The origins of Jefferson Starship lie with an earlier band, Jefferson Airplane, one of the most influential groups in the psychedelic rock movement of the 1960s. In 1969, they played at the Woodstock Music and Art Festival. Later that year, they were also one of the bands performing at the infamous Altamont Free Concert. The Altamont concert was the subject of the documentary Gimme Shelter, for which George Lucas was a camera operator.
In 1970, rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner and an ad-hoc group of musicians released Blows Against the Empire, a science-fiction themed album credited to "Paul Kantner & Jefferson Starship." Kantner officially formed a group by that name in 1974, and by 1978, the lineup included only Kantner and vocalist Marty Balin from the Jefferson Airplane days, as their iconic co-lead singer (and Kantner's former lover) Grace Slick had recently departed from the group. During their performance in The Star Wars Holiday Special, the lineup included:
- Marty Balin - vocals
- John Barbata - drums
- Craig Chaquico - lead guitar
- David Freiberg - keyboards
- Paul Kantner - rhythm guitar
- Pete Sears - bass
Balin left the group soon afterward, and Mickey Thomas was hired as lead vocalist. However, Slick rejoined the band in 1981. After a series of creative disputes, Kantner left the band in 1984, and a protracted and bitter legal battle ensued over control of the band's name. The verbal sparring between Kantner and Slick was described as being worse than anything they had done during their separation. In the end, Kantner was given control of the name "Jefferson" and the band was renamed simply Starship. This incarnation was most famous for the 1985 song "We Built this City." After Slick left Starship in 1988, the group released one more album before breaking up, while Slick joined the classic Jefferson Airplane lineup for a poorly received reunion album in 1989. Thomas, with a new lineup, began performing as "Starship featuring Mickey Thomas" (primarily as a gigging band) in the early 1990s. At the same time, Kantner, along with various other veterans including Balin and Freiberg, toured as "Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation."
- Jefferson Starship on Wikipedia