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David Freiberg

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David Freiberg
Freiberg as a member of Jefferson Starship in 1976.
Freiberg as a member of Jefferson Starship in 1976.
Background information
Born (1938-08-24) August 24, 1938 (age 85)
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
GenresPsychedelic rock, folk, progressive rock, acid rock
  • Vocals
  • bass guitar
  • keyboards
  • guitar
Years active1960s–present

David Freiberg (/ˈfrbərɡ/ FRY-berg; born August 24, 1938) is an American musician best known for contributing vocals, keyboards, electric bass, rhythm guitar, viola and percussion as a member of Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, and Jefferson Starship.[1] Among other tracks, he co-wrote "Jane", a hit for Jefferson Starship.[2]



Classically trained in violin and viola, Freiberg began his career moonlighting as a coffeehouse singer-songwriter (playing acoustic guitar) during the American folk music revival while working for a railroad.[2] For a while, he shared a house in Venice, California, with David Crosby and Paul Kantner[3] before being briefly jailed for marijuana possession. Prior to being incarcerated, he also became acquainted with Dino Valenti, then Crosby's nominal roommate on a houseboat in Sausalito, California.[4] During his time as a coffee house folk singer, he was part of the duo David & Michaela.[2] David & Michaela made a demo at CBS studios, and "Elektra producer Paul Rothchild proposed fitting them into a bigger folk group. But the onset of the Beatles spelled the end of David & Michaela, and incentive for Freiberg to switch to rock and electric instruments."[3]

Quicksilver Messenger Service[edit]

Following his release, Freiberg co-founded Quicksilver Messenger Service with guitarists John Cipollina, Jim Murray and Gary Duncan and drummer Greg Elmore in 1965.[3] The founding took place shortly after Valenti, who had recently hired the musicians for his backing band following the folk rock explosion, was imprisoned for drugs. Due to the surfeit of guitarists in the group, Freiberg (who was only tangentially acquainted with his bandmates through their mutual friendship with Valenti, with Cipollina remarking that they had been instructed to "take care" of him) was assigned the bass.

Freiberg shared lead vocals with Gary Duncan for much of the band's history and regularly contributed additional guitar and keyboards to their studio recordings. As the "most folk-rooted member" of Quicksilver, he also reworked several songs from the folk revival and singer-songwriter repertoires (most notably Hamilton Camp's "Pride of Man")[2] for the group.[3] He would play on six of the eight Quicksilver albums.[2]

Though not as commercially successful as contemporaries like Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver was integral to the development of the San Francisco sound. In addition to earning three Billboard Top 100 hits, several of their albums ranked in the Top 30 of the magazine's album chart. He continued to serve as the group's bassist and contribute to the band's songwriting until September 1971, when he left the group to begin another prison sentence for marijuana possession.[5] His most notable songwriting contributions include "The Fool" and "Light Your Windows", both co-written with Duncan.[3]

Jefferson Airplane[edit]

Shortly after being released from jail in 1972, Freiberg joined Jefferson Airplane at the behest of Kantner, belatedly replacing Marty Balin on vocals and tambourine for the tour that supported Long John Silver.[3] He subsequently appeared on Thirty Seconds Over Winterland (1973), a live album culled from those performances. After the tour ended, Freiberg, Kantner, and Slick released Baron Von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun as a trio in 1973.[6]

Jefferson Starship[edit]

After a long interregnum in which the fate of the band was in question (forcing Freiberg to briefly draw unemployment after RCA Records rescinded Jefferson Airplane's salaries), the final Jefferson Airplane lineup reformed as Jefferson Starship in early 1974 following the departure of lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady.[7][8][9] He remained with the group for nearly eleven years, departing shortly after the formation of Starship in early 1985 due to creative differences over the selection and recording of "We Built This City" with Grace Slick (who, according to longtime manager Bill Thompson, considered Freiberg to be "dead weight") and the atypically outsized role of producer Peter Wolf; during this period, Wolf had effectively superseded Freiberg as the band's principal keyboardist in the studio and select live performances.[10][11][12] Freiberg would later say of the departure: "The only thing real on that song were the vocals and the guitar. I was useless, so I left."[2] He also clarified that “it completely turned away from anything organic, and it wasn’t really what I did.”

