No. 80: Jefferson Airplane, ‘Somebody To Love’– Top 100 Classic Rock Songs
‘Somebody To Love’ was first recorded by an obscure Bay Area band called the Great Society, which featured Grace Slick on vocals and her brother, Darby, on guitar. (The latter also wrote the song, which was then titled ‘Someone To Love.’)
But you won’t find that version of the song on our list of the Top 100 Classic Rock Songs. No, ‘Somebody To Love’ didn’t resonate with a wider audience until Grace Slick recorded it with her next group, Jefferson Airplane. The second version of the song boasts a faster tempo, beefed-up guitars and drums and, most important, a forceful performance from the frontwoman.
The hesitance Slick exhibited in the Great Society version vanishes. Instead, she belts out the indelible chorus — “Don’t you want somebody to love? / Don’t you need somebody to love? / Wouldn’t you love somebody to love? / You better find somebody to love” — with sharp, sassy confidence.
A mixture of scorn and longing drips from her smoky voice; the delivery announces her arrival as one of the great female rock vocalists of all time.
Although Jefferson Airplane were already leaders of the nascent San Francisco psych-rock scene, ‘Somebody To Love’ signaled the band’s arrival in the mainstream: The song reached No. 5 on the ‘Billboard’ charts and its accompanying album, 1967’s ‘Surrealistic Pillow,’ hit No. 3.
More important, the song had a seismic impact on music’s traditionally male-centric culture. ‘Somebody To Love’ normalized women taking center stage in their musical projects—a gesture which paved the way for female vocalists ranging from Janis Joplin all the way through to Adele.
Watch Jefferson Airplane Perform ‘Somebody To Love’