revisiting detour
liquid sky (slava tsukerman, 1982)

music friday: jorma kaukonen

I just finished Jorma Kaukonen's memoir Been So Long. Kaukonen is best known for his work as a guitarist for Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. He's a fine writer. The book is episodic at times, as Kaukonen pulls memories out of his life. The time spent making albums with the Airplane is rather quickly dispensed with, not because of any ire towards his old band, but he doesn't seem to realize (or care) that readers might have an interest in those albums. He spends equal amounts of time on all albums he worked on, including his many solo albums.

His honesty pays off throughout the book. Of the Airplane's status as "hippies", he writes, "We were ... affluent and most of our problems were upper-class, first-world ones.... The so-called straight people might have considered that we lived an eccentric lifestyle, but consider this: we were successful in a mainstream way, contracted to an old guard establishment corporation (RCA), and we all had money."

Jorma writes in a low-key style, a bit like his vocals. His doesn't shy away from talking about his troubles with booze and drugs, but neither does he sensationalize them. It's just there. By the time you've finished his book, you've learned something of his philosophy of life. He's 78, and content. He also still loves to play his music.

Here are a few songs featuring Jorma. From Volunteers, "Good Shepherd":

"The Other Side of This Life" is as much a showcase for Jack Casady as it is for Jorma, but sometimes you can't have one without the other:

Maybe his best solo track, from Quah:

Legendary acoustic Hot Tuna:

And probably his most-famous composition ... he once recorded an album with 11 different versions of this song. Here, he plays it at the Airplane induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

And a bonus: "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning"