Marty Balin, founder of the Jefferson Airplane, dies at 76

NEW YORK (AP) — Marty Balin, a patron of the 1960s “San Francisco Sound” both as founder and lead singer of the Jefferson Airplane and co-owner of the club where the Airplane and other Bay Area bands performed, has died. He was 76.

Balin died Thursday in Tampa, Florida, on the way to the hospital, spokesman Ryan Romenesko said. The cause of death was not immediately available.

The dark-eyed, baby-faced Balin was an ex-folk musician who formed the Airplane in 1965 and within two years was at the heart of a nationwide wave that briefly rivaled the Beatles’ influence and even helped inspire the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album. The Airplane was the breakout act among such San Francisco-based artists as the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, many of whom played early shows at the Matrix, a ballroom Balin helped run and for which the Airplane served as house band.

The San Francisco Sound was a psychedelic blend of blues, folk, rock and jazz, and the musical expression of the emerging hippie lifestyle. Balin himself was known for his yearning tenor on the ballads “Today” and “It’s No Secret,” and on the political anthem “Volunteers.” In the mid-1970s, when the Airplane regrouped as the more mainstream Jefferson Starship, Balin sang lead on such hits as “Miracles” (which he co-wrote), “With Your Love” and “Count On Me.” He later had solo success with “Hearts” and “Atlanta Lady.”

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