“Through literacy you can begin to see the universe. Through music, you can reach anybody. Between the two, there is you, unstoppable.” ~ Grace Slick
Groovy, man. Far out!
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, I’m shining the spotlight today on Grace Slick. She was one of the first female rock stars/lead singers in a decidedly male dominated industry, and has even lived to tell about it!
Grace was also a modern-day Alice, falling down a rabbit hole and emerging with creative powers aplenty in wild and wooly, hippie-centric, psychedelic San Francisco. Quite a change from her 1950’s predominantly white, conservative middle class roots in the Midwest.
Early Sunday morning, August 17, 1969, she performed a 13-song set at Woodstock with the Jefferson Airplane, which included her own composition,”White Rabbit.” Many people have covered this acid rock classic since, but no one has ever come close to Grace. Her strong charisma, powerful contralto, and uncompromising attitude have left all others in the dust, or, in the case of Woodstuck, mud.
“White Rabbit” was composed in 1965 and first performed with The Great Society, a band Grace formed with her then husband, Jerry Slick. Both were motivated and inspired by the Beatles and the Jefferson Airplane. Grace noted how these musicians were making more money and having way more fun than she was as a model for I. Magnin. When Signe Anderson left the Airplane to start a family, the band invited Grace to join them. She brought two songs with her: “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” later recorded on this breakthrough album in 1967:
“White Rabbit,” written in just an hour, was born of Grace’s love for the Lewis Carroll classics, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. She has stated that it was a response to parents who asked why their children took drugs. She felt that reading books containing surreal and colorful size-altering imagery made kids curious about experimenting with hallucinatory substances like LSD. She liked Alice’s curiosity and the fact that no one had to rescue her. In many ways, Carroll’s fantasy world of hookah-smoking caterpillars, magic mushrooms, White Knights and Red Queens presages the 60’s psychedelic movement. Slick blended these fanciful elements with another work of genius, Ravel’s “Boléro”; the hypnotic crescendo transports the listener, simulating the sensations of an acid trip.
Grace’s “White Rabbit Remembering the Good Old Days”
(glicee on paper).
As for Woodstock, it was not Grace’s favorite music festival (she preferred Monterey Pop). In addition to the bad weather and scheduling delays, the group had to be helicoptered to and from the venue from their hotel, and never got to see the other groups perform.
Grace then and now (wayupnorthtonowhere).
Though she retired from the music business 20 years ago, Grace is still chasing rabbits with a successful career as an artist. She draws and paints many of her fellow 60’s musicians and attends showings of her work across the country. She works in acrylic, pen-and-ink, pencil, and pastels on canvas and scratchboard. Of course, her most popular paintings are those featuring rabbits or Alice in Wonderland themes. Despite the fact that the White Knight did not talk backwards, it was the Queen of Hearts, not the Red Queen, who said, “Off with her head,” and the Hatter couldn’t really remember what the dormouse said, I think Lewis Carroll would have been quite pleased. The best way to feed our heads is with music, art, and words.
by Grace Slick
Grace’s “White Rabbit’s Tea” (glicee on canvas).
One pill makes you larger
and one pill makes you small.
And the one 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 them a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
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, feed your head.”
Grace’s “Dormouse” (glicee on canvas).
The Poetry Friday Roundup is at a wrung sponge. Go ask Andi what manner of poems are on today’s menu!
Something to tide you over till you get there:
photo by specialcakes/tracey.
See more of Grace Slick’s art here and here. Great stuff featuring people like Janis Joplin, the Beatles, Hendrix, and Jim Morrison.
“Mad Hatter” and “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.”
Check out these cool interviews (in the recent Bernstein one, she discusses how and why she turned to art, along with some thoughts on songwriting and Woodstock).
David Letterman (1984)
Ed Bernstein Part One
Ed Bernstein Part Two
Ed Bernstein Part Three
Click here to see Grace performing “White Rabbit” at Woodstock. Safe to say she was under the influence.
The complete roster of all 32 Woodstock performers and their songs can be found here.
*Grace Slick art images copyright © 2000-2009 AreaArts.Com. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.
32 thoughts on “friday feast: feed your head!”
Aaa! Can you hear me squealing from TN? I had no idea she did that art! I love “White Rabbit Remembering the Good Old Days,” and I love all the Alice in this post, and I LOVE those cupcakes.
