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Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen: Marty Balin’s Death ‘Reaffirms