Marty Balin, founding member of Jefferson Airplane, dies at age 76

Marty Balin, founder of Jefferson Airplane, longtime member of Jefferson Starship, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, has died at age 76. Balin’s publicity company, Jensen Communications, announced Friday that Balin passed away on Sept. 27, with his wife, Susan Joy Balin, by his side.

“Marty and I shared the deepest of love — he often called it Nirvana — and it was. But really, we were all touched by his love. His presence will be within my entire being forever,” Susan Balin said in statement released via Jensen on Friday afternoon.

Balin cause of death was not disclosed as press time. However, he had a recent history of serious health problems: In March 2016, he underwent open-heart surgery at New York City’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, and in a subsequent lawsuit, he alleged that the hospital’s negligence had caused him to suffer a paralyzed vocal cord, loss of his left thumb and half of his tongue, bedsores, and kidney damage.

Balin was born  Martyn Jerel Buchwald on Jan. 30, 1942 in Cincinnati, Ohio; he changed his name to Marty Balin in 1962 when he recorded two solo song for Challenge Records, “Nobody But You” and “I Specialize in Love.” After those singles failed to take off, and after a brief stint in a folk music quartet called the Town Criers, he purchased a San Francisco pizza parlor and e converted it into the rock club the Matrix, putting on shows by such esteemed artists as the Doors, Janis Joplin, and the Velvet Underground.

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Musician Marty Balin through the years
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Musician Marty Balin through the years
Marty Balin of the Jefferson Starship at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on May 26, 1978. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)
Musician Marty Balin arrives at the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California February 15, 2016. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Jefferson Starship, group portrait, New York, 1978, L-R (back) Marty Balin;Paul Kantner;Grace Slick;John Barbata;Craig Chaquico (front) David Freiberg;Pete Sears. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 15: Marty Balin (R) and guest attend The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Vespa/WireImage)
Jefferson Starship's Marty Balin Balancing Guitar (Photo by Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 17: Singer/songwriter Marty Balin performs at An Evening With Marty Balin at The GRAMMY Museum on November 17, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage)
Marty Balin, Grace Slick, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Paul Kantner, the original lineup of Jefferson Airplane, in 1989 (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 17: Singer/songwriter Marty Balin attends An Evening With Marty Balin at The GRAMMY Museum on November 17, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage)
Spencer Dryden, Grace Slick, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Marty Balin and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, in London, 1968 (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)
Portrait of American rock group Jefferson Airplane, Los Angeles, California, early 1990s. Pictured are, from left, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Grace Slick, Marty Balin, and Paul Kantner. (Photo by Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)
American musician Marty Balin performing with rock group Jefferson Starship, New York, USA, September 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 17: Singer/songwriter Marty Balin and Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation Scott Goldman attend An Evening With Marty Balin at The GRAMMY Museum on November 17, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage)
SAN FRANCISCO, UNITED STATES - MARCH 21: Marty Balin performing with the Jefferson Starship at the Bay Area Music Awards (BAMMIES) on March 21, 1987. (Photo by Clayton Call/Redferns)
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE; Jorma Kaukonen, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Marty Balin, Spencer Dryden, Jack Casady (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
THE DICK CAVETT SHOW - Airdate: March 26, 1970. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) GRACE SLICK AND MARTY BALIN OF JEFFERSON AIRPLANE PERFORMING
THE DICK CAVETT SHOW - Airdate: March 26, 1970. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) GRACE SLICK AND MARTY BALIN OF JEFFERSON AIRPLANE PERFORMING
Paul Kantner, Craig Chaquico, Grace Slick, Pete Sears and Marty Balin of Jefferson Starship (Photo by Tom Hill/WireImage)
Marty Balin of Jefferson Starship, performing at the Omni. (Photo by Tom Hill/WireImage)
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“Marty was the one who started the San Francisco scene,” Bill Thompson, Balin’s roommate in the mid-’60s and former manager of both Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, said in a statement Friday.

Jefferson Airplane sprang from the Matrix, and Balin served as the group’s leader and soulful co-vocalist until his departure in 1971. Balin wrote or co-wrote several of the band’s classic songs, including “It’s No Secret” “Today,” “Comin’ Back to Me” “Plastic Fantastic Lover” “Share a Little Joke,” and “Volunteers.” Less than two years before leaving Jefferson Airplane, Balin was rendered unconscious by Hell’s Angels while performing at the Rolling Stones’ infamous Altamont festival in Northern California. Decades later, he told Relix magazine that his decision to leave the band was ultimately spurred by fellow San Franciscan Joplin’s heroin overdose death in 1970. (“After Janis died, I thought, ‘I’m not gonna go onstage and play that kind of music,’” he explained.)

In 1975, Balin reunited with Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner in Jefferson Starship, lending his distinctive high tenor voice to the top 20 hits “Miracles,” “With Your Love,” “Count on Me,” “Runaway.” Balin left Jefferson Starship in 1978, after which he focused on a solo career that spawned the top 40 hits “Hearts” and “Atlanta Lady (Something About Your Love).” In 1985, he teamed with Kantner and Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna bassist Jack Casady in the KBC Band, and in 1989 he participated in a reunion album and tour with Jefferson Airplane. He later performed in various incarnations of Jefferson Starship between 1993 and 2008.

Balin is survived by his wife Susan Joy Balin, daughters Jennifer Edwards and Delaney Balin, and stepdaughters Rebekah Geier and Moriah Geier. He is the third Jefferson Airplane founding member to pass away in recent years, following Kantner and pre-Grace Slick-era vocalist Signe Toly Anderson, who died on the same day on Jan. 28, 2016.

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