As one of the first female rock stars in a world dominated by male singers, singer Grace Slick helped redefine the role of women in modern American music. The versatile lady is a talented singer and songwriter, and as well as a skilled painter. The daughter of a former singer and actress, show business was not new to young Grace. She loved celebrities like Betty Grable and grew up listening to various forms of music. She was an active and vivacious teenager with little academic ambition and was more intent on enjoying life to the fullest. With her pretty blue eyes and innocent looks she became a model though she could not earn much. Her musical career began after her marriage to aspiring filmmaker Jerry Slick; some of her initial works include composing musical scores for her husband’s films. Along with her husband she formed a band called The Great Society which became a popular psychedelic act in their locality. She was called upon by the band Jefferson Airplane to fill in a vacancy caused by the departure of their singer. She was happy to oblige and became an integral part of the band with her unconventional lyrics and powerful voice. She is also a talented artist who considers painting as a means of catharsis.
Childhood & Early Life
She was born to Ivan Wing and Virginia. Her father was an investment banker while her mother was a former actress. The family moved often due to the nature of her father’s job.
She went to Palo Alto Senior High School before moving on to Castilleja High School. She later attended Finch College for the session 1957-58.
After spending a year at the University of Miami she decided to quit her studies and went home to California. As a young girl, she was hopelessly confused about her career path though she always had an interest in singing.
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She married Jerry Slick, an aspiring filmmaker and moved to San Francisco. Along with her husband, brother-in-law and some friends, she formed the music group ‘The Great Society’ that was active during 1965-66. The band became a popular psychedelic act in the Bay Area.
In 1966, she was asked by the band Jefferson Airplane to join them as a singer, she obliged. She also took two compositions from The Great Society with her to the new band: ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Somebody to Love’.
The band released their first album after Grace’s inclusion in 1967. The album titled ‘Surrealistic Pillow’ is considered to be one of the early works of psychedelic music and counterculture era. It was a huge success.
The success of the previous album motivated the band to bring out their next album the very same year. ‘After Bathing at Baxter’s’ was a watershed album and had a heavier rock feel.
In 1968, the album ‘Crown of Creation’ was released. It peaked at No.6 on the album charts and was certified gold. It featured the tracks ‘Lather’ and ‘Share a Little Joke’.
During the early 1970s, Jefferson Airplane was in the process of disbanding. Several members of the group, including Grace formed the new group, Jefferson Starship.
The new band released the album ‘Dragon Fly’ in 1974. It performed well and was accredited gold. One of the tracks from the album, ‘Hyperdrive’ was used in the opening ceremonies of the 1976 World Science Fiction Convention.
The band’s 1975 album ‘Red Octopus’ spawned the single ‘Miracle’ which was a super hit. The single hit No.3 on the Billboard chart which was the highest charting single the band had ever had till that point.
By the mid 1970s she had also embarked on a solo career. Her debut solo album ‘Manhole’ was out in 1974 followed by ‘Dreams’ in 1980. Her solo albums were recorded without any help from her previous band members.
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Her final solo album, ‘Software’ was out in 1984. It had the tracks ‘Call it Right Call it Wrong’ and ‘Me and Me’. By this time she had rejoined the band Jefferson Starship.
All the original members of Jefferson Airplane reunited to record one final album, the self-titled ‘Jefferson Airplane’ in 1989. The album was produced by Ron Nevison who had produced several of the band’s previous albums. Grace retired from music shortly afterwards.
The album ‘Red Octopus’ by her band Jefferson Starship was a big commercial as a well as critical success. The album peaked at No.1 on the Billboard 200 and went multi-platinum.
Awards & Achievements
She was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Female Vocalist for her solo album ‘Dreams’ in 1981.
In 1996, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Jefferson Airplane.
Personal Life & Legacy
She was married to cinematographer Jerry Slick from 1961 to 1971. She developed a relationship with guitarist Paul Kantner and had a daughter with him while still married to Slick.
Her second marriage was to lighting designer Skip Johnson which lasted from 1976 to 1994.
She has had a longstanding problem with alcoholism and smoking. She was so addicted to alcohol that sometimes her shows had to be cancelled; she also has the dubious history of abusing people under the influence.
An art lover, she took up drawing and painting after her retirement from music. She has made color renditions of musicians like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jerry Garcia.
At the age of 46, this rock star became the oldest female vocalist on a Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping single.