Grace Slick was born Grace Barnett Wing in 1939
, but her family moved to California
when she was three. As a child she enjoyed making up stories and dressing up in costumes. She attended finishing school
at Finch College in New York
and then the University of Miami
before returning to California, where she had many different jobs, including department store
model. She married Jerry Slick, a film
student and later cinematographer who she had known since childhood, because it was expected of her to marry.
In 1965, the two attended a Jefferson Airplane concert (when the band had female singer Signe Anderson) and decided to form their own band. Jerry's brother Darby and some other friends became part of the project the Great Society, who performed around San Francisco and even recorded some songs (which were released after Grace became well-known with the Jefferson Airplane). During this period Grace wrote the song "White Rabbit" and Darby Slick wrote "Somebody to Love."
When Signe Anderson left Jefferson Airplane, the members asked Grace to replace her. Grace accepted the position and the Great Society faded away. Grace sang what had been Signe's parts on most of the Airplane's second album, which included the two songs mentioned above from the Great Society's setlists. They ended up being hit singles and Grace became the star of the band. She always said this was just because she was the only woman, but also she was willing to say and do anything, be it go on TV in a dress made out of towels or try to bring Abbie Hoffman to a White House tea party. She was separated from Jerry by 1967, though they didn't officially divorce until 1971, so there was no obstacle to affairs with several of her bandmates -- drummer Spencer Dryden and then guitarist Paul Kantner were the long-running ones.
The members of the Airplane tended to jockey for position in getting songs on albums and so forth, and many members released solo work; Grace was no exception. She had both completely solo albums and projects done with Paul Kantner; one of the Slick/Kantner projects gave a name to the new band that formed with some of the now-disintegrated Airplane's members: Jefferson Starship. Paul and Grace had a child together, China Kantner, but by the mid 1970s they broke up and Grace became involved with the band's lighting engineer, Skip Johnson. She had always enjoyed drinking as well as drugs, but alcoholism really became a problem in the 1970s, especially as she started to feel that Jefferson Starship were too commercial. In 1978 she was forced out of the band to dry out, but returned after a few years.
In 1984 when Paul Kantner left the band, he sued the others for keeping the name "Jefferson Starship," and so they continued as merely "Starship." Grace stayed with them for their years of middle-of-the-road hits, but in 1988 she needed rest for her shoulder problems, and also considered herself too old to be continuing as a singer. She left Starship that year. Grace did record and tour with most of the Jefferson Airplane for their 1989 reunion album, but since then has not recorded except as an occasional guest vocalist on other people's work. She now paints and has sold about 60 works, though art critics don't find her work all that interesting. She has also written (with Andrea Cagan) an autobiography, the fascinating "Somebody to Love? A Rock and Roll Memoir," which tells a lot of interesting stories from her life.
Sources: Grace's autobiography Somebody to Love?