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Grace Slick : The Queen of Psychedelic Rock

By Kritika Tandon

We all know the much clichéd fact that women have endured a harsh journey in the world of Rock N’ Roll, probably because the undefined rules of the genre have been best associated with men. The validity of such norms was definitely challenged by several female musicians, and one such woman was Grace Slick.

Born as Grace Barnett Wing on October 30, 1939, she attended the Finch College in New York and then shifted to the University of Miami. At school, she used to sing obscene songs while playing a piano or a guitar. Grace initially tried her hand at modelling, but aspired for just a simple life of a housewife. She espoused Gerald ‘Jerry’ Slick in a traditional church wedding, in 1961. In order to earn more money, they formed a band - The Great Society - along with four other people in 1965. 

Grace Slick was then invited by the band members of Jefferson Airplane in 1966, to replace their vocalist Signe Toly Anderson. The occurrences that followed her junction with the band were the ones that characterised the true personality of Grace, the one we are conversant with today.

It may sound phoney when I say that the many attributes branching out of Grace Slick’s persona have the potency to slightly change your perceptions about a lot of things. She comes across as one of the most sane rock figures of the insane 60s, or maybe those who survived the decade are the actual sane ones.

Grace was an alcohol addict, a self-confessed one, and admittedly she could never perform sober. The woman once addressed a large rich audience at the Whitney Museum as ‘fools’, and performed topless on a rainy day for her wet clothes really irritated her.

Grace was always an off-the-cuff music figure. Nobody could predict her next step. She was invited to the White House by President Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia for a luncheon, as the two girls went to the same college. Grace then decided to tag along Abbie Hoffman, a political protestor, and intended to put LSD in the President’s tea. However, the security identified Grace and forbade her from moving inside for she was on the FBI list.

Her fire-brigade-alarm voice, having a pinch of vibrato, instantly compels a person to stop and listen. And she does have an abundance of wisdom to share. On describing her first LSD and psychedelic experience, she said :
"Assuming that through material achievement you can improve your level in the cosmos is like assuming that a particle of sand can become any more than a particle of sand when it resides in the wall of a sand castle. Anything you happen to collect stays here when you go. There are no armoured cars in a funeral procession."

In the late 60s and early 70s, when several male bands like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Doors gained momentum, women were largely seen as their sexual counterparts. Even the Hippie culture limited women’s role as ‘onlookers’, instead of the ‘doers’. They were treated either as ‘chicks’ or ‘old ladies’, confined to do all child-rearing and household chores (very much like the suburban housewives but with less security). 

Such notions were defied by Grace Slick and her vast array of men. She was always vocal about her sexuality, and never afraid of expressing it. She also had a one-night stand with Jim Morrison, when the two bands (The Doors and Jefferson Airplane) were performing in Europe. However, she has always addressed The Lizard King as ‘a rabid version of Johnny Depp’ and ‘Mr. Non Sequitur’ for he did not make sense at any time.

Out of her self-written songs White Rabbit and Lather are my personal favourites. While the former colligates drug intake with the children’s novel Alice In Wonderland, the latter talks about a man who does not want to grow up and accept the monotony of adult life.

At present, Grace Slick has the same enchanting blue eyes and is an accomplished artist. The 72-year-old holds only three regrets from her life – not having sex with Jimi Hendrix, never travelled to the Middle East and never learned horse riding.

About: Kritika Tandon is a student at Delhi University pursuing Journalism(Hons). She writes also at http://hippiedippie.blogspot.in/

 

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