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Jefferson Airplane Co-Founder Paul Kantner Dead at 74

Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

Jefferson Airplane guitarist-vocalist and founding member Paul Kantner died Thursday (Jan. 28) of multiple organ failure after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. He was 74.

Kantner’s publicist confirmed the news with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Kantner and guitarist-singer Marty Balin formed Jefferson Airplane in a San Francisco bar called the Drinking Gourd with the intent of creating a folk-rock group. But as the local scene became immersed in drug experimentation, the band evolved into something more complex.

From 1965 to 1972, Jefferson Airplane was integral in the Bay Area’s psychedelic counterculture scene and the band were the first of the city’s psych-rock bands to sign to a major label, releasing Jefferson Airplane Takes Off in 1966 via RCA. That year, they also became the first band to headline concert promoter Bill Graham’s legendary Fillmore Auditorium.

Jefferson Airplane performed at the three of the landmark American rock festivals of the ’60s: Monterey in 1967 and Woodstock and Altamont in 1969. He was also a founding member of the group’s spinoff band, Jefferson Starship, which launched in 1974.

Kantner and Jefferson Airplane were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. He’s the first of the original members to have died. But 2016 has already seen more than its share of loss of classic rockers: David Bowie died Jan. 10, the Eagles’ Glenn Frey died Jan .18.

Kantner is survived by three children: sons Gareth and Alexander and daughter China.

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Next: David Bowie Dead at 69

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