Music: Grace Slick – No Fear of Flying

Original Publication: Newsweek, February 23, 1976

Maureen Orth with Janet Huck in San Francisco

Grace Wing Slick never has had any fear of flying. Back in the ‘60s when she took off with the Jefferson Airplane she was the high priestess of acid rock, free concerts and flower children, a glamourous Tugboat Annie turned psychedelic siren. Politicians denounced her drug lyrics (“Feed your head”) but millions of kids turned on with Grace and flew until the early ‘70s when the Airplane splintered and crashed.

Now, ten years after she began, Slick is soaring again with the Jefferson Starship, a seven-member group that includes two of her old fellow Airplane travelers, Marty Balin and Paul Kantner. This time, however, they’re preaching love instead of revolution. And Slick, whose one concession to age is a preference for champagne over dope, is proving that at 36 her sensuous contralto is still one of the best voices in rock. She remains the only woman to survive as both a driving force and lead singer of a major rock band.

In 1974, Slick and Kantner, who have a daughter named China, began converting what little was left of the old Airplane into the Starship. Each had produced a solo album with desultory results. Says Slick: “I never liked standing up there and saying, ‘This is all you’re going to get, folks, me me me’.” Their first move was to lure Balin, the Airplane’s founder and creative catalyst, back for one song on the Starship’s first album, “Dragon Fly.” The album reached gold-record status, the Starship began to tour and the group really hit the stratosphere last summer with its second album, “Red Octopus.” Sparked by Balin’s hit “Miracles,” it climbed to No. 1 on the charts and unprecedented four different times and generated $2 million in sales.

‘Naive’: “It’s like we’ve come full circle,” says Slick. “We’re hot to run with it again. We feel good with each other and it comes across. Five years ago it was like being on a conveyor belt rather than walking by yourself. I was being taken along and I didn’t know why I was on it or where I was going.” Getting off the belt required some musical changes. “At the time of policitcal songs we were a bit naïve,” she admits. “We thought we could change a mammoth government by wearing flowers and holding hands. It doesn’t work out. They move over you with a steamroller. Now we’re back on top because we’re doing love songs instead of political harangues. Being in love is the best feeling.

Slick, the former acid queen, is showing other signs of change. One of her favorite singers is syrupy-soft rock idol John Denver. “I realy like his songs,” she says a bit defensively. “But he looks like my 5-year-old daughter. That’s OK for her but weird for a 30-year-old man. The rest of the group just gags on him. They’ve got a picture of an eagle poking out his eye and every time I bring him up they tell me to shut up.”

She’s also shed 20 pounds and is down on drugs. “Drugs do change your way of thinking drastically in relation to people. You can’t smoke dope and get anything done.” Drinking has remained a problem for Slick, who often used to appear drunk onstage. “I no longer drink when I sing,” she says. She was hooked on Dom Pérignon champagne – until it hit $30 a bottle. “That’s a drug habit,” she says. “Now I drink Pouilly-Fuissé. It’s only $5 a bottle.”

The biggest change in her life is her split last month with Kantner. “We lived together 24 hours a day for ten years,” she says. “It’s not a matter of fighting, we’re totally different personalities. He’s very shy and likes to stay at home and I’ve got to be moving around. I’m a jerk and I embarrass him. We need a cooling off. In ten years we’ve seen more of each other than most married people see in a lifetime.”

Stern: While Kanter dotes on their daughter, Slick is a surprisingly strict mother. “Paul’s totally taken by China. He buys her so much stuff her room is like Scrooge McDuck’s – you’re always walking on something. I’m stern. You’ve got to say no to kids. Otherwise they’ll turn into spoiled brats. A lot of kids I know are obnoxious. Their hippie parents let them do anything.”

Even though she and the Starship are working on a new album and preparing for a national tour, Slick can’t stay still. “I’m an airline gypsy,” she says. “I have to move around and look at different cities. I’ll never grow up. I’ll be 75 and hanging around bars yocking it up. I probably won’t get picked up as much but I’ll be there.”

This article is typed from the original material.  Please excuse any errors that have escaped final proofreading.