Skip Spence dies: Jefferson Airplane drummer had been homeless

Tom Boland (
Sun, 18 Apr 1999 23:53:32 -0700 (PDT)

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FWD  Reuters News Service - April 17, 1999


Reuters - April 17, 1999 - Skip Spence, an original member of
the rock group Jefferson Airplane and founder of the short-lived
but influential band Moby Grape, died Friday, hospital officials
said. He was 52.

Spence, who had long battled alcoholism, schizophrenia and
periods of homelessness, died just weeks before the release of
"More Oar," a CD album tribute to him featuring musicians
including Beck, Robert Plant, Tom Waits and members of R.E.M.,
the San Francisco Chronicle said Saturday.

"His body just gave out," Spence's son Omar told the
Chronicle after his father's death in a Santa Cruz hospital,
where he was taken April 5 and placed on a ventilator.

"We tried our best to extend him, but it got to he point
where it would have been inhumane. Anybody can live on life
support, but that's not living."

Born Alexander Lee Spence in Ontario, Canada in 1946, Skip
Spence moved to California and became a key part of the thriving
San Francisco music scene in the 1960s and early 1970s, starting
out as a drummer with Jefferson Airplane and moving on to found
Moby Grape in 1966.

He is also credited with suggesting that the local rock
group "Pud" get itself a new name -- which it did, as the
Doobie Brothers.

With Moby Grape, Spence reverted to playing his original
instrument -- the guitar -- and quickly developed a national
following as a skilled and inventive songwriter.

Spence released his solo album "Oar", an instant and
surviving cult classic, in 1968.

By 1969, drug and mental problems had forced Spence out of
Moby Grape, beginning a long and painful decline which
eventually left him homeless in and around the coastal town of
Santa Cruz, living on welfare and handouts.

Omar Spence, one of Spence's four children, said his father
had conquered an addiction to alcohol in recent years, but was
unable to defeat a host of medical problems including pneumonia
and congestive heart failure. The official cause of his death
was listed as lung cancer.

Before his death Spence was given a copy of the upcoming
tribute album, and Omar Spence said it was playing during his
final hour in the Dominican Hospital.

"My dad knew he was good," Omar Spence told the Chronicle.
"He was still a star, to the day he died."

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
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