Although Freiberg (who primarily played keyboards) and fellow multi-instrumentalist Pete Sears (who generally played bass) frequently alternated on both instruments throughout their respective tenures in the group, Ben Fong-Torres noted in a 1978 profile of the group that "Freiberg considers himself primarily a bass player."[13] He elaborated upon this distinction in a 1997 interview with John Barthel: "I am not really a keyboard player. I use it for input to a computer now, and stuff like that, but it never was my instrument. I just did it for writing songs because it is a musical typewriter, basically, that is what it is."[11]

Never a prolific songwriter and characterized by Fong-Torres as "essentially a back-up musician"[13] in Jefferson Starship, Freiberg notably served as the primary composer of "Jane."[14] According to Rolling Stone, the song "was instrumental in moving them into a more commercial, harder-rock direction."[6] "Jane" was a No. 14 hit for the group in 1979 at a crucial juncture immediately following the departures of Slick and Balin and the integration of Mickey Thomas. It has since been prominently showcased in the 2009 video game Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned and as the opening theme of the Wet Hot American Summer franchise.[14]

Freiberg also developed the "distinctive" organ riff of Balin's "Miracles," the group's most successful single.[14]

Following his departure from Jefferson Starship, he built and operated a studio in Marin County, often working with local musicians.[6] According to Bruce Arnold of Orpheus, "He has developed a wonderful way of recording my acoustic guitar and has a $100,000 voice mike that will make anyone sound good."

He was the only member of Quicksilver Messenger Service to participate in the majority of the Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra records (a series of solo albums and unreleased recordings by Crosby, Kantner and others that drew upon much of the era's Bay Area-based talent) and briefly provided uncredited accompaniment for The Ace of Cups, a groundbreaking all-female San Francisco band.

Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation[edit]

After a two-decade hiatus, Freiberg rejoined Kantner in Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation for their 2005 tour, mending a rift stemming from Freiberg's initial refusal to leave Jefferson Starship with Kantner in 1984.[12] The tour was billed as "The Jefferson Family Galactic Reunion".[15] According to Freiberg, Kantner had been "absolutely right" in leaving Jefferson Starship in the 1980s, and he "apologized." He became a permanent member of the reformed band.[6] He appeared on the 2008 album Jefferson's Tree of Liberty.[6]

Freiberg held his first solo show in 2007 on November 24 in the lounge of the Ledson Hotel on the Sonoma Plaza. He performed a number of songs not played live before. In 2007, he was still performing in Quicksilver, and he toured alongside Paul Kantner in the then current Jefferson Starship.[2]

In April 2017, the current members of Jefferson Starship were sued by former lead guitarist Craig Chaquico for not retiring the band's name in the aftermath of Kantner's death.[6] According to Chaquico, the band had previously agreed to retire the moniker in a 1985 settlement.[16] On December 4, 2018, the lawsuit concerning the use of the name Jefferson Starship was dismissed after an undisclosed settlement was reached between Chaquico and the current members of the band.[17]

The band was still touring in July 2018,[18] with Freiberg singing lead on tracks such as "We Built This City".[6] At age 79, Freiberg remained the only active original member in the band.[19] In November 2018, Freiberg is collaborating with the Dayton Symphony.[19]

Personal life[edit]

In 1966, Freiberg married Julia "Girl Freiberg" Brigden; they had a daughter, Jessica.[20][21][22] Following their divorce in 1979, Freiberg was remarried to singer Linda Imperial in 1990.[2]

Around 1968, he moved into a house in Novato that had previously been rented by Bob Weir and Ron McKernan.[6] He and his family reside in the same house, where he has built a recording studio[2] and practices Soka Gakkai.