I keep thinking there was some old SNL commercial spoof including “White Rabbbit,” but I did a search and came up blank. Maybe I’ll remember this later.
Tanita Says 🙂
To my giggling chagrin, I realize I’ve been singing along and screeching at the end, “KEEP your head! KEEP your head!” thinking she was referring to the Red Queen.
I always love to find out I’ve been singing something wrong FOREVER.
Grace Slick is, of course, so beautiful. An artist. OF COURSE. Of course.
I saw her art exhibit in Laguna–last year, I think. Awesome talent, amazing stuff.
Nice squealing, Jules! You’re in top form! I was thinking of you when I wrote this post :).
Re: Tanita Says 🙂
LOL! Keep your head? 😀 You are SO cute!
Eeeee! *major jealousy* You sure do get around, Miss Melodye . . .
We stumbled upon it by accident. Date Night, and we were strolling through the galleries after dinner when,voila, we fell into the rabbit hole.
Some of the best experiences in life are serendipidous like that.
I had a boyfriend who was almost as interesting to listen to as you on the subject of rock music. We went to visit the Woodstock site the summer of the 25th anniversary. Big field, aging hippies wandering thoughtfully around. 🙂 Much tamer than 25 years earlier, no doubt!
Off to try one of those cupcakes…
Love, love, love it! Did you see on the news about the famouse photo of the couple (whcih became the album cover for the soundtrack(> They married and have been together for 40 years. It was touching. Love this music, particularly Jim Morrison. Where did you find those cupcakes? Jone
Far out! I especially like her Liverpool Lennon and the one of Jimi Hendrix.
Thanks for doing a sort of Woodstock tribute. I’m sending a LJ friend over, someone who actually went.
That’s cool that you visited the site! I remember really wishing I could go to Woodstock, but Hawaii was a world away.
Yes, I saw the NBC special about that couple! Wonderful that they’re still together.
I met Jim Morrison at the Honolulu International Airport — gave him a watermelon seed necklace. Other-worldly experience, to be sure.
Cupcakes came from the flickr bakery :)! Have as many as you like!
I’m so jealous of anyone who was there. No, I don’t like mud and unsanitary conditions, but if I was in my 20’s, well — just to be a part of music history.
I like Grace’s paintings of Janis. Kind of poignant, since they were friends in the early SF days. LOVE your freaky userpic. Psychedelic, baby!
not so random commenter
It is interesting to hear about someone taking a childrens book and making music history with it. I am planning on writing a couple of songs inspired by James Thurber’s 13 Clocks….and I hope I am half as sucessful as she was :0)
Fascinating! Thanks, Jama.
Wow. Great post. Trippy song about, well, tripping, but still . . . excellent choice. And man, those cupcakes look amazing!
Re: not so random commenter
Hee — good luck!!
Re: Grace Slick
You’re welcome. Thanks for reading and help yourself to more cupcakes!
Glad you came along for the ride!
Re: not so random commenter
Now my confession: I didn’t like Alice In Wonderland. Rejected it. Never revisited it. Didn’t like it. As a child I thought it was craziness. Weird.
I was born the wrong year…
Fascinating lady! (And, oh, those cupcakes!!!)
Far Out, indeed!
So, Grace and I do a lot of the same people. I like her stuff (though I hate the navigation on that website).
My roommate in art school was a HUGE fan of the Airplane. I never got that big into them but I did love the spin off, Hot Tuna, with Jack and Jorma.
“Stay away from the brown acid, man!”
I was just the opposite. Couldn’t get enough of the fantasy world, the possibilities for strange things happening around every corner. “Eat me” and “Drink me” were especially entertaining!
Oh, you youngsters . . . *pumps her rocking chair*
I think Alice made the cupcakes, and Grace decorated them :).
Re: Far Out, indeed!
I thought of you when I saw all her rock star portraits. Great subjects!!
I loved the Airplane, but didn’t know much of Hot Tuna’s music. I kind of lost interest when they transitioned to Starship.
Karen Edmisten said:
You really have to wonder why Grace Slick never tackled Dr. Seuss ….
Those cupcakes are amazing. I feel like I’m in Wonderland.
Re: Karen Edmisten said:
Grace channels Alice every day, probably. 🙂
Eureka, I found the blog entry I’d written about that trippy experience. 🙂
Yay! I vaguely remembered this post (and apparently even commented), but didn’t quite recall which rock star it was . . . thanks!
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