Book review: Somebody to Love by Grace Slick

Title: Somebody to Love
Author: Grace Slick
Publisher: Warner Books
Format: Hard cover, 370 p.
ISBN: 0-446-52302-X
Price: $25.00

Book cover

Related web sites:

White Rabbits - Grace Slick
Fly Jefferson Airplane...
Jefferson Starship Official Web Site

  This book is mainly about the counterculture of the sixties, the San Francisco music scene, and the relationships Grace Slick had. It is written in four parts with 54 chapters, which I found to make the book easy to read, since the chapters were short enough where you didn't have to stop in the middle of a chapter to take a break. I'd call it a cross between an autobiography and a novel, because at one point it has a disclaimer that she "had to change some of the names to protect the guilty." Even so, it seems to be a fairly honest book that doesn't try to put a spin on anything as far as I can tell.

The first 10 chapters of the book were about Grace growing up, which I didn't find that eventful, but when you get to chapter 11, she is going to college in Florida and a friend sends her an article Herb Caen wrote about the hip scene in San Francisco. Although she's not too clear about it, this must have been the one he wrote about the "beatniks" (a word he coined for the Beat Generation shortly after Sputnik was launched) because the year was 1958. This was the summer after Kerouac's On the Road was published.

So Grace returns to San Francisco and marries Jerry Slick. I'm not sure why, but she says nothing about the scene going on in San Francisco when she got there. She doesn't mention what the Beats were doing, what the music scene was like or where the action was happening. She only mentions having trouble finding work. Perhaps she was not connected to the counterculture yet. She doesn't mention the circumstances of how she did connect to it and when. Instead, the book jumps to 1965 and they start a band.

She didn't have much to say about the first band she was in, the Great Society. I don't think she even mentions the live album they made on Columbia although she does mention the record company. She does say the band lasted about a year, then she was given an offer to join the Jefferson Airplane. That pretty well finished off her relationship with her husband.

By the time Grace joins the Jefferson Airplane, the action becomes like a three-ring circus, which was what the Haight-Ashbury was like. There's a chapter about her first experience with peyote, another one is about the scene in the Fillmore. Others are about the festivals, like Monterey Pop, Woodstock and Altamont.

Much of the book is about the tours she went on and what happened during them. At one point, she and Abbie Hoffman tried to dose Tricky Dick, but both their FBI records were so bad, they wouldn't let them anywhere near the president. Even if they had gotten in, how they would have dosed the President in public is beyond me.

One thing Jefferson Airplane fans will like about the book is the information of the origin of some of the songs and how album titles came to be. There's also information about the different versions of the band and the different formats they tried. The end of the book has discographies of all the Airplane bands.

Later in the book, Grace mentions her problems with alcohol and how the court made her go to AA meetings because of it. Although she has kind words for AA, I don't think it seemed to have worked completely in her case, but it looks like she did get some good out of it.

How was Grace Slick able to survive it all? At the end of the book, she talks about aging and death and Ram Dass. She just seems to have the right attitude towards life. She somehow was able to take things in her stride and not let them piss her off. Maybe we could all learn something here.

So now I know Grace Slick in a virtual kind of way. The book is the next best thing to having a conversation with her.

Copyright © 1998, Colin Pringle (