The famous Grace Slick Salute was giving the middle finger. In 1965 Grace Slick, a 26 year old San Francisco department store model, and her cinematographer husband Jerry had become bored with their conventional marriage. They decided to liven things up a bit. First, they would embrace free love and polyamory (in the common vernacular they became swingers). Second, they would begin experimenting with LSD. Third, after seeing The Jefferson Airplane perform Grace and Jerry decided that the embryonic San Francisco rock scene looked like a whole lot of fun and formed a band.
Grace had been playing piano and organ since childhood. Jerry was a drummer, his brother Darby played guitar and their friend David Miner was a bass player. They formed The Great Society, a band with an eastern modal approach to psychedelic rock. The Great Society was soon sharing the bill with bands like The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company and Jefferson Airplane.
In 1966 Jefferson Airplane’s female vocalist Signe Toly Anderson left the band when her pregnancy made it uncomfortable to tour. Grace Slick was asked to join. She hit the ground running, contributing two songs she had recorded with The Great Society: “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit”. Both songs were hits and Surrealistic Pillow was one of the albums that provided the soundtrack for The Summer of Love (1967).
Grace Slick was now a rockstar. She embraced all of the excesses of a life centered in Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. When it came to sex Grace’s trophies include everyone in Jefferson Airplane except Marty Balin and a roster of 60’s rockstars that includes Jim Morrison. When it came to drugs Grace Slick was not only the acid queen but very few of men could keep up with her drinking. Grace Slick used every 60’s and 70’s drug with the exception of heroin. (The decision to abstain from that drug is what kept her off the drug casualty list.) As a rocker Grace Slick played Monterey, Woodstock and Altamont, the three most important rock festivals of the 1960’s.
Grace Slick’s rap sheet is longer than Keith Richards. Here are a few of the highlights.
Drunk Mouth Arrests “Up against the wall, motherfucker!” More than one cop has been given the finger by Grace Slick.
Most of Grace Slick’s arrests have been misdemeanor drunk and disorderlies. Basically, when Grace gets drunk and sees cops she will start baiting them. It can be at a party, a concert or hotel lobby. She did it several times from the stage. If no microphone is available she will deliver one of her iconic one finger salutes. To say that Grace Slick has a problem with authority would be an understatement She had more balls than most sixties radicals..
Attempted to Dose President Richard Nixon with LSD
In 1970 outside The White House with hippie radical Abbie Hoffman.
In 1970, unbeknownst to the Nixon Administration, The Acid Queen received an invitation to a tea party at The White House. One of the colleges Grace Slick attended was Finch College in New York. Another Finch graduate was Tricia Nixon whose father had recently taken office. Invitations went out to all Finch alumni to a reunion at The White House. Grace decided she could end the Vietnam War by dosing Richard Nixon with acid. She brought 60’s radical hippie Abbie Hoffman as her plus one and enough LSD to spike the tea. The Secret Service recognized Hoffman and denied the couple entry.
Racing In The Streets
Jorma Kaukonen racing a mini-bike. In 1971 he pulled Grace Slick from her burning Aston Martin after she challenged him to a street race.
Jefferson Airplane lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen had a passion for speed. He would race anything from go carts to sports cars. He even spent a winter in Finland learning how to speed skate.
In 1971, after a recording session that went into the wee wee hours, Grace Slick decided to challenge Jorma to a street race on the streets of San Francisco. On Doyle Drive Grace Slick spun out and hit a bridge abutment. The Aston Martin was totaled. Grace walked away with a few scratches and made the recording session the next evening.
The Acid Queen Declares War On Germany
Between 1974 and 1978 Grace Slick, Paul Kantner and Marty Balin had a string of four hit albums as Jefferson Starship. In 1978 they were headlining a festival in Hamburg. Grace Slick was too drunk to perform. The fans rioted and set the band’s equipment on fire. Grace Slick, the erstwhile 60’s radical anti-war activist, declared war on Germany.
The band (including singer Grace Slick) was on tour in Europe to promote the recently released Earth album when a stop in Germany deteriorated into a confusing mess. “She’d always had a thing about Germany,” Jeff Tamarkin wrote in the band bio Got a Revolution! “All things Deutsche brought out the worst in her.”
During the tour of Europe, Slick fell ill. At first, everyone thought her stomach virus was a result of food poisoning. But a doctor diagnosed appendicitis and told Slick she was well enough to perform. A show in Wiesbaden was canceled, but the next night’s concert in Hamburg was still on.
As showtime neared, Slick tore into an alcohol-fueled tantrum, throwing bottles, refusing to get ready for the concert and demanding more booze from room service. By the time the band got onstage, she was in no condition to perform. The show was filmed for the German music program Rockpalast, but never aired – maybe because Slick began taunting the audience, repeatedly asking, “Who won the war?” She also called them Nazis and gave the “Heil Hitler!” salute onstage.
“I’m in Germany and I’m gonna get back at them for Dachau, or some dumb drunken decision,” Slick recalled in Tamarkin’s book. “That’s what that night was about: dumb, drunken decisions. So, they started walking out, but they kept coming back, like: ‘Maybe she’ll do something really hideous and we will have missed it.’ A freak show.”
She stepped in front of the camera and gave the viewers at home a close up of the famous Grace Slick one finger salute. Then she lept from the stage and stuck her middle finger up the nose of some poor concert goer who scored tickets for the front row. The fallout? Marty Balin quit the band and Grace was fired. Grace went to rehab and returned to the band three years later.
Armed Standoff With Police
After a late 1980’s reunion tour with Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick retired from music. She didn’t believe that people over the age of fifty should be performing as rock musicians. She took up painting and lived off her royalties. Retirement, however, did not slow down Grace Slick.
On March 4,1994 Grace Slick started chasing her boyfriend around her house and property with a shotgun, firing it several times. When the Tiburon California Police showed up she stood on her porch and pointed the shotgun at the cops demanding that they leave her property. During a moment’s distraction the cops wrestled the shotgun from her. Grace Slick was arrested and changed with several felonies. A plea bargain allowed her to get away with a fine, probation and a stint in rehab.
Rock’s Ultimate Survivors?
Grace Slick is now in her eighties. She survived several health scares. She lives in Malibu, California and sells paintings. Grace Slick is one of rock’s ultimate survivors and deserves to be included in the same group of badasses as Keith Richards, Ozzy Osborne, Iggy Pop and Lemmy.
Grace Slick with the other two surviving members of Jefferson Airplane, Jack Casady (l) and Jorma Kaukonen(r).
“Hello you fools You got Rembrandts on the mantle and a Rolls in the garage but your old man wouldn’t know a clitoris from a junk bond even if you had the guts to show him your twat in the first place.”Grace Slick speaking to an audience of wealthy patrons at The Whitney Museum of Art.