Marty Balin

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Marty Balin
Balin in a live performance, 2011
Balin in a live performance, 2011
Background information
Birth nameMartyn Jerel Buchwald
Born(1942-01-30)January 30, 1942
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
DiedSeptember 27, 2018(2018-09-27) (aged 76)
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
GenresPsychedelic rock, folk rock, pop rock, soft rock, acid rock
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, bass guitar
Years active1962–2016
LabelsChallenge, EMI, RCA Victor, Grunt Records, GWE
Balin performing at a concert in Hallandale, Florida

Martyn Jerel Buchwald (January 30, 1942 – September 27, 2018), known as Marty Balin (/ˈbælɪn/), was an American singer, songwriter, and musician best known as the founder/leader and one of the lead singers and songwriters of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship.[1]

Early life[edit]

Balin was born Martyn Jerel Buchwald in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Catherine Eugenia "Jean" (née Talbot) and Joseph Buchwald.[2] His paternal grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe. His father was Jewish and his mother was Episcopalian.[3] Buchwald attended Washington High School in San Francisco, California.[2] As a child, Balin was diagnosed with autism.[4][5]


Early musical work[edit]

In 1962, Buchwald changed his name to Marty Balin,[2] and began recording with Challenge Records in Los Angeles, releasing the singles "Nobody but You" and "I Specialize in Love".[6] By 1964, Balin was leading a folk music quartet named The Town Criers.[2]

Jefferson Airplane[edit]

Balin was the primary founder of Jefferson Airplane, which he "launched" from a restaurant-turned-club he created and named The Matrix,[2] and was also one of its lead vocalists and songwriters from 1965 to 1971. Balin was one of four Jewish members of the band, including bass player Jack Casady, drummer Spencer Dryden and guitarist Jorma Kaukonen.[7] In the group's 1966–1971 iteration, Balin served as co-lead vocalist alongside Grace Slick. Balin's songwriting output diminished after Surrealistic Pillow (1967) as Slick, Paul Kantner, and Kaukonen matured as songwriters, a process compounded by personality clashes. Balin's most enduring songwriting contributions were often imbued with a romantic, pop-oriented lilt that was atypical of the band's characteristic forays into psychedelic rock. Among Balin's most notable songs were "Comin' Back to Me" (a folk rock ballad later covered by Ritchie Havens and Rickie Lee Jones), "Today" (a collaboration with Kantner initially written on spec for Tony Bennett that was prominently covered by Tom Scott), and, again with Kantner, the topical 1969 top-100 hit "Volunteers". Although uncharacteristic of his oeuvre, the uptempo "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds" and "Plastic Fantastic Lover" (both written for Surrealistic Pillow) remained integral components of the Airplane's live set throughout the late 1960s.[6][8]

Balin played with Jefferson Airplane at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and at the Woodstock Festival in 1969.[9]

In December 1969, Balin was knocked unconscious by members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club while performing during the infamous Altamont Free Concert, as seen in the 1970 documentary film Gimme Shelter.[10] In April 1971, he formally departed Jefferson Airplane[1] after breaking off all communication with his bandmates following the completion of their autumn 1970 American tour. He elaborated upon this decision in a 1993 interview with Jeff Tamarkin of Relix:[8]

I don't know, just Janis's death. That struck me. It was dark times. Everybody was doing so much drugs and I couldn't even talk to the band. I was into yoga at the time. I'd given up drinking and I was into totally different area, health foods and getting back to the streets, working with the American Indians. It was getting strange for me. Cocaine was a big deal in those days and I wasn't a cokie and I couldn't talk with everybody who had an answer for every goddamn thing, rationalizing everything that happened. I thought it made the music really tight and constrictive and ruined it. So after Janis died, I thought, I'm not gonna go onstage and play that kind of music; I don't like cocaine.

