Jefferson Starship Founding Member David Freiberg Discusses Band Endurance and Lineup Changes

Outside of the Rolling Stones, it’s hard to think of a single rock band that has gone on steadily since the mid-1960s. But Jefferson Starship, originally known as Jefferson Airplane, is one of these groups.

The band just released their first new studio album in 12 years, “Mother of the Sun,” and are performing at the Palace Theater in Greensburg on Thursday night.

The band released their first album, “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off”, in 1966. It featured Signe Toly Anderson as the original lead singer. Anderson left the group after this first album and was replaced by the legendary Grace Slick. And the rest is history.

With Slick in front of Jefferson Airplane, the band recorded two of their biggest hits, “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”. The lineup at this time included Paul Kantner and Marty Balin, as well as Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, who continue to perform as Hot Tuna.

In the early 70s, other line-up changes included the addition of a guy who had just been released from prison for possession of marijuana, a talented singer-songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist named David Freiberg. The former Quicksilver Messenger Service bassist joined Jefferson Airplane in 1972 at Kantner’s request and was part of the lineup that reformed as the Jefferson Starship in 1974.

Kantner died in 2016 and Balin two years later.

Freiberg developed the signature organ riff for Balin’s song “Miracles,” which reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975.

In 1979, Freiberg composed the song “Jane”, which, according to Rolling Stone, “was instrumental in shifting (Jefferson Starship) into a more commercial, hard-hitting direction”. “Jane” became a No. 14 hit for the group in 1979.

These days, Freiberg, 83, is part of a roster that includes current Grammy-nominated lead actress Cathy Richardson. He recently spoke with the Tribune-Review about his long history with Jefferson Starship and some of the many changes he’s seen over the years.

Question: Which incarnation of the band will fans see at Palace Greensburg on April 28?

To respond: This is Paul Kantner’s band, the band he had when he died. It was that line-up for quite a while before he passed away, and it’s been the same band ever since. Our keyboard player, Chris Smith, has been with the band since 1998. Donny Baldwin, who played in Jefferson Starship, joined in 2005, along with me. Cathy Richardson took over female vocals in 2008 and Jude Gold has been lead guitarist since 2012. Paul’s family asked us to continue, and we felt too like a band not to continue playing.

Q: You are known, among other things, for being the main composer of the song “Jane”. The catchy opening lyrics that grab you from the start are “You say it’s all over, for you and me girl there’s a time for love and a time for letting be baby.” What is the story behind this song?

A: It was about a girlfriend of mine. And then once you start writing the song, liberties are taken, and so instead of being true, it was better than true.

Q: Her name apparently wasn’t really “Jane”. You changed it to protect the innocent, didn’t you?

A: It’s exactly that. In fact, he is a wonderful person. I never really asked her what she thought of the song. I know she realizes it was her. We were together and she was too young to settle down…and so was I.

Q: Jefferson Starship released their first new album in 12 years, “Mother of the Sun”. It was finished two years ago, but the pandemic hit and you never really got to promote it. What can you tell us about the disc?

A: The opening single “It’s About Time” was co-written by Grace Slick and Cathy Richardson and Jude Gold. It’s like a woman’s power anthem and it was about time. Women should rule the world.

Q: Well, wasn’t it, at one time, really Grace Slick’s band?

A: I do not know. She was the obvious star of the group, of Jefferson Airplane. She was absolutely a unique and powerful singer. But I would say that Paul Kantner was apparently the leader of the band. It has continued to evolve and I have a good time with this group. It’s the best time I’ve (ever) had. I’m over 80 and still playing. I really feel like my voice has improved.

Q: What songs will you do in Greensburg? Will you be playing songs that date back to the Jefferson Airplane days of the 1960s?

A: Of course, we will do “White Rabbit”. We leave nothing out. It’s all part of the amazing journey.

Paul Guggenheimer is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected].

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