Saturday, September 10, 2011

Grace Slick

 Today’s Awesome Woman is Grace Slick (born 1939), singer, songwriter & artist. One day as I was listening to the classic rock station, I realized how few women were represented. In the full day, the only women’s voices I heard were Janis, Stevie Nicks & Grace Slick. So if only for being one of the few women to crack the boy’s club of classic rock, Grace deserves to be honored. The seminal “White Rabbit”, for which Grace wrote the lyrics, appears on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and became the anthem for psychadelic acid rock. Now in her 70s, Grace has become a visual artist and views views her “visual artistry as just another extension of the artistic temperament that landed her in the music scene in the first place.”

“Growing up, Grace had what she called Leave It to Beaver-type parents. Grace considered her family a WASP (white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant) caricature of family life in America, that is, they had two of everything - two children, a two-car garage, a two-story house, etc.” [1] Growing up, Grace was very creative & studied art & music. “ She attended Finch College, a prestigious finishing school for girls, in New York (1957-58), before transferring to the University of Miami (1958-59), where she majored in art. Although she modeled for I. Magnin’s department store from 1960-63, Grace later said she had no ambitions beyond being a housewife. On August 26, 1961, she married Gerald “Jerry” Slick, a film student and later a successful cinematographer in a traditional wedding ceremony.” [2] But under the appearance that her life would take the path women of that era were supposed to follow, a rebel was incubating. At school she was know for her sarcastic sense of humor & partying and soon decided to drop out & return home to San Francisco after a friend sent her an article about the burgeoning hippie scene there.

After seeing Jefferson Airplane perform at a club in San Francisco, Grace & her husband were inspired to start a band. “Grace stated the main reason for going into music was that after seeing Airplane perform, she realized they were making more money than she was as a model and were having more fun performing.” [3] Thier band, The Great Society, was became one of the best-known bands in San Francisco. Grace became the lead vocalist for Jefferson Airplane in 1966 after The Great Society had disbanded & Jefferson Airplane’s singer had left. Jefferson Airplane’s next album Surrealistic Pillow featured two song’s that Grace cowrote, “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love”, which became two of Airplane’s greatest hits. Slick lived in the spirit of the era, partied like a rock star & became the quintessential rock ‘n' roll chick, living, traveling and partying with her family, that is, the boys in the band, who, one after the other, became her lovers. “Grace quickly emerged as an icon of the psychedelic scene that followed. She would literally say and do anything. In her autobiography, Grace said she learned “how to let it out and damn the censorship” from Mick Jagger. Unfortunately, much of her behavior was also attributed to her increasing addiction to alcohol.” [2] Her behavior became more extreme & she also became known for her run-ins with the law. Grace’s daughter China, fathered by Jefferson Airplane guitarist & singer Paul Kantner, was born in 1971. “During her stay in the hospital after the baby's birth, Slick sarcastically told one of the attending nurses (whom Grace found to be annoyingly sanctimonious) that she intended to name the child "god", with a lowercase "g", as she "wished for the child to be humble". The nurse took Slick seriously, and her reports of the incident caused quite a stir” [3] Jefferson Airplane fell apart, Grace released a solo album, which was not well received. She and Kantner formed Jefferson Starship which had some success in the 1970s. She left the group & went through treatment for her alcoholism & drug addiction. She rejoined the group which then had some of its biggest hits "We Built This City" and "Nothing's Going to Stop Us Now."

By the 1990s, Grace had quit performing. She went to rehab again, this time with her daughter, China. “Soon thereafter, she was approached about writing her memoir, which ultimately became Somebody to Love? A Rock-and-Roll Memoir. Her agent saw her artwork and asked her to do some portraits of some of her various contemporaries from the rock-and-roll genre to be included in the autobiography. Hesitant at first (because she thought “it was way too cute. Rock-n-Roll draws Rock-n-Roll”), she eventually agreed because she found she enjoyed it; and color renditions of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jerry Garcia appeared in the completed autobiography. An “Alice in Wonderland”-themed painting and various other sketches are scattered throughout the book.” [3] In 2006, Slick suffered from diverticulitis. After initial surgery, she had a relapse requiring further surgery and a tracheotomy. She was placed in an induced coma for two months and then had to learn to walk again. Today she lives happily in Malibu & continues to do her artwork.