Peaceful Journey, Marty Balin

The Jefferson Airplane co-founder was 76

Volunteers, RCA 1969

On Thursday, September 27, 2018, Jefferson Airplane co-founder Marty Balin passed away at the age of 76, according to a spokesman for the family. His cause of death was not immediately made available, but spokesman Ryan Romanesko mentioned he died in Tampa, Fla., en route to a hospital with his wife, Susan Joy Balin.

No other band outside of the Grateful Dead defined the Summer of Love era of American rock quite like the Jefferson Airplane, whose combination of political action and psychedelic reaction gave us some of the most evergreen hits of the late  60s, including “Somebody to Love,” “White Rabbit” and “Volunteers,” not to mention such classic full-lengths as Crown of Creation, Bark and, as Jefferson Starship in the 1970s, Red Octopus.

So many amazing eulogies and obits have been filed into all the usual publications online, so if you want a deep dive into the history of Jefferson Airplane, look elsewhere. Here at the RNRG, we are just saddened to learn this giant of the Woodstock Nation has ascended to the sky, another sign of the Baby Boomer generation–our friends, our parents, our grandparents–are older than we like to think they are despite the rebellious, freewheeling nature of the youth culture they helped incubate a half-century ago.

Perhaps the most touching and poignant remembrance I’ve read so far about Marty Balin comes from his longtime friend and fellow  Airplane traveler Jorma Kaukonen, who posted this beautiful sentiment on social media Friday night:

Marty Balin’s 1981 solo single “Hearts”

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, 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…

 

Rest in Peace, Marty Balin. Thank you for the music that defined a generation and informed their kids to be better volunteers of America.

 

 

 

 

 

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