Sunday, September 18, 2016

White Rabbit -- Feed Your Head



Grace Barnett Wing was born in Highland Park, Illinois, on October 30, 1939. Her father, Ivan W, Wing, was Scandinavian (Swedish & Norwegian) and her mother, Virginia Barnett, was a lineal descendant of the passengers of the Mayflower, the ship that transported the Pilgrims from England to the New World in 1620.

Her father was an investment banker who was transferred several times when Grace was a child -- from Chicago to Los Angeles to San Francisco, and finally settling in Palo Alto, California, near San Francisco, in the 1950s.

In 1961, Grace Wing married Gerald (Jerry) Slick and became Grace Slick, a very groovy soul.

Grace worked as a model at an I. Magnin Department Store for three years and also started composing music.

In 1965, Grace Slick (guitar, vocals), Jerry Slick (drums), Jerry's brother Darby Slick (lead guitar) and David Miner (bass guitar) formed a band called The Great Society. In October of 1965, the band made its debut at a venue called the Coffee Gallery.

Soon thereafter, Grace composed the song, WHITE RABBIT. She claimed to have written it in less than an hour. It would eventually become one of the greatest songs of the 1960s -- a reflection of the affects of psychedelic drugs, prevalent in the hippie movement in the San Francisco bay area.

WHITE RABBIT

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head
Feed your head
 (Lyrics by Grace Slick)

Grace would later proclaim "feed your head" meant to read a book.

Later that year, Jefferson Airplane's singer left the band to raise her child, whereupon Grace Slick was asked to join the band. Once Grace was aboard, the band became more psychedelic. Soon, WHITE RABBIT and SOMEBODY TO LOVE became Top Ten singles.

Grace Slick was definitely a force of nature.

  • On The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour TV show in 1968, Grace performed CROWN OF CREATION in black-face and ended it with a Black Panther fist.

  • In 1969, appearing on the Dick Cavett Show, she became the first person to utter the word "motherf++ker" on live TV.

After Jefferson Airplane disbanded, Grace formed Jefferson Starship and cut many albums, including:

  • Manhole
  • Dreams
  • Welcome to the Wrecking Ball
  • Software

The album, Dreams, was nominated for a Grammy Award and Grace was nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Rock Female Vocalist, for her solo on the album, in 1981.

David Crosby, founding member of both, THE BYRDS and CROSBY, STILLS & NASH, nicknamed Grace "The Chrome Nun" -- Crosby went by the nickname "Baron von Tollbooth" -- in 1973, Grace, along with Paul Kanter and David Freiberg made an album titled BARON VON TOLLBOOTH & THE CHROME NUN.

Grace retired from the music business in 1989.

In a 1998 interview, Grace stated, "All rock-and-rollers over the age of 50 look stupid and should retire." And in a 2007 interview, she reiterated, "You can do jazz, classical, blues, opera, country until you're 150, but rap and rock-and-roll are really a way for young people to get that anger out -- it's silly to perform a song that has no relevance to the present or expresses feelings you no longer have."

However, Grace did come out of retirement a couple of times.

  • In 1995, she joined the restructured Jefferson Starship to play a gig at the House of Blues.

  • In late 2001, after the Twin Towers were destroyed in NYC, Grace appeared on stage covered, head to toe, in a black burqa -- then removed the burqa to reveal a an American flag and the words "F++k Fear" -- her explanation, "The outfit is not about Islam, it's about repression; this flag is not about politics, it's about liberty."

Grace and Tricia Nixon, daughter of President Nixon, were both alumni of Finch College. In 1969, Grace was invited to a tea party for the alumni of Finch College at the White house. She invited political activist, Abbie Hoffman, as her escort, whereby they planned to spike the President's tea with 600 micrograms of LSD. However, the plan was thwarted because the White House security detail recognized Grace, who had been placed on an FBI blacklist. The original invitation was addresses to Grace Wing, Grace's name prior to marrying Jerry Slick.

In 1971, while racing with a friend, Grace crashed her car into a wall near the Golden Gate Bridge, suffering a concussion.

During her time as part of Jefferson Airplane, Grace had been arrested at least four times for what she referred to as "drunk mouth" and "TUI" (Talking Under the Influence).

One incident occurred when she had an argument with current-partner, Paul Kantner, whereupon Kantner removed the keys from the ignition and threw them out the car window onto someone's front lawn. As Grace was crawling around on the lawn, a police officer showed up. Apparently the drunk mouth (TUI) of Grace led to an arrest.

Another incident occurred when Grace was sitting against a tree trunk in the woods of Marin County, drinking wine and reading poetry. A police officer arrived and engaged in a conversation whereupon drunk mouth (TUI) once again got her arrested.

In 1994, Grace was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon after pointing an unloaded gun at a police officer. Her excuse was that the police officer had trespassed onto her property without permission or explanation.

After retiring, after a house fire, after divorce, Grace began painting and drawing for pleasure.

At some point, her agent approached Grace about writing a memoir, which eventually became SOMEBODY TO LOVE? A ROCK-AND-ROLL MEMOIR. When her agent noticed some of Grace's artwork, he prompted her to do portraits of various Rock-n-Roll contemporaries, to be included in the memoir.

Grace eventually agreed. Her color renditions of Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin became part of the memoir publication -- many other Grace Slick sketches and paintings were also included in the book. Some of her works also became record album covers.

She continued with her artwork, much of which is "mixed media." She uses canvas, acrylic paints, ink, pen and pencil. Her best-selling originals and prints are portraits of those in the music industry, various renditions of White Rabbit and "Alice in Wonderland" themes, all of which led to a partnership with Dark Horse Comics, resulting in the release of journals and stationary with the "Wonderland" theme.

Grace visits up to 30 art gallery shows per year, across the country, where her work is displayed. She claims to enjoy it, except for the travelling. Those who purchase one of her works get a personalized autograph on the back of the piece and get to have a photo with her.

Grace Slick is the oldest female vocalist on a Billboard Hot 100, chart-topping single. Her song, WE BUILT THE CITY, reached number one in November of 1985, when she was 46 years old. The previous record was Tina Turner, at age 44, with her song WHAT'S LOVE GO TO DO WITH IT. In 1999, Grace's record was broken by Cher, at age 53, when her song, BELIEVE, became number one.

In 1996, Grace Slick was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Jefferson Airplane.

In 1999, she was ranked number 20 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock N Roll.

Yes, indeed -- Grace Slick is a very groovy soul.

Feed your head

Feed your head

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Quote for the Day -- “No matter how big or soft or warm your bed is, you still have to get out of it.” Grace Slick
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Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where "feed your head" means to nibble on some food.
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