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Cover image for Been so long : my life and music
Been so long : my life and music
First edition.
New York : St. Martin's Press, [2018]
Physical Description:
xiv, 354 pages : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 25 cm + 1 cd
General Note:
Includes index.
From the man who made a name for himself as a founding member and lead guitarist of Jefferson Airplane comes a memoir that offers a rare glimpse into the heart and soul of a musical genius--and a vivid journey through the psychedelic era in America. "Music is the reward for being alive," writes Jorma Kaukonen in this candid and emotional account of his life and work. "It stirs memory in a singular way that is unmatched." In a career that has already spanned a half century--one that has earned him induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, among other honors--Jorma is best known for his legendary bands Jefferson Airplane and the still-touring Hot Tuna. But before he won worldwide recognition he was just a young man with a passion and a dream. Been So Long is the story of how Jorma found his place in the world of music and beyond. The grandson of Finnish and Russian-Jewish immigrants whose formative years were spent abroad with his American-born diplomat father, Jorma channeled his life experiences--from his coming-of-age in Pakistan and the Phillipines to his early gigs with Jack Casady in D.C. to his jam sessions in San Francisco with Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, and other contemporaries--into his art in unique and revelatory ways. Been So Long charts not only Jorma's association with the bands that made him famous but goes into never-before-told details about his addiction and recovery, his troubled first marriage and still-thriving second, and more. Interspersed with diary entries, personal correspondence, and song lyrics, this memoir is as unforgettable and inspiring as Jorma's music itself.
Personal Subject:


Call Number
921 Kaukonen, Jorma 2018

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In a career that has spanned a half-century, guitarist Jorma Kaukonen has been at the forefront of American music and culture. A pioneer of the 1960s San Francisco scene, Jorma is best known for co-founding psychedelic rock band The Jefferson Airplane. With his subsequent band Hot Tuna, formed with Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady, Jorma solidified a fan base that has endured to this day.In this memoir, Jorma tells stories from his early life up to his present-day with reflections woven in. Jorma's story takes us around the globe, from meeting Jack in DC in the 50s to college to California to meeting Janis Joplin, Pigpen, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, Phil Lesh and more. He tells all of the events of Jefferson Airplane's history and the story of his addiction and amazing recovery.Jorma continues to tour today while also running and teaching at Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp, which is considered one of the world's most unique centers for the study of guitar and other instruments. Perfect for fans of Robbie Robertson's Testimony and Deal by Bill Kreutzmann, Been So Long is the memoir for anyone who wants to hear stories about Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, jam bands, and anyone interested in a national treasure who helped define 60s-70s rock.

Author Notes

Jorma Kaukonen is one of the most highly respected interpreters of American roots music, blues, and Americana, and at the forefront of popular rock 'n roll. He is a co-founding member and the guitarist of Jefferson Airplane and the still-touring Hot Tuna, and has recorded more than a dozen solo albums. He's a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a Grammy nominee. Jorma and his wife Vanessa operate Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp, a center in Ohio for studying guitar and other instruments.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Jefferson Airplane guitarist Kaukonen's candid and affectionate memoir resembles the rambling and free-flowing road trips he enjoys. The author began taking trips early in life as he traveled to Pakistan and the Philippines from his Washington, D.C., home with his father, who worked for the State Department. When Kaukonen was 16, he was inspired by a guitar-playing friend to play music and, with his father's help, bought his first guitar. In high school, he met Jack Casady, who would become the bassist for Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, and the two began a lifelong friendship and musical partnership. Kaukonen continued to develop his fingerpicking blues guitar style at Antioch College in Ohio, playing with fellow guitarist Ian Buchanan. After college, he headed to California where he joined the Airplane and played at the 1966 Monterey Jazz Festival. At the same time his music career was evolving, he sank into alcoholism, and his marriage with his first wife, Margareta, disintegrated, exacerbated by his own ambivalence. Kaukonen left Jefferson Airplane in 1972, pursuing the Hot Tuna project he and Casady had begun, but five years later, he decided to go out on his own. He now lives on a ranch with his wife, Vanessa, in southern Ohio, where he runs songwriting and guitar workshops. A mesmerizing storyteller, Kaukonen delivers a memoir as intricate and dazzling as his music. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Amiable and informative, if not always compelling, memoir by the folkie who anchored Jefferson Airplane.As guitarist for Airplane, Kaukonen once wrote a memorable acoustic instrumental named "Embryonic Journey." That could well serve as a title for this debut, the septuagenarian rocker's therapeutic account of his inner and outer life and times. The son of a State Department attach, Kaukonen's formative years were spent traveling around the world. Along the way, he became an obsessive finger-picking guitarist and, luckily, wound up back on the family's California home turf at a time when legendary bands were formed at a moment's notice. Such was the case with the Airplane, which reaped a hefty advance from the beginning and created a new and defiantly trippy sound. "All of a sudden," he writes, "psychedelic was no longer a door to perception or an excuse to partyit was becoming a genre!" As the money rolled in, so did amphetamines (among many other pharmaceuticals) and more music. "I am convinced that many of the crystalline solos on those Airplane recordings were directly related to that little orange pill," writes the author. "It's funny to think that my life could have been so completely ruled by mood-altering substances, but at the time it would never have occurred to me that there might be another way to live." Kaukonen spares little in describing the winding path of his life, both the ups (writing and playing music) and the downs (addiction and a destructive codependent marriage). Unfortunately, his philosophical and spiritual ramblings become increasingly repetitive and tedious. Also, while he offers factual details about life inside the Airplane (and follow-up band Hot Tuna), he is short on offering the kind of interesting personal details only he would knowe.g, what was/is lead singer Grace Slick really like? Was he affected by the controversies swirling around the provocative "Volunteers" album?An honest personal portrait but also one where the author could have revealed moreand written less. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Guitarist and songwriter Kaukonen, who worked with Jefferson Airplane from 1965 to 1972 before striking out on his own, tells us his life's story in this conversational autobiography. Like most celebrity memoirs, this one recounts the author's high points (the rise to musical success with Airplane) and low points (a fall into alcoholism); it also features walk-ons from famous people the author has known and worked with Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Jerry Garcia. What sets Kaukonen's book apart, however, is the reflective and insightful writing, though still informal in tone. The randomness of life was generally upsetting to me as a kid and sometimes it afflicts me today, he says at one point. These loosely told tales (as Kaukonen describes his book) build an intriguing picture of a man for whom music is not merely a vocation but, rather, the source of life itself. Entertaining and emotional, alternately exhilarating and depressing, this is a special musician's memoir, and it will strike a resounding chord with fans of classic rock.--David Pitt Copyright 2018 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Guitarist, songwriter, and singer Kaukonen, best known as a cofounder of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, was at the forefront of rock in the late 1960s and 1970s. His gently rambling memoir explores his early life and accounts of his family, detailing a youth of peripatetic living around the world owing to his father's jobs overseas, before moving on to the story of his musical awakenings and influences. Kaukonen writes with narrative flair, although his pivotal time with Jefferson Airplane beginning in the mid-1960s is curiously given a somewhat cursory treatment. From there, he traces his career with Hot Tuna and eventually his solo and collaborative projects, while also chronicling years of substance abuse and his recovery, a lasting relationship with his second wife, the establishment of his Fur Peace Ranch for musicians, and a continuing life of performing, writing, and recording. VERDICT Dedicated fans of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna will want to read this book by a musician who played a part in the defining moments of Sixties rock and beyond.-James Collins, Morristown-Morris Twp. P.L., NJ © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.