Grace Slick plays – and paints – Monterey Pop

By: Ben Fong-TorresThu, 06/18/2020
Grace Slick's Painting

Grace Slick is one of the few rock artists who declared that they wouldn’t perform on stage past age 30—and stuck to it. 

(Mick Jagger, famously, was another.)

She split from the Jefferson Starship soon after reaching that landmark age, returning only a couple of times for fundraising concerts and short tours. One show is here on Qello, titled The Definitive Concert, recorded in 1983, when Grace was – yikes! – almost 45.

After a final, final show in 1989, Slick retired to Malibu, where she got involved in animal causes and took up painting.

Nowadays, when she tours, it’s to appear at traveling exhibits of her artwork.

A few years ago, she invited me to a showing at a hotel in downtown San Francisco. When I got to the table where she was receiving guests, she told me she had something for me. It turned out to be a new painting, called “Monterey,” a colorful rendering of the watershed pop festival of 1967. She painted the California fairgrounds, with a backdrop of concession stands, including one featuring Rolling Stone and Creem magazines. Up front was a coterie of artists: Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, Mama Cass, Otis Redding, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, Neil Young, various members of the Airplane, Ravi Shankar, Ghandi, and a special guest: a white rabbit.

She pointed to a figure standing behind Jimi and Brian Jones, in the lower right corner. “That’s you,” she said. “No, it’s not,” I replied. It was a bespectacled young man in a blue shirt. I wear glasses as well as the occasional blue shirt. But this guy had a curtain of black hair more befitting…well, Grace Slick. “I never had long hair like that,” I said. “Yes, you did,” said Grace. “I remember.”

Actually, I didn’t, but, having just been presented with a lovely gift, I was not about to continue to argue, or to ask her who she thought, between the two of us, had more acid trips. (I had one, and it was more a stumble than a trip.) As for the fact that I wasn’t there, and that Rolling Stone wouldn’t publish its first issue until later that year, she shrugged an artistic licensing kind of a shrug. “You should have been there,” she said, and she was right about that.

Here’s a photo of the painting. Good luck finding me. Besides the illustration, Slick offered a few words, many years and insights after the fact:

“Throughout history there have been delightful little blobs of collective hope,” she wrote. “For a couple of years in the late Sixties, no matter what was going on in the world, our generation happily assumed that with love and education we could change outdated social systems. One huge thing that we missed: Ninety percent of the population is genetically imbued with sub-mediocre reasoning skills. No matter how much you hug them or read to them, there’s no correcting stupid."