Nov 21, 1974: Marty Balin Joins Jefferson Starship Onstage

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Marty Balin (center front) in Jefferson Starship, with Kantner and Slick right behind him

In the very beginning, Jefferson Airplane was Marty Balin’s band. “It was his dream, his plan, his band and he made it happen,” explains Best Classic Bands editor Jeff Tamarkin, author of Got a Revolution! The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane. And for a number of years through the late 1960s Balin reveled in what he created amidst the deep bench of talent the band possessed: singer and songwriter Grace Slick, singer and songwriter Paul Kantner, guitar genius Jorma Kaukonen, bassist extraordinaire Jack Casady and jazz-trained drummer Spencer Dryden.

By the end of the decade, Balin was no longer enjoying his band and left in 1971. It was the effects of “Janis [Joplin]’s death . That struck me,” he explains. “It was dark times. Everybody was doing so much drugs and I couldn’t even talk to the band. We couldn’t rehearse, everything was a yelling match. Whoever could yell the loudest got their way. I just got bored with that and said, ‘Here, have fun, goodbye. I’ll watch you die for a while.'”

A few years later Kantner wrote Balin a letter saying, “I’m really sorry it got shitty four years ago. I really like singing with you. I’ve got some nice changes if you’d like to write a song together.”

They did so – a lovely ballad called “Caroline.” It wound up on the 1974 album Dragon Fly by Kantner and Grace Slick’s new post-Airplane band Jefferson Starship, with Marty Balin singing it as a guest.

When the Starship played their final 1974 tour date on November 21, 1974, at Winterland in San Francisco, Balin joined them onstage to sing the song.

An ad for Red October appeared in the Sept. 6, 1975, issue of Record World

By January 1975, he was in the group with his old bandmates. He wrote a song called “Miracles” that became a #3 pop hit and helped propel the band’s album Red Octopus to #1 on the Top 200 and multi-million sales, bringing the greatest career success ever to the former members of  Jefferson Airplane during the rest of the decade.

By 1978, having also sung on the hits “With Your Love,” “Count on Me” and “Runaway,” he left that band for a solo career, scoring a top 10 single with “Hearts” in 1981. He remained a solo artist throughout the rest of his career, although he occasionally rejoined Kantner in reconstituted lineups of Jefferson Starship and participated in the only Airplane reunion, in 1989.

Related: Jefferson Starship in the ’70s: How They Were Born and Nearly Died in 4 Short Years

Balin died on September 27, 2018, at age 76.

Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. losgatos_dale
    #1 losgatos_dale 21 November, 2021, 15:30

    Jefferson Starship finished out the Dragonfly tour on the 23rd and 24th of November at Winterland (not the 21st.) And Marty joined them onstage to sing Caroline both nights. I was there the 23rd, there was a Chronicle write up of the show on the 24th that mentioned him joining them that night.

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  2. Hope
    #2 Hope 17 November, 2023, 04:20

    I have watched Jefferson Airplane evolve to Jefferson Starship and then Starship. Their music is phenomenal; especially ” White Rabbit” ( my favorite) and “We Built this City” are to me the most diverse songs of their time. .

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