Balin remained active in the San Francisco Bay Area rock scene, managing and producing an album for the Berkeley-based sextet Grootna[11] before briefly joining funk-inflected hard rock ensemble Bodacious DF as lead vocalist on their eponymous 1973 debut album.[12] The following year, Kantner asked Balin to write a song for his new Airplane offshoot group, Jefferson Starship. Together, they wrote the early power ballad "Caroline", which appeared on the album Dragon Fly with Balin as guest lead vocalist.[6]

Jefferson Starship[edit]

Rejoining the team he had helped to establish, Balin became a permanent member of Jefferson Starship in 1975; over the next three years, he contributed to and sang lead on four top-20 hits,[1] including "Miracles" (No. 3, a Balin original), "With Your Love" (No. 12, a collaboration between Balin, former Jefferson Airplane drummer Joey Covington, and former Grootna/Bodacious DF lead guitarist Vic Smith), Jesse Barish's "Count on Me" (No. 8), and N. Q. Dewey's "Runaway" (No. 12).[13][6] Ultimately, Balin's relationship with the band was beleaguered by interpersonal problems and his own reluctance toward live performances. He abruptly left the group in October 1978 shortly after Slick's departure from the band.[6]

Solo work, and reunion projects[edit]

In 1979, Balin produced a rock opera titled Rock Justice,[14] about a rock star who was put in jail for failing to produce a hit for his record company, based on his experiences with the lawsuits fought for years with former Jefferson Airplane manager Matthew Katz.[6] The cast recording was produced by Balin, but it did not feature him in performance.

Balin continued with EMI as a solo artist and in 1981 he released his first solo album, Balin, featuring two Jesse Barish songs that became top-40 hits, "Hearts" (#8) and "Atlanta Lady (Something About Your Love)" (#27). There was in 1983 a second solo album, Lucky, along with a Japan-only EP produced by EMI called There's No Shoulder. Balin's contract with EMI ended shortly thereafter.[6]

In 1985, he teamed with former Jefferson Airplane members Paul Kantner and Jack Casady to form the KBC Band.[6] After the breakup of the KBC band, a 1989 reunion album and tour with Jefferson Airplane followed.[citation needed]

Balin continued recording solo albums in the years following the reunion, and reunited with Kantner in the latest incarnation of Jefferson Starship.[6]

Balin had intended to record lead vocals for two tracks for Jefferson Starship's album Jefferson's Tree of Liberty. However, his art touring schedule conflicted with studio sessions, and instead, the track "Maybe for You", from the German release of Windows of Heaven, was included.[15][16]

On July 2, 2007, the music-publishing firm Bicycle Music, Inc. announced that it had acquired an interest in songs written or performed by Balin, including hits from his days with Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship.[17]


Balin, along with the other members of the 1966–1970 line-up of Jefferson Airplane, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.[18] As a member of Jefferson Airplane, he was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Balin enjoyed painting all his life. He painted many of the most influential musicians of the last half of the 20th century. Marty Balin's Atelier was located at 130 King Fine Art in Saint Augustine, Florida, Balin's permanent signature collection gallery.[19]

Balin resided in Florida and San Francisco with his wife, Susan Joy Balin, formerly Susan Joy Finkelstein. Balin and Finkelstein had daughters Jennifer Edwards and Delaney Balin. Susan's other daughters were Rebekah Geier and Moriah Geier.

Jennifer was born later in the year of his 1963 marriage to Victoria Martin. Balin married Karen Deal, Delaney's mother, in 1989. Karen died in 2010.[20]

While on tour in March 2016, Balin was taken to Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City after complaining of chest pains. After undergoing open-heart surgery, he was transferred to an intensive-care unit to spend time recovering. In a subsequent lawsuit, Balin alleged that neglect and inadequate care facilities on the hospital's part had resulted in a paralyzed vocal cord, loss of his left thumb and half of his tongue, bedsores, and kidney damage.[21]


Balin died at his home in Tampa on September 27, 2018, at the age of 76.[22]


Solo singles[edit]

