David Freiberg was a part of Jefferson Starship from its very first flight.
Before 1960s San Francisco rock band Jefferson Airplane changed its name to Jefferson Starship, Paul Kantner released a solo album in 1970 called “Blows Against the Empire.” The final song on the record is “Starship,” and Freiberg – who was a founding member of Quicksilver Messenger Service, another iconic San Francisco rock act — sang on that track (along with David Crosby and Graham Nash).
Freiberg joined Airplane in its waning days (he can be heard on the live album “Thirty Seconds Over Winterland”). When Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady quit Airplane, Freiberg remained for the newly christened Jefferson Starship.
He will be at the helm when Jefferson Starship lands at the Robins on March 3.
Freiberg, who mostly played bass and keyboards in the original Starship lineup, plays rhythm guitar and handles the male lead vocals in a group that also includes drummer Donny Baldwin, who joined the band in 1982; female lead singer Cathy Richardson, who was picked by Kantner after he saw her singing with Big Brother & the Holding Company; lead guitar player Jude Gold; and keyboard player Chris Smith.
The connection among the band members is what kept the group together after Kantner died in 2016.
“This particular band is the thing that keeps me going,” said Freiberg, 83, during a telephone interview. “We bonded when we were playing together before Paul Kantner died. We were like Paul’s band, and we just have something between us. We know what’s happening, and we’re free to change, and it can happen at any moment. We might be playing these songs that everyone has heard for so long, we put something special into them. Not only do they sound like the records, but there’s also something else there.
“Paul always said, when someone asked why it doesn’t sound like the record, ‘When we were making the record, we didn’t know it. We were writing it When we started playing it, we learned how it went.’”
The current lineup continues to make new music, releasing the seven-track album “Mother of the Sun” (which included the daughter of original lead singer Grace Slick on one track) in 2020. Freiberg said new songs get a good reaction, but the band knows what the audience wants to hear and its setlist spans the more psychedelic sounds of the Airplane to the more pop-friendly Starship songs.
Freiberg wrote one of Starship’s biggest hits, “Jane,” a top 15 single in 1979.
“I was writing it about a girlfriend of mine,” he said. “We changed the name to Jane, Jane Doe, to protect the innocent – or the guilty.”
Freiberg freely shares the credit for the hit with others. Jim McPherson, who he met while working on a solo album by Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart, helped with the lyrics. Guitar player Craig Chaquico created the hard rock arrangement, and Kantner added the little lick at the beginning.
“It just came together,” Freiberg said. “I was writing it for Marty (Balin) to sing, but when he quit, we decided to get another male singer. We had auditions and everybody sang ‘Jane.’ Obviously, the winner was definitely Mickey Thomas.”
Freiberg, who grew up in Cincinnati, before moving to California in 1959, has been making music for more than 60 years. He has no plans to stop anytime soon.
“My goal is to keep on playing as long as it’s fun, and it keeps getting more fun” he said. “Every time we play, I just get more into it. I’m a blessed man.”
If you go …
WHO: Jefferson Starship
WHEN: 8 p.m. March 3
WHERE: Robins Theatre, 160 E. Market St., Warren
HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $35 to $75 and are available at the Robins box office and
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