Although there is no future in the past, one’s contribution to history can really tell us (and teach us) something and music is no exception to that.
For example, there have always been very talented musicians and today, there are still plenty of them around. However, some cats went further by finding a way to combine popularity or commercial success with their talent. Still, others have distinguished themselves by showing great creativity and passion for their trade along with other qualities. However, even amongst the most elite ranks, it’s not all that often that a musician can combine talent, popularity, success, creativity, and passion and then combine them all with a very unique ingredient; the ability to have affected history. For these rare few we have reserved the name “legend” and more often than not, you can find these kinds of performers in the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.
I recently sat down with two such legends; Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady. Jorma and Jack need little introduction however, to really understand their contributions and impact on modern music history, that takes some doing because there’s a lot of ground to cover. Although largely recognized for their contributions and mastery of the American blues genre as well as their respective instruments and styles, these two are flat out amazing musicians and incredibly personable folk. In 1965 Jorma was a founding member of San Francisco’s Jefferson Airplane (in fact he named the group) and following the departure of original bassist Bob Harvey, Jack joined the group. Jorma’s impact can be heard each time you hear that hauntingly brilliant lead riff in “Somebody To Love”; Jack followed suit with his extraordinary bass work on “White Rabbit.” (Both tunes were top 10 hits in 1967).
For most, the Airplane experience would have been enough particularly with the group’s induction (including Jorma and Jack of course) into the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 1996. But there was more. Much more.
Despite the formation of Airplane in 1965 (with their first performance being 46 years ago on August 16, 1965) Jorma and Jack then paired up in 1969 to form the legendary group Hot Tuna which preceded the release of their first album (aptly entitled “Hot Tuna”) in 1970. To be part of two legendary groups at the same time is nothing short of extraordinary and probably should have served as a precursor of things to come for those paying attention, and there were many who did.
In any event, up and through today the musical partnership of Jorma and Jack—which has spanned fifty plus years—has produced countless albums (either with Airplane, Tuna, or solo projects) and the duo have logged countless (and almost inconceivable) hours on the road. If that wasn’t enough, the pair have also performed with other legends. (Jorma’s work on David Crosby’s 1971 release of “If I Could Only Remember My Name” and Warren Zevon’s 1989 release of “Transverse City” come to mind as does his “work” (Jorma might challenger that term) with Janis Joplin on the legendary “Typewriter Tapes.” For Jack, his performance on Jimi Hendrix’ “Voodoo Chile” is a classic). Finally, Jorma and Jack also helped form history by performing at both at Monterey (1967) and Woodstock (1969).
With the advent of 2011 it is obvious that these two greats (Jorma is 70 and Jack just turned 67) have no intention of stopping or slowing down. In fact, just this year—for the first time in 20 years—Hot Tuna released a new album entitled “Steady As She Goes” (Red House Records). Fortunately for Tuna fans the guys picked up where they left off and Jorma and Jack still have their chops and on this record they have them on display, that’s for sure. But for music fans in general, “Steady As She Goes” is a rare look into the eyes of history as told by two legends who helped shape it.
MORE TO COME –
Originally posted 2011-12-08 15:18:41.