community has lost a true icon, and we share our deepest condolences with Paul’s family and friends, and with those who had the privilege of collaborating with him.”
“Our condolences go out to the friends, family and fans of Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane on the news of his passing,” read a message on The Doors’ Facebook page. “Music would not be the same without the sounds of The Doors and Jefferson Airplane, which both contributed so heavily to the signature sound of the ’60s and ’70s. They often shared the same bill.”
Kantner is survived by his two sons, Gareth and Alexander, and daughter China, whose mother is Jefferson Airplane/Starship singer Grace Slick.