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How Paul Kantner and Jefferson Airplane influenced the sound of the '60s

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AP

(Read caption) Paul Kantner (third from r.) is seen with the band Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco in 1968.

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Paul Kantner, guitarist for the band Jefferson Airplane, has died.

Kantner was involved with both the band Jefferson Airplane, which gained popularity in the 1960s, and the group Jefferson Starship, which included various members of Jefferson Airplane.

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Jefferson Airplane is widely credited with having helped popularize the psychedelic rock genre, which gained popularity in the 1960s. It and such groups as the Grateful Dead and the Doors are some of the most famous bands to have worked in the genre. The music became indelibly identified with the 1960s counter-culture.

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The band's hit album "Surrealistic Pillow" is considered one of the classics of the genre.

"The world was poised, wanting a hit out of San Francisco," band member Grace Slick told Rolling Stone. "It just happened that [the band's hit song] 'Somebody to Love' was there. The Airplane was ready, and the song was ready."

Critics say Kantner was an important part of this shaping of the genre.

“With Jefferson Airplane, Kantner helped pioneer the oft-imitated psychedelic sound: simple, fuzzy guitar lines steeped in dreamlike reverb,” Rolling Stone writer Kory Grow wrote of the musician, while William Grimes of the New York Times wrote that Jefferson Airplane was “one of the definitive San Francisco psychedelic groups of the 1960s ... [Kantner] played a steady rhythm guitar that anchored the freak-out style of the group’s lead guitarist, Jorma Kaukonen, and the adventurous bass lines of Jack Casady ... He was a prolific songwriter, teaming with Mr. Balin on some of the group’s best-known songs, including 'Today,' 'Young Girl Sunday Blues,' and 'Volunteers.'"

Kantner was also a fan of science fiction, a love that influenced his songs and prompted the musician to release the 1970 album “Blows Against the Empire.” The concept album “Empire” was nominated for a Hugo Award, which honors achievements in sci-fi and fantasy. 

“Eventually, I got into reading all of the classic writers, particularly,” Kantner told the Huffington Post in an interview. “[Robert A.] Heinlein affected me, as well as [Isaac] Asimov, and later, Ray Bradbury. Those kind of people sparked me quite thoroughly as far as science fiction.”