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Women Music March #23 — Grace Slick (in Great Society)

Jim Adams suggested I feature Grace Slick on Women Music March. Thank you, Jim, I was surprised at how much I learned about Grace while composing the post. Please feel free to add any other information on her in the comments section.

Grace Slick (born Grace Barnett Wing, October 30, 1939) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, artist and former model, widely known in rock and roll history for her role in San Francisco’s burgeoning psychedelic music scene in the mid-1960s. Her music career spanned four decades. She performed with The Great Society, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and Starship. She also had a sporadic solo career. Slick provided vocals on a number of well-known songs, including “Somebody to Love”, “White Rabbit”, “We Built This City”, and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”.

She was born in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois, to Ivan Wilford Wing (1907–1987), of Norwegian and Swedish descent, and Virginia Wing (née Barnett; 1910–1984). Her parents met while they were both students at the University of Washington, and later married. In 1949, her brother Chris was born. Her father, working in the investment banking sector for Weeden and Company, was transferred several times when she was a child, and in addition to the Chicago metropolitan area, she lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco, California, before her family finally settled in the San Francisco suburb of Palo Alto in the early 1950s.

In August 1965, Slick read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the newly formed Jefferson Airplane. Despite being situated in the growing musical center of San Francisco, Slick only half-heartedly considered music for a profession until she watched the band live at The Matrix. As a result, Slick (vocals, guitar), accompanied by husband Jerry Slick (drums), Jerry’s brother Darby Slick (lead guitar), and David Miner (bass guitar) formed a group called The Great Society. On October 15, 1965, the band made its debut performance at a venue known as the Coffee Gallery, and soon after Slick composed the psychedelic piece “White Rabbit”. The song, which she is purported to have written in an hour, is a reflection on the hallucinatory effects of psychedelic drugs; when performed live, it featured a speedier tempo and was an instant favorite among the band’s followers.

In my research I learned that Grace was, like Sinead O’Connor, a rabblerouser. President Richard Nixon’s daughter, Tricia, and Slick are both alumnae of Finch College, and Slick was invited to a tea party for the alumnae at the White House in 1969. She invited anarchist Abbie Hoffman to be her escort and planned to spike President Nixon’s tea with 600 micrograms of LSD, but the party had been billed as an “all ladies” event. Hoffman’s presence in the waiting line immediately aroused the suspicions of White House security personnel; he claimed to be Slick’s “bodyguard and escort,” which failed to convince the security personnel, who told him that the event was “strictly for females.” Hoffman then took out a black flag with a multicolored marijuana leaf and hung it on the White House gate. Slick declined to attend once Hoffman was denied entry, and the two ran across the street to a waiting car. Slick later speculated that she only received the invitation because it was addressed to “Grace Wing” (her maiden name), and that she never would have been invited if the Nixons had known that she was Grace Slick.

Slick was arrested at least four times for what she has referred to as “TUI” (“talking under the influence”) and “drunk mouth”. One incident occurred when a police officer encountered her sitting against a tree trunk in the backwoods of Marin County, California drinking wine, eating bread, and reading poetry. The officer asked what she was doing; she gave a sarcastic response and was arrested and jailed. She was arrested in 1994 for assault with a deadly weapon after pointing an unloaded gun at a police officer. She alleged that the officer had come onto her property without explanation.

Conspicuous Only in Its Absence is an album by the American psychedelic rock band The Great Society and was released in 1968 by Columbia Records. The album consists of recordings made during a live concert performance by the band at The Matrix club in San Francisco in 1966. Additional recordings from the same concert were released later in 1968 on the album How It Was. These two albums were repackaged in 1971 as a double album called Collector’s Item.

Upon its initial release in 1968, Conspicuous Only in Its Absence reached #166 on the Billboard Top LPs chart. A single featuring “Sally, Go ‘Round The Roses” and “Didn’t Think So” was released in conjunction with the album by Columbia Records but it failed to chart.

Sally Go ‘Round the Roses,” written by Lona Stevens and Zell Sanders, was a 1963 hit by The Jaynetts, a Bronx-based one-hit wonder girl group, released by J&S Records on the Tuff label. The song has an interesting history, which you can read about here.

The song was a favorite number of Grace Slick when she fronted the Great Society, and it was a formative influence on Laura Nyro.



Sally go ’round the roses (Sally go ’round the roses)
Sally go ’round the roses (Sally go ’round the pretty roses)
Roses they can’t hurt you (roses they can’t hurt you)
Roses they can’t hurt you (no, the roses they can’t hurt you)

Sally don’t you go, don’t you go downtown
Sally don’t you go, don’t you go downtown
Saddest thing in the whole wide world
Is to see your baby with another girl

Don’t you go downtown (Sally go ’round)
No, don’t you go downtown (’round and ’round)
Yes, because the saddest thing in the whole wide world
Is to see your baby with another girl

Sally go ’round the roses (Sally go ’round the roses)
Sally go ’round the roses (Sally go ’round the pretty roses)
They won’t tell your secret (they won’t tell your secret)
They won’t tell your secret (no, the roses won’t tell your secret)

Sally baby cry, let your hair hang down
Sally baby cry, let your hair hang down
Sit and cry where the roses grow
You can sit and cry, not a soul will know

Let your hair hang down (Sally go ’round)
Yes, let your hair hang down, yeah (’round and ’round)
Because the saddest thing in the whole wide world
Is to see your baby with another girl

Sally go ’round the roses (Sally go ’round the roses)
Sally go ’round the roses (Sally go ’round the pretty roses)
Sally go ’round the roses (Sally go ’round the roses)
Sally go ’round the roses (Sally go ’round the roses)
Songwriters: Abner Spector / Lona Stevens / Zell Sanders

16 thoughts on “Women Music March #23 — Grace Slick (in Great Society)

  1. I once saw Grace Slick in Jefferson Starship on the Red Octopus tour. At the end of the concert she said: “I want to than you all for coming tonight and for those who didn’t come, I want thank you for being here just the same.” True story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Li and I learned a lot from your post. This is the first time that I listened to a Great Society song and it is really good and it has such a Grace Slick influence. It really sounds like early Jefferson Airplane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked it, you’re welcome, I can hear a definite psychedelic sound to it. Jim, did you see my question yesterday about using attribution when quoting things? You said something before about not needing to as long as it wasn’t more than 20% of the whole?

      Liked by 1 person

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