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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. Jefferson Airplane co-founder Marty Balin

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Photo: Steve Granitz (Getty Images/WireImage)

According to Rolling Stone, Marty Balin—one of the co-founders of psychedelic ‘60s rock band Jefferson Airplane—has died. A rep for the musician confirmed his death to Rolling Stone, but a cause hasn’t been publicly released yet. Balin was 76.


Born in Ohio in 1942, Balin later moved to San Francisco and tried to start a career as a folk guitarist, but he struggled to find much success until he met up with guitarist Paul Kantner and tried to put together a house band for a music club he partially owned called the Matrix. With Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Skip Spence, and Signe Toly Anderson, they formed the first incarnation of a group they dubbed Jefferson Airplane. The band quickly developed a following in San Francisco thanks to its debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, but Jefferson Airplane gained a national fanbase after the release of 1967's follow-up album Surrealistic Pillow—which also saw new singer Grace Slick replace Anderson and new drummer Spencer Dryden replace Spence.

Balin co-wrote five of the tracks on Surrealistic Pillow, specifically “She Has Funny Cars,” “Today,” “Comin’ Back To Me,” “3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds,” and “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” and he also played guitar and provided vocals. Rolling Stone notes that Balin was there for “all of [Jefferson Airplane’s] most famous gigs,” like Woodstock and Altamont—where he was reportedly beaten by Hells Angels after jumping into the audience to try and help an audience member. Balin quit Jefferson Airplane about a year later, saying in a more recent interview that everybody at the time was “kind of an asshole” and that they were all on cocaine.

In 1975, Kantner convinced Balin to join him for the spin-off band Jefferson Starship, which went on to become similarly successful (if not more successful). Balin wrote or co-wrote a number of Starship hits, including “Caroline,” “Miracles,” and “With Your Love.” Balin’s time with the new band was just as short-lived as it was in the original incarnation, though, as Balin quickly got tired of dealing with live shows and Slick’s troubles with alcoholism. He left Starship and worked on other projects, including some solo work and the occaisional reunion with Kantner as part of the KBC Band and new incarnations of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship.

A few years ago, Balin sued Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City for malpractice after he suffered a number of injuries during open heart surgery (including a paralyzed vocal cord, the loss of a thumb, and the loss of part of his tongue. Kantner died in 2016 from a heart attack at the age of 74.