Vocalist-guitarist Marty Balin, co-founder of the quintessential 1960s psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane, has died at 76.
“Marty’s fans describe him as having had a substantial impact for the better of the world: One of the greatest voices of all time, a writer of songs that will never fade,” said a statement from his family.
Balin was a folk guitarist in San Francisco when he joined Paul Kantner to launch Jefferson Airplane in 1965. The iconic band established its place in ’60s heaven when acid queen Grace Slick, who joined the group two years later, belted out the psychedelic anthem “White Rabbit.”
Balin and Kantner first hit the stage at San Francisco’s soon-to-be legendary Matrix club with guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady and drummer Slip Spence. Their trippy San Francisco sound featured distorted riffs fusing folk, rock and the blues.
“We didn’t even know what we were doing when we started doing it,” Kantner told Rolling Stone in 1970. “Looking back, all we were saying was, ‘Look, we’re having a good time.’ And nothing else.”
The band followed its 1966 debut album, “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off,” with breakthrough “Surrealistic Pillow” and “White Rabbit.” Balin co-wrote five songs on “Surrealistic Pillow,” including “Comin’ Back to Me” and “She Has Funny Cars.”
Some of Balin’s other best-known songs include “It’s No Secret,” “Today,” “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” “Share a Little Joke” and “Volunteers.”
Balin’s tenor fused eerily with Slick’s powerful voice for a unique, unforgettable sound.
The Airplane was the go-to ’60s band, appearing at San Francisco’s 1967 Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, Woodstock, the Monterey Pop Festival and the infamous Altamont concert in 1969, where four people died.
Balin quit a year after Altamont, but officially rejoined the band in 1974, when it had evolved into Jefferson Starship with a more commercial sound. Balin proved he still had his mojo with the major hit “Miracles” on the “Red Octopus” album in 1975.
Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Two years ago, Balin had open heart surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. He later sued for malpractice, claiming the operation caused him damage including a paralyzed vocal cord, according to Rolling Stone.
Balin is survived by his wife, two daughters and two stepdaughters. There was no immediate information on funeral services.
Tributes from musicians and fans flooded Twitter.