February 16, 2019

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Marty Balin, a Founder of Jefferson Airplane, Dies at 76

Marty Balin, a Founder of Jefferson Airplane, Dies at 76
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Grace Slick replaced Ms. Anderson and Spencer Dryden took over the drums from Skip Spence before the release of the second Jefferson Airplane album, “Surrealistic Pillow,” in 1967, the year of the Summer of Love. “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love” — two songs Ms. Slick brought to the band — became Top 10 hits. (Mr. Kantner and Ms. Anderson died in 2016, Mr. Dryden in 2005 and Mr. Spence in 1999.)

For Mr. Balin, Jefferson Airplane was focused on live performance, not commercial formula. “We got to a place where the music was playing us, we weren’t playing it,” Mr. Balin told Relix magazine in 1993. “That’s where you want to get to. And from the first note you hit, no matter where you are, even in the biggest hall in the world, from the first note of the first song, you know at that moment you are there or you’re not.”

Mr. Balin stayed with Jefferson Airplane through three more studio albums that have endured as psychedelic touchstones: “After Bathing at Baxter’s,” “Crown of Creation” and “Volunteers,” for which he and Mr. Kantner wrote the title track. Yet the escalating tension within the band, along with his sorrow at the death of a friend, Janis Joplin, in 1970, led to his departure from Jefferson Airplane in 1971.

Mr. Kantner invited Mr. Balin to complete a song that became “Caroline” on Jefferson Starship’s 1974 album, “Dragon Fly,” with Mr. Balin on lead vocals. He joined the band as a full member in 1975 and was its frontman for pop successes including “Miracles,” “Count on Me,” “Runaway” and “With Your Love” before leaving in 1978. His first solo album, “Balin,” included two Top 40 hits, “Hearts,” and “Atlanta Lady (Something About Your Love),” which were both written by a friend, Jesse Barish. And as Mr. Balin continued to move in and out of Jefferson Airplane’s and Jefferson Starship’s projects, he continued to record solo projects — most recently the album “The Greatest Love” in 2016.

While touring in 2016, he experienced chest pain and received open-heart surgery at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. Afterward, he sued the hospital over care during his recovery, when he lost a thumb and a vocal cord was paralyzed. But in 2018 he said that he had recovered enough to continue writing songs and making music.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Balin is survived by two daughters, Jennifer Edwards and Delaney Balin, and two stepdaughters, Rebekah Geier and Moriah Geier.

In 2016, the year the Jefferson Airplane received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Mr. Balin told Relix magazine that he was happy leading his own acoustic band. “People want to hear me sing, and now that’s what I’m doing; I’m just singing. The whole night is me — and if you dig it, cool,” he said. “Let’s get to the music, man. That’s what I’m doing — just flying along.”

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