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Marty Balin

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The Demo Sessions '08

- Marty Balin


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Marty Balin, whose real name was Martyn Gerei Buchwald, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist known best as founder and lead singer of the rock band Jefferson Airplane. Following his death aged 76 on 27th September 2018, the Grammy Awards website noted that he "helped define the psychedelic and politically conscious culture of the late 1960s", with Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow saying he was "a pioneer of psychedelic rock and will be remembered for bringing the signature sound to San Francisco and beyond".

Born in Cincinnati, he grew up in California and performed in a local production of the stage musical 'West Side Story' when he was a child. Singer Johnny Mathis encouraged him to sing professionally and he released two solo singles and had stints with folk groups, The Town Criers and The Gateway Singers. Inspired by The Beatles, in 1965 he opened the Matrix Club in San Francisco and formed Jefferson Airplane with Paul Kantner. After singer Grace Slick joined them, they released the album 'Surrealistic Pillow', which featured five songs co-written by Balin including '3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds' and 'Plastic Fantastic Lover', and it went on to be a smash hit, later earning a Grammy Award and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honour. Balin played with the group at the Monterey Pop Festival and the Woodstock Festival in 1967 and at the notorious 1969 Altamont Free Concert documented in the film 'Gimme Shelter'. He left in 1971 but rejoined when they became Jefferson Starship in 1975 and remained until 1978.

As a solo artist, his 1981 album 'Balin' went to number 35 on the Billboard 200 and 'Lucky' (1983) reached number 156. His 1981 single 'Hearts' peaked at number eight on Billboard's Hot 100, number nine on the Adult Contemporary Chart and number 20 on the Mainstream Rock Songs Chart. 'Atlanta Lady (Something About Your Love)' (1981) went to number eleven on the Mainstream Chart and 27 on the Hot 100, 'Do It for Love' (1983) peaked at number 17 and 'What Love Is' went to number 63. He had a stint with Kantner in the KNC Band in the mid-1980s and linked with his former players for a Jefferson Airplane reunion album and tour in 1989 and played with Kantner's Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation from 1993 to 2003. He continued to be involved in the San Francisco music scene and was a keen painter throughout his life.