Marty Balin, a Founder of Jefferson Airplane, Dies at 76

In the late 1960 and early 1970s I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, Berkeley to be exact.  My two favorite Bay Area bands were The Dead and The Airplane.

Jerry Garcia died over 20 years ago but the Grateful Dead, more an extended family than a band goes on.  The Airplane did not survive the 1970s although Jorma plays on and gives me guitar lessons from DVD and You Tube.

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/29/obituaries/marty-balin-dead.html

By Jon Pareles
Sept. 29, 2018

Marty Balin, a founder, lead singer and songwriter of the groundbreaking San Francisco psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane and a key member of that band’s 1970s successor, Jefferson Starship, died on Thursday in Tampa, Fla. He was 76.

His death was announced on Friday by his wife, Susan Joy Balin. A representative, Ryan Romenesko, said Mr. Balin, who lived in Tampa, had died en route to a hospital. No cause of death was given.

Mr. Balin was a prime mover in the flowering of psychedelic rock in mid-1960s San Francisco, not only as a founding member of Jefferson Airplane in 1965, but also as an original owner of the Matrix, a club that opened that year and nurtured bands and artists like the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Santana and Steppenwolf.

Mr. Balin’s voice could offer the intimate solace of ballads like Jefferson Airplane’s “Today,” the siren wails of a frantic acid-rocker like the group’s “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” or the soul-pop entreaties of Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles.”

Jefferson Airplane would earn its place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with music that was the epitome of 1960s psychedelia: a molten, improvisatory mixture of folk, rock, blues, jazz, R&B, ragas and more, sometimes adopting pop-song structures and sometimes exploding them. The songs were about love, freedom, altered perception, rebellion and possibilities that could be transcendent or apocalyptic.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/29/obituaries/marty-balin-dead.html

Jorma Kaukonen

Now We Are Three

Now We Are Three
Requiem For A Friend
Marty Balin
30 Jan. 1942/27 Sept. 2018

Life is a thin thread
It’s a thin little hand on a hospital bed
It’s all the things you’ve left unsaid
Life is a thin thread

It’s a fine line between loving and not
Between holding it back or giving all that you’ve got
Feeling you’re free, thinking you’re caught
It’s a fine line

(Thin Thread by Connie Kaldor)

I was more than saddened yesterday to hear of Marty Balin’s passing. Jack and I were in Northampton, Mass. at the Academy Of Music and we were just getting ready to do our sound check. I knew that Marty had been sick and I knew in a general way that he had grievous issues but I did not really know what they were. Marty always kept a lot of shade on himself. I stood there in the little room in the wings, stage left… struck dumb. What can you say? We always say and hear, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ but what does that really mean? We say it. We have to say it and then in the confines of our hearts we try to process the sorrow and search for the words that really convey what we feel. It is an imperfect process.

Marty and I were young together in a time that defined our lives. Had it not been for him, my life would have taken an alternate path I cannot imagine. He and Paul Kantner came together and like plutonium halves in a reactor started a chain reaction that still affects many of us today. It was a moment of powerful synchronicity. I was part of it to be sure, but I was not a prime mover. Marty always reached for the stars and he took us along with him.

I always felt that he was somewhat guarded… the quiet one. Perhaps that’s because I was one of the noisy ones… I don’t know. It’s probably not for me to say. His commitment to his visions never flagged. He was always relentless in the pursuit of his goals. He wrapped those he loved in sheltering arms. He loved his family. Times come and go but his passion for his music and his art was never diminished. He was the most consummate of artists in a most renaissance way. I always felt that he perceived that each day was a blank canvas waiting to be filled.

It was fortuitous that we were able to stay connected in a loose way over the years. He and his friends graced our stage at the Fur Peace Station in Ohio and he was able to join us at the Beacon Theater in NYC the year we celebrated Jack’s 70th birthday.

Very good stuff!

Coming to grips with reality is a process that starts at birth. I am always stunned when one of my friends passes and yet, it would seem that at some point we will all take that journey. It’s almost like, ‘How can this be? There are things I need to say.’ There were indeed things I needed to say and the fault for that lack lies on me and me alone. I don’t think any of us really think that we will live forever yet often that thought lies dormant in the back of our minds. At my age my world is starting to be surrounded by passing. I will miss my friends who rest on the banks of the River Of Time and I am reminded to make the most of every moment as I am swept downstream! Marty’s passing reaffirms the power of love, the power of family, the power of possibilities.

So many of our brothers and sister from that time are gone. Skip Spence, Spencer Dryden, Joey Covington, Papa John Creach, Paul Kantner, Signe Anderson and now Marty have all joined the Heavenly Band as Rev. Davis would say.

We were young together. I would like to think we made a difference. As for Grace Slick, Jack Casady and myself…

Now we are three…

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