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Jefferson Airplane singer, founder Marty Balin dead at 76

September 29, 2018
Jefferson Airplane founder Marty Balin in a 2016 photo. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Marty Balin, the founder of the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, died on Thursday.

Balin, 76, best known for his tender ballads “It’s No Secret” and “Today,” as well as the Vietnam-era “Volunteers,” died on his way to a Tampa hospital, said spokesman Ryan Romenesko. The cause of death was not revealed.

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In 1965, the former folk musician formed Airplane, which quickly rocketed to stardom two years later behind the Top 10 smashes “Somebody to Love” and the trippy “White Rabbit,” sung by bandmate Grace Slick.

It was at this time he admitted to feeling jealous of Slick, who had become the group’s prominent member.

“Every time I did something, it was always Grace Slick and the Airplane and Grace Slick and the Starship,” Balin said during a 1993 interview. “Even if it was my voice. I’ve even done songs of mine on my own and people come up to me and say, ‘I’m surprised you do that song. I always thought it was Grace’s.’”

With the hippie era petering out amid a string of disappointing singles, Balin helped reform Airplane’s more pop-heavy sound. The change paid off with the 1975 hit “Miracles,” sung by Balin, and “Count on Me,” which also cracked the Top 10.

Balin abruptly ditched the band in 1978, concentrating on a solo career. In 1981, he hit No. 8 on Billboard with the soft rock ballad “Hearts.”

By the mid-1980s, his former band was known as Starship, which had a string of No. 1s with lead singer Mickey Thomas, including “Sara,” “We Built This City” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”

Balin had been married twice and had three children, reported The Associated Press.

A 1968 photo of Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco. (From left) Marty Balin, Grace Slick, Spencer Dryden, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, and Jack Casady.
A 1968 photo of Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco. (From left) Marty Balin, Grace Slick, Spencer Dryden, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, and Jack Casady. (AP)

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