Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Induct These Women: Grace Slick

The life and legend of Grace Slick is immutable.  She was at the forefront of the counter-cultural revolution of the ’60s and ’70s with other legendary ladies of rock n’ roll such as Stevie Nicks, Joan Baez, and Janis Joplin, matching licks with male cohorts like Jerry Garcia — and, it is rumored, Jim Morrison — in Laurel Canyon, with some referring to Slick as the “Original Rock Diva.”  While Slick, like Nicks, was inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame with her respective band affiliation —Jefferson Airplane for Slick, and Fleetwood Mac for Nicks — she has, without a doubt, made a mark on the music industry and American history and culture as we know it.  For her work alone, Grace Slick should be inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame.  

Grace is also known to many as the “Acid Queen” or the “Chrome Nun,” depending on what perspective you are approaching her from, as she is legendary for her drug and alcohol consumption as well, oft fueling a lot of the famous stories out of rock lore — Slick would later refer to these incidences as “talking under the influence.”  Reading her 1998 biography, “Somebody to Love,” one learns quickly that Grace was a well read, well-cultured individual who was not threatening to the establishment for her lack of intellect, but to the contrary Slick was almost too smart for her own good.  Slick writes that she consumed the stories of the likes of Isadora Duncan, Cassandra of Troy, Marie Curie, Joan of Arc, Indira Gandhi et al. and that these women heavily influenced her position politically, socially, and psychologically. With a career spanning four decades, from approximately 1964 to 1990, Grace was an atomic force in the music industry and beyond, with a voice that made her both famous and infamous at the same time.  Spending some time at the prestigious Finch school in New York City in 1957-58 with the daughter of Richard Nixon, Tricia, is what garnered her the invite to a White House party where she nearly dosed Nixon with LSD!  Other moments, like pulling a gun on the LAPD, and another where she raced them, admittedly going about 150 miles per hour, in an Aston Martin down the California highway, are “busts” that Grace explains at length, in fabulous form, in her biography which we highly recommend.

Grace Slick is almost synonymous for the songs “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” with the former being a piece that was written and originally produced by Grace Slick and the Great Society.  As she tells it, Slick and husband Jerry and his brother Darby originally formed The Great Society —almost called The Acid Fraction — after being inspired by an Airplane concert in 1965, at a club called the Matrix.  Writing songs like “Somebody to Love,” Grace writes, was informed by a psychedelic shift in consciousness:  “What concerns you?  Put it in a lyric.  What country’s style of music best suits the idea you’re trying to convey?…Whatever it is, use it.”  The lyrics, she said, implied that rather than whining about the love you’re getting or not getting, a more satisfying state of heart might be the loving you are giving.  Thus, find somebody to give your love to.  

The Great Society quickly dismembered, and in 1966 Grace found her home with the likes of Paul Kantner et al. in Jefferson Airplane, traveling the world and spreading the revolution wherever they went — with events such as Woodstock in 1969 and the infamous Altamont later that same year leaving their mark on American cultural history.  Grace outlasted even Jefferson Airplane, however, and went on to be a critical member of both Jefferson Starship, and later in the 1980s, Starship.  Slick found success with Starship tracks like “We Built This City,” “Sara,”and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” while simultaneously releasing solo albums like 1974’s Manhole, 1980’s Dreams — which reached number 32 on Billboard’s top 200 and earned a Grammy nomination — 1981’s Welcome to The Wrecking Ball, and Software in 1984.  Grace’s voice was also heard in several compilations released in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s when she retired from the music business.

Grace Slick’s influence did not end with the termination of the Great Society, nor did it stop when Jefferson Airplane broke up.  Grace remained strong for several decades beyond the band with whom she was inducted into the hall of fame.  She persisted in the formation of Jefferson Starship and later, Starship, while also having a strong solo career.  Her legacy in the arts continues to this day as she has, for some time, been an acclaimed writer and artist whose original works can be found on display and available for purchase in the All Area Arts Gallery, and online.  Grace’s voice has and will be heard by generations to come, literally and figuratively.  It is time to induct her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where she belongs.

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Cortney is currently a Ph.d student in the Media Studies department at the University at Buffalo. Starting in the Department of History as an undergrad and Masters student she followed many interests and passions and ultimately found herself in the Media Studies department, working towards a film studies degree. After surviving many tough life experiences she was bitten by the activism bug and has since worked to raise awareness about issues like sexual assault, mental illness, and domestic violence. While her musical tastes still lie in the 70s, she is focusing her energies on creating media that matters in the present through documentary work, creating Public Service Announcements, and creating education programs for middle and high school students to learn about mental illness, domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. In her free time she plays softball, reads rock biographies, improves her vinyl collection, and spins Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac as often as possible.
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