There are a couple of facts about Grace Slick, each of which alone would put her place among the Women-Who-Rocktober beyond doubt; she played at Woodstock – the actual, 1969 Woodstock, not one of the nostalgia fueled ’90s cash-grabs; she is behind songs that continue to exert influence 40+ years after they were first released; and she was involved in a plot to dose the President of the United States with LSD. Enough said, let’s pack up and head home. Here’s a video for your troubles.
With its subtle/not-subtle blend of drug references, and literary allusions to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, the song White Rabbit is possibly Slick’s most famous song – at least that she penned – which continues to stand as short-hand for the ‘summer of love’ and is still referenced somewhat frequently in popular culture. Written by Slick’s then brother-in-law, Darby Slick, Somebody to Love features a powerhouse vocal delivery from Slick, while continuing to be covered and sampled by contemporary artists, ensuring that the song still has cachet with subsequent generations.
Both White Rabbit and Somebody to Love, were recording by The Great Society, but it was with Slick’s joining Jefferson Airplane that the songs would become break-through hits and gain their cultural significance as anthems for ’60s counterculture and psychedelic-rock. In 1969 the President’s daughter, Tricia, invited alumnae of Finch College to attend a tea party at the White House. With her friend, and political activist, Abbie Hoffman, Slick hatched a plan to dose President Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon’s tea with 600 micrograms of LSD. The plan was thwarted when security recognised Slick as being on a FBI blacklist, leaving us with one of the 20th century’s great missed opportunities. In all likelihood, Slick received the invitation in error – it being addressed to her by her maiden name of Wing – as she had never met the President’s daughter, the two having attended the school a decade apart.
Over the decades, Slick remained active in the music scene, continuing to write and perform in bands, as a solo artist, or as a guest artist on various projects. In her retirement Slick has taken to the visual arts – something she dabbled with throughout her life – and she seems unaffected by the positive or negative feedback she’s received from critics for her output, indicating that it is an extension of her artistic temperament and something done for her own satisfaction. Despite failing to drug a sitting US President – which is not to say she has drugged any former or future Presidents – Grace Slick’s power as a singer, her role in rock history, and continued engagement with the creative arts, mark her as one of the Women-Who-Rocktober.