Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane: "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love"
There's an awful lot going on in the world that's pretty terrible right now, as there often is, what with the situation in Japan, and in Libya, and in so many other places, but let's take a short break from that now and head back to the late-'60s, when there were also pretty terrible things going on, not least in Southeast Asia, but also when some incredible music was being made.
It was well before my time, and there is a tendency among those of us who weren't there to romanticize that era, the era of Woodstock and everything it supposedly meant, but to me it still all seems fairly glorious, and among the most glorious of all, musically speaking, was Jefferson Airplane, fronted by the amazing Grace Slick.
No female singer today comes even close. Beyoncé... Katy Perry... Lady Gaga... Fergie... Christina Aguilera... Carrie Underwood... oh please. And for all the success of a Mariah Carey or even a Madonna, there was just something so authentically gorgeous and culturally significant, and so awesome, about Grace Slick. (Yes, Madonna was culturally significant, too, but she was so much a product of her manufactured times as well. I might put Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks in Slick's category, but she wasn't nearly such a towering cultural figure even when Fleetwood Mac was so popular in the '70s. (I love Vienna Teng, too, but that's different.)
This isn't to deny others their greatness, of course. Tina Turner, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Diana Ross, Barbara Streisand, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart -- all great in their own ways. Maybe it's Aretha Franklin to whom Slick ought to be compared, though she, of course, was transcendent in other ways and for other reasons, and for a much longer period of time (and with greater lasting resonance). And with Slick, it was really those few years when Jefferson Airplane made music for a generation. After that, it was never to be the same. Popularity would return throughout the '70s and '80s, but, musically, the period from Surrealistic Pillow (1967) to Volunteers (1969) was the absolute peak. (So maybe the right comparison is Janis Joplin, also culturally significant around the same time (with a much shorter career given her death at such a young age), though I'll take Slick over Joplin for any number of reasons.)
Anyway, that's enough from me. Let's get to the music. Here's Jefferson Airplane performing "White Rabbit" (one of my favourite songs ever) and "Somebody to Love" on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour not long after Surrealistic Pillow came out in 1967. (It's easy to forget how influential that show was.) I'd love to have experienced it.