Psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane’s vocalist, songwriter, and founder, Marty Balin was found dead at 76, with the cause unknown. Originally Martyn Jerel Buchwald, Balin was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and went to high school in San Francisco, California. There, Balin became a major figure of the San Francisco music scene as he opened up his own music club The Matrix, hosting groups like the Grateful Dead, Steve Miller, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin, Santana, and Steppenwolf.
Before Jefferson Airplane, his earlier musical work involved Challenge Records and a folk quartet, the Town Criers. After this, Balin met Paul Kantner at a 12-string guitarist gathering and formed a band with Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Skip Spence, and Signe Toly Anderson which came out with the debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off in 1996 featuring songs like “Blues from an Airplane” and it is no secret where Balin’s contributions clearly stand out. Anderson was replaced with Grace Slick in 1967, the same year they came out with their breakthrough album Surrealistic Pillow, which Balin co-wrote five songs like “Comin’ Back to Me”, “She Has Funny Cars” and worked on “Today” with Paul Kantner and Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia. With Volunteers in 1969, he portrayed the anti-Vietnam movement. Balin later left the band until 1974 when he, Kantner, and the other remaining members started up Jefferson Starship, scoring top 3 hits Miracles and Count on Me, written by Balin.
After time with the bands, Balin also had a successful solo career, including a top ten hit with the song “Hearts”. In 1996, he and others were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Balin also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. Despite years of tension with fellow band members, Balin became a key component of Jefferson Airplane’s mark of 1960s psychedelic rock, with songs about love, freedom, and altered perception. He was a part of the band during its prime with Slick, Kantner, and Kaukonen when they were major parts of the Fillmore in San Francisco and Fillmore East in NYC. Balin’s legend also lives on with the memories of his participants in staple 1960s festivals like Monterey Pop, Woodstock, and Altamont. His music, business, voice, and life infiltrated the psychedelic rock revolution for years, creating staple songs and bringing light to other bands that will forever be influential.