October 30, 2014
In her key years with Jefferson Airplane, GRACE SLICK (born 1939) created, or implied, a unique persona, one of spooky intelligence and challenging eroticism, part siren and part scientist, ironic eyes cast on self, scene, and society. She sang “White Rabbit” as if she knew that her voice would one day need to blast clear through all the cumulative cultural mess left by the decade that was then barely half over. In this, her ultimate performance, she builds physical and visual drama while remaining in complete control of a momentum that seems equally in control of her; few songs have been more persistently deployed as Instant Zeitgeist, yet it is undiminished in its original context as a visionary 45, or as the next-to-last track on the great Surrealistic Pillow album (with “Plastic Fantastic Lover” an utterly anticlimactic closer). Later Slick songs like “Two Heads,” “Lather,” “Greasy Heart,” and “Eat Starch Mom” rose from the rabbit hole to appraise the crumbling American kingdom in appropriately mordant, chilling terms; in the ’70s, her unmistakable voice Graced the plangent radio hits of a rechristened Jefferson Starship. If she then stuck with the mediocrities of just-plain-Starship for an unconscionable duration — whether out of queenly boredom, financial habit, or some wish to deface a legacy (she always had a keen sense of the perverse) — Grace at least took her leaving seriously, when she took it. For many years now she has been, unlike much of her male cohort, in dignified retirement, fulfilling her third act as a painter. The voice is history, but the eyes are still open.
READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).