R.I.P. Marty Balin of Jefferson Starship

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    I knew that none of them are getting any younger, but still, it doesn’t quite prepare you. [LINK]

    Jefferson Airplane vocalist-guitarist Marty Balin, who co-founded the San Francisco psychedelic rock band in 1965 and played a crucial role in the creation of all their 1960s albums, including Surrealistic Pillow and Volunteers, died Thursday at the age of 76. Balin’s rep confirmed the musician’s death to Rolling Stone, though the cause of death is currently unknown.

    He played with the group at all of their most famous gigs, including the 1967 Human Be-In in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, The Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock and Altamont. At the latter gig, Balin was brutally beaten by the Hells Angels after he dove into the audience to help an audience member in distress. “I woke up with all these boot marks all over my body,” he told Relix in 1993. “I just walked out there. I remember Jorma saying, ‘Hey, you’re a crazy son of a bitch.’”

    A little over a year later, Balin quit the group. “I thought everybody [was] kind of an asshole,” he said earlier this year. “It was a period of cocaine then…everybody took cocaine. And people I would work with, they would yell at you and it got intense. The Airplane was on that kind of trip. You know, I personally just drank alcohol. But some of the chemicals made people crazy and very selfish, and it just wasn’t any fun to be around for me. So I bailed.”

    Actually, three pretty beefy excerpts there are barely the beginning of his story, since of course he returned in the mid 1970s and did some serious hit-making with the band, now renamed Jefferson Starship.

    Now, due to the nature of the site and forums, I’m all but obligated to memorialize Mr. Balin with the following clip that gives him the distinction of being the first rock musician seen in the Star Wars universe…

    …though really, if you want to hear him at his best, in my opinion that’s probably this song:

    …not quite as well-known as “Miracles” (which was really the big ’70s hit for them), but I just like this song better. He left the group not long after the Star Wars Holiday Special, because he felt that the drugs and drink (and not just his own use) were still holding the band back. I remember seeing interviews in which he just couldn’t hold back from spewing bile about “We Built This City On Rock ‘n’ Roll” (which took place after Jefferson Starship gave way to Starship)…much like Threepio, you’d never get him onto one of those dreadful starships.

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