Rolling Stone has described him as "Starship's most outwardly easygoing member."[13]


Quicksilver Messenger Service[edit]

Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Paul Kantner/Grace Slick[edit]


Year Collaborator Album Comment
1971 David Crosby If I Could Only Remember My Name
1972 Mickey Hart Rolling Thunder
1973 Jack Traylor & Steelwind Child of Nature
1974 Robert Hunter Tales of the Great Rum Runners
1975 Tiger Rose
Ned Lagin Seastones
1976 Mickey Hart Diga


  1. ^ Fenton, Craig. Have You Seen the Stars Tonite: The Jefferson Starship Flight Manual 1974–1978 & J.S. The Next Generation 1992–2007 (2008) (ISBN 978-1438245348)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Paul Liberatore (November 16, 2007). "David Freiberg is Marin's stealth rocker". Marin Independent Journal. Archived from the original on March 7, 2012. Retrieved January 22, 2010.("... Marin's most unrecognized rock star. ... Now a youthful-looking 69 ....He's been married for 17 years to singer Linda Imperial")
  3. ^ a b c d e f Unterberger, Richie. "David Freiberg". Allmusic. Archived from the original on October 11, 2017.
  4. ^ Zimmer, Dave & Diltz, Henry. Crosby, Stills & Nash: The Biography p. 23 (2008)(ISBN 978-0306816154)
  5. ^ "John Cipollina; Founder, Mainstay of Rock Group Quicksilver Messenger Service". Los Angeles Times. June 2, 1989. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved January 22, 2010.("...which he formed with guitarist Gary Duncan and bassist David Freiberg in 1965, he continued to perform.")
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Browne, David (August 24, 2018). "Veteran San Friso Rocker David Freiberg on Keeping Jefferson Starship's Legacy Alive". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  7. ^ Snyder, Patrick (January 1, 1976). "Jefferson Starship: The Miracle Rockers". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on October 28, 2017. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  8. ^ Engelhardt, Gordon (October 25, 2021). "A Q-and-A with Jefferson Starship's David Freiberg in Advance of Band's Owensboro Concert". Evansville Courier & Press. Evansville, Indiana: Gannett. Archived from the original on October 26, 2021. Retrieved November 14, 2021. We renamed the band Jefferson Starship. Paul had a (science fiction concept) album Blows Against the Empire that involved the hijacking of a starship.
  9. ^ Baker, Tamela (December 5, 2021). "From Jefferson Airplane to Jefferson Starship, Freiberg's Been Knee-deep in the Hoopla". The Herald-Mail. Hagerstown, Maryland: Gannett. Archived from the original on December 7, 2021. Retrieved December 7, 2021. This band has been through so many changes, and honestly, I'm the only one left that played in Jefferson Airplane,
  10. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff (2003). Got a Revolution!: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780671034030. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017.
  11. ^ a b "David Freiberg Interview by John Barthel". Archived from the original on February 22, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  12. ^ a b Jim Staats (September 28, 2006). "Starship ready to blast off Saturday at Novato concert". Marin Independent Journal. Archived from the original on January 7, 2010. Retrieved January 22, 2010.("Freiberg joined the last Jefferson Airplane tour in 1972 and became an original member of Jefferson Starship in 1974.")
  13. ^ a b c "Can Marty do it on the road and will Grace get fueled again". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on September 28, 2016.
  14. ^ a b c Tamarkin, Jeff (2003). Got a Revolution!: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780671034030. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017.
  15. ^ "Jefferson Starship soars to 'Galactic Reunion". Observer-Reporter. February 17, 2006. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011. Retrieved January 22, 2010.("rejoining, actually, after a two-decade hiatus – is David Freiberg, who put in a decade with the band...")
  16. ^ "Court Case" (PDF). United States District Court – Northern District of California. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  17. ^ Stempel, Jonathan (December 4, 2018). "Jefferson Starship Members Settle Lawsuit Over Band Name". Reuters. Archived from the original on December 5, 2018. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
  18. ^ Whisnand, Charles (July 11, 2018). "Jefferson Starship flies at Concert Under the Stars". Nevada Appeal. Archived from the original on August 11, 2018. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  19. ^ a b Rydzynski, Michael (July 19, 2018). "Jefferson Starship books a psychedelic rock trip to the OC Fair". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 11, 2018. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  20. ^ Selvin, Joel (1994). Summer of Love: The Inside Story of LSD, Rock & Roll, Free Love, and High Times in the Wild West. Durron. pp. 272–3.
  21. ^ BRIGDEN, JULIA (May 20, 2007). "Summer of Love: 40 Years Later / Julia Brigden (Girl Freiberg)". sfgate.com. Archived from the original on April 27, 2017. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  22. ^ TAYLOR, DON (November 29, 2019). "traveling inner circle of 1960s rock royalty in new memoir". Archived from the original on December 1, 2019. Retrieved December 1, 2019.

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