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As the Sun Sets on the Summer of Love’s 50th Anniversary, Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick Gets Candid

Grace Slick has been sober for 20 years, but her reputation as one of San Francisco’s foremost Aquarius goddesses — who became the poster child for female-led flower power as the singer of Jefferson Airplane — remains as vibrant as ever, even as the Summer of Love winds down its 50th anniversary.

The summer of 1967 was a time of warmth and strife, drugs and war, poetry, visual art and mind-bending music, for which Airplane played a pivotal role, encouraging the growing hippie community to “feed your head,” as the band’s seminal “White Rabbit” espoused. Now 77,  Slick says there are some things she misses about that time and the years after — Quaaludes are, curiously, at the top of her list — but seems mostly content with her place in the current day, as she told Variety in a recent interview.

If LSD had a theme song, it would be “White Rabbit.” What was your best and worst acid trip?
Grace Slick: I didn’t have a worst. A lot of time with acid, you have to be in a good frame of mind and around things and people that you like, as I was fortunate to have, and I never had a freak out. Things got real strange [sometimes], and then it goes away in 12 hours or whatever. We had good acid, too — it wasn’t cut with anything and it was made well by chemists from the University of California Berkeley. We got lucky with it. And I got lucky in that it was a time in my life where I was not particularly hampered by any hideous mental existence.

There is the famous story of you wanting to dose Nixon when you got invited to the White House. What would you slip Trump to mellow him out?
Acid, because I don’t think he’d too well with that. It’s an ego-destroying thing where you are not in control. You’ve got to know what you’re doing with it. You’ve got to have somebody who is not high to make sure you don’t decide you’re a raven and fly off the roof. There are all kinds of things about it that are tricky. … We’ve got a president who is orange — everybody’s least favorite color. Bill Maher said never underestimate the stupidity of the American public, and, at this point in time, he is right. But I realized what a patriot I was when he got elected [because] it made me so sad thinking about how there were 12 or 15 guys who, now 240 years ago, started an entire country. Although they may not have practiced all their ideas — they had slaves and were talking about how all men were free — some in the Constitution are still used.  And they were wonderful ideas as far as how to treat each other and yourself. Then you get this nut-job goofball as our president, and it’s embarrassing. He shouldn’t be running a country. Guy is a mess.

Earlier this year, you used your voice to protest in a unique way, allowing Chick-Fil-A, which has previously funded organizations that are against same-sex marriage, permission to use Starship’s 1987 hit “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” in a commercial. You then gave your portion of the earnings to a LGBTQ organization. Should other artists also be exploring such nontraditional tactics?
I mostly paint now and I will encourage or not encourage people depending on who I am talking to. But also this is a period of time where I’m sitting back, which is fine. When you are older, generally, you’re a bit quieter. Rock and roll is a young expression — it’s strong, loud, and ironic. There are just things you do when you’re 25 you don’t do when you’re 70 because you look silly.

Does that suggest that it’s incumbent on millennials to do more? 
My generation — and this isn’t bragging, it’s a fact — is the best public school-educated generation before or since. And I see kids saying things on television that are kind of stupid, because they aren’t getting educated. There are 95,000 kids in one class and they’re not paying attention [because] they’d rather be looking at Kim Kardashian’s latest outfit. It’s too bad because, environmentally, you can mold a fairly intelligent person. But if you don’t learn anything what are you gonna do? Look at pictures of Kim Kardashian all your life?

Many of your contemporaries, like the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, are still touring. Is there a stage show you’ve seen recently that’s impressed you?
One that I saw on TV that I thought was really well done was Madonna. I didn’t like her when she first came out, but I thought, “Man, somebody knows how to do a production.” It was fantastic! Dancing boys and explosions and shit — was all really well-staged and well-costumed. She’s not a great singer, but she’s a good performer and did a beautiful job. I also saw a program with Fleetwood Mac. They sounded good, but I couldn’t look at it because there’s all these old people singing.

Is there a drug you miss?
Quaaludes. They don’t make them anymore, and we’re lucky because we’d be off to the races with that. …  You can take Quaaludes and have a day of being silly, and you’re done. There’s no hangover, no six months of being a zombie. If Quaaludes came out again, I’d buy a big dark amber glass bottle and keep it in the refrigerator.

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