General Facts and Figures
- Full name: Grace Barnett Wing Slick
- Net Worth: $30 million
- Occupation: Singer-songwriter
- Birthday: 30 October 1939 (age: 79 years)
- Birthplace: Highland Park, Illinois
- Birth Sign: Scorpio
- Marital status: married twice – to Gerald “Jerry” Slick from 1961 to 1971 and to Skip Johnson from 1976 to 1994
- Trivia: When Grace Slick gave birth to her daughter, in her trademark humor, she put ‘god’ as her name in the birth certificate. Though her daughter was eventually named China, this joke got out and has since become an urban legend — that Slick had given birth to ‘god.’
- Slick was born in the Chicago suburbs, in Highland Park, Illinois. She was the eldest of her siblings and had an interest in art and music from an early age.
- She had a major contribution to the flourishing psychedelic music scene in San Francisco during the 1960s when the hippie movement was at its peak.
- She became one of the lead vocalists for Jefferson Airplane and crooned to numbers like “Somebody to Love.” She wrote the popular hit “White Rabbit.”
- She had three main associated acts in her career — The Great Society, Jefferson Airplane, and Jefferson Starship — apart from a solo career.
- She married her The Great Society bandmate, Gerald “Jerry” Slick in 1961. The marriage lasted 10 years.
- She has a daughter with former Jefferson Airplane guitarist, Paul Kartner.
Grace Slick (née Slick), was born in Highland Park, Illinois. Fairly early on, her family located in Los Angeles for her father’s job. Slick is of Norwegian, Swedish, and English descent. Her mother, Virginia Wing, was a lineal descendant of the passengers of the Mayflower, the English ship that transferred the first English Puritans (or pilgrims) from England to the New World in the 17th century. Her family moved around a fair bit in her early years, before settling in the San Francisco suburb of Palo Alto.
Beginnings of Her Career
The seeds of Slick’s career were planted when she returned to Northern California, leaving her college education midway. It took her some time before she began to recognize the direction in which she wanted to go. In her initial years, Slick struck out at singing auditions, and once she married her childhood friend and aspiring filmmaker Jerry Slick in 1961, the couple moved to San Diego for a brief period of time.
On their returns, Slick spent some years modeling for an I. Magnin departmental store, while her husband completed his education at the San Francisco University. She also began to compose music and lent a song to one of her husband’s short films.
After watching The Jefferson Airplane perform at a club in the bay area, Slick was inspired to start her own group — The Great Society. The name was a jibe at the term used by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson to refer to the programs of social reform carried out by his cabinet.
The Great Society consisted of Jerry Slick on the drums, his brother and Grace’s brother-in-law Garby Slick on guitar, David Minor straddling guitar as well as vocals, Peter van Gelder on the saxophone, and Bard Dupont on bass. Some of the songs Slick wrote for this group were later re-packaged and re-recorded as Jefferson Airplane numbers, including Somebody to Love and White Rabbit.
The Jefferson Airplane Years
As Slick and The Great Society grew in the ranks in the San Francisco music scene, she befriended members of Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. When The Great Society split, she was invited to come to join Jefferson Airplane as their lead vocalist, as the band’s former lead singer, Signe Toly Anderson, had decided to bow out in order to focus on her family.
As one of the lead singers of Jefferson Airplane, Slick became one of the biggest female rock musicians of the age. She has subsequently been given titles like The Acid Queen and The Chrome Nun, given to her by David Crosby, which was used in the title of one of the band’s albums — “Baron von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun.” Fun fact, Baron von Tollbooth was the nickname Crosby had given to Kantner, Slick’s partner and fellow bandmate.
By the time the group released its second album, Surrealistic Pillow (1967), Slick was already their lead singer. This album included two songs that Slick had recorded with The Great Society — White Rabbit and Somebody to Love. Both went on to become two of the band’s greatest hits. With Slick headlining the group, Jefferson Airplane became more and more visible at significant musical festivals, including Monterey in 1967 and, of course, Woodstock in 1969.
Slick had an irreverent and dynamic stage personality and is possibly one of the most prominent faces of rock music from this time.
A Solo Act and Jefferson Starship
The same year as the birth of her daughter, Slick released an album along with Kantner called Sunfighter (1971).
In 1974, she ventured out on her own with Manhole, but neither the 1971 album nor this one could match the popularity of the Jefferson Airplane records. The two formed a new group called Jefferson Starship, which was taking on from Jefferson Airplane and had some of the members from the previous group. As a new entity, the group enjoyed a few successes, like Red Octopus (1975), Spitfire (1976) and Earth (1978).
Slick returned to Jefferson Starship, by which time the group had changed its sound and was more in keeping with the prominent style of rock music at the time. After Kantner’s exit, the group dropped the Jefferson and became only ‘Starship.’ They had hits to their name like “We Built This City” and “Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now.” In 1989, Slick reunited with the original members of Jefferson Airplane. The eponymous Jefferson Airplane was their last album together.
Later Years and Where She Is Now
By the 90s, Slick had all but retired from performing. In 1996, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Two years later, she published her autobiography titled Somebody to Love?. Slick had admitted to turning to painting and art in hard times. She found it especially therapeutic to paint animals and has also had a few exhibitions and sold her artwork. Slick and Johnson divorced in 1994.
In 2010, she released a single called “Edge of Madness,” which was penned in tribute to and for the benefit of the fishermen who were affected by a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This was a song for charity, which was written by Slick and Michelle Mangione together. Over 20 musicians and singers lent their voices and performances to the single. Slick has now, more or less, retired from public life and lives in Malibu.