Year Title Peak chart
Record Label B-side Album
US AC Rock
1962 "Nobody but You" Challenge Records "You Made Me Fall"
"You Are the One" "I Specialize in Love"
1981 "Hearts" 8 9 20 EMI America Records "Freeway" Balin
"Atlanta Lady (Something About Your Love)" 27 11 "Lydia!"
1983 "What Love Is" 63 "Heart of Stone" Lucky
"Do It for Love" 102 17 "Will You Forever"
Other appearances
Year Album/single Artist Comment
1972 Grootna Grootna producer
1977 Goodbye Blues Country Joe McDonald vocals on "Blood on the Ice"
1978 Jesse Barish Jesse Barish producer, vocals
1980 Mercury Shoes
Rock Justice Various artists producer, co-writer
1993 Ships in the Forest Kerry Kearney vocals on "Love Me Slow"
1994 Then And Now, Vol. 1 Various artists vocals on "It's No Secret" & "Summer of Love"[24]
Then And Now, Vol. 2 vocals & guitar on "Always Tomorrow" & "Summer of Love"[25]
2010 "Summer Rain" Brian Chris Band cameo in music video[26]
2011 "In the Sun" The Producers Heart and Soul vocals
"Let's Go"


  1. ^ a b c Pareles, Jon (September 29, 2018). "Marty Balin, a Founder of Jefferson Airplane, Dies at 76". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 30, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Lewis, Randy (September 28, 2018). "Marty Balin, co-founder of Jefferson Airplane, dies at 76". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on September 29, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  3. ^ "Jefferson Airplane and The Jews". April 23, 2015. Archived from the original on September 29, 2023. Retrieved March 18, 2024.
  4. ^ Gladstone, Jerry (October 15, 2014). "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Marty Balin". Jerry Gladstone Success Blog. Retrieved May 8, 2021. First of all, I was diagnosed with autism as a child and struggled with it while growing up
  5. ^ "Marty Balin's Crusade of Love". Word Journeys. Archived from the original on January 5, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tamarakin, Jeff (2003). Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-03403-0.
  7. ^ Friedman, Gabe (November 4, 2014). "10 Facts About Jewish California". The Forward. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
  8. ^ a b Tamarkin, Jeff (April 1993). "The Jefferson Airplane Chronicles: Part Six, Marty Balin". Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Gast, Phil; Berlinger, Joshua. "Jefferson Airplane singer, co-founder Marty Balin dies". CNN. Archived from the original on September 29, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  10. ^ Italie, Hillel (September 29, 2018). "Marty Balin, founder of Jefferson Airplane, dies at 76". Archived from the original on October 1, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  11. ^ Columbia 31033
  12. ^ APL1-0206
  13. ^ Billboard Magazine Charts
  14. ^ EMI America SWAK-17036
  15. ^ Jefferson's Tree of Liberty (CD booklet). Jefferson Starship. The Lab Records. 2008. 3020617382.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  16. ^ New Jefferson Starship Album Of Formative Folk Treasures: Jefferson's Tree Of Liberty Archived June 5, 2011, at the Wayback Machine,
  17. ^ "Catalog of Bicycle Music". Archived from the original on May 3, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  18. ^ "Jefferson Airplane". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on September 19, 2018. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  19. ^ Balin, Marty. "Marty Balin-Bio". Marty Balin. Archived from the original on April 19, 2013. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  20. ^ "Marty Balin". Archived from the original on November 16, 2020. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  21. ^ DeGregory, Prescilla (August 17, 2018). "Jefferson Airplane singer details hospital nightmare in shocking lawsuit". New York Post. Archived from the original on August 18, 2018. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  22. ^ Greene, Andy (September 28, 2018). "Jefferson Airplane Co-Founder Marty Balin Dead at 76". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on September 30, 2018. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  23. ^ "Marty Balin – 415 Music – Album Promo & Video [mp3] – Musicians – San Francisco, CA". Archived from the original on May 7, 2011. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  24. ^ "Various – Then And Now Vol 1". Discogs. Archived from the original on October 27, 2016. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  25. ^ "Various – Then And Now Vol 2". Discogs. Archived from the original on October 27, 2016. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  26. ^ "Brian Chris Band – Summer Rain (feat. Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane)". YouTube. Archived from the original on October 13, 2018. Retrieved June 3, 2016.

External links[edit]