Paul Kantner, co-founder of the legendary psychedelic San Francisco band the Jefferson Airplane, died of multiple organ failure Thursday at the age of 74.
Kantner had suffered a heart attack earlier this week before dying of multiple organ failure and septic shock, according to Cynthia Brown, the band's longtime publicist.
After meeting singer Marty Balin, Kantner and Balin started Jefferson Airplane in 1965. Two years later, former Great Society singer Grace Slick would join the group, bringing two songs with her: "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit," which would become Jefferson Airplane's biggest hits and iconic examples of the '60s San Francisco psychedelic sound.
After recording five albums with Jefferson Airplane, Kantner and Slick would go in the studio in 1970 with David Crosby, Graham Nash, members of the Grateful Dead and other groups to record a concept album based on the writings of science fiction author Robert Heinlein, called Blows Against the Empire. The album, credited to "Paul Kantner and the Jefferson Starship" (four years before the band would change its name), earned a gold record and was the first rock record ever to be nominated for a Hugo Award; before then, only works of science fiction and fantasy literature had been nominated.
Jefferson Airplane disintegrated by the early '70s, but returned in 1974 as Jefferson Starship, with Slick and Kantner at the helm. The band released four albums -- Dragon Fly, Red Octopus, Spitfire and Earth -- before Slick was asked to leave the group due to her issues with alcohol. She returned to the band in the early '80s, with Kantner leaving soon after, taking the "Jefferson" part of the name with him. (With the band Starship, Slick enjoyed massive hits like "We Built This City" and "Nothing's Going To Stop Us Now." Kantner and Slick also had a daughter together named China Wing Kantner.)
In 1992, Kantner restarted Jefferson Starship with Balin and released two more albums -- Windows Of Heaven (1998) and Jefferson's Tree of Liberty (2008) -- and played several tours before his death this week. Kanter would be the only founding member of Jefferson Airplane to play in all incarnations of the group with "Jefferson" in the name. He and the other original members of Jefferson Airplane were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1996.
Though often seen out in public in San Francisco, particularly in North Beach, Kantner dealt with many health issues and suffered a heart attack in March of last year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He is survived by three children: his daughter China, and his two sons, Gareth and Alexander.
"A major loss to rock music and to San Francisco," local music writer Richie Unterberger wrote on Facebook.
"Farewell, Paul Kantner -- tough, smart, radical, breathtakingly talented. The John Lennon of the Jefferson Airplane, and the driving force behind the most musical and magical band to emerge from the West Coast in the 1960s," Salon.com founder and author David Talbot wrote on Facebook. "Interviewing Paul for my book Season of the Witch was not exactly 'acid, incense and balloons' -- he was prickly, argumentative, and mind-opening. You had to be on your A-game to talk with Paul, he did not suffer fools gladly."