Jorma Kaukonen, a guitarist who is best known for his work on Jefferson Airplane, reflects on his Jewish upbringing and how it brought him to where he is today.
A large portion of Jorma Kaukonen’s life was influenced by his early Jewish roots. His father’s parents coming from Finland and mother’s coming from Russia, his heritage is truly diverse. His grandmother was secular Jew and grandfather converted after marriage, Kaukonen’s family definitely has Jewish roots. Because his father was a soldier during World War II, Jorma Kaukonen spent most of his time living with his grandparents.
His Jewish background did not have much of an impact on Jorma Kaukonen until later when his wife converted to Judaism. When his wife became involved in the Jewish community, she and her rabbi helped convince him to delve deeper into the faith. Even though many other guitarists were Jewish, that did not hold much bearing on his own personal decisions. After his wife’s conversion to Judaism everything started to change, he learned more about the religion. Eventually joining a Jewish community with his wife, more and more of his life became intertwined with his Jewish past. After his wife converted, he started feeling more comfortable with his Jewish roots.
Many of his songs were inspired, although unintentionally, by his Jewish past. As he was looking back at his musical catalogue for the Jefferson Airplane 50th anniversary, Jorrma Kaukonen found many of his songs had religious undertones. Although Kaukonen isn’t a very religious man, many of his songs have been influenced by his religious roots. Although he doesn’t fully commit himself to Judaism, his life has been greatly influenced by the religion. His relationship with Judaism is a home-grown one.
Q&A with Jorma Kaukonen on Jefferson Airplane and Judaism http://t.co/OcrjjH13cy
— Jorma Kaukonen (@JormaKaukonen) February 28, 2015
More recent years have brought Jorma Kaukonen closer to his roots than his childhood ever has. Its influence on him has been, in a way, subtle. His grandfather never really discussed Judaism with him and it wasn’t a big thing in his household as a child. Being Jewish to him meant something that was just a part of him and not something religious or spiritual. Even so, he looks back on his Jewish heritage fondly. To him Judaism is something that brings back memories of his childhood. Judaism is something that has always been there for Kaukonen and it found him when he most needed it. He is surrounded by many Jewish people and is even married to one, so it is safe to say that being Jewish played a large part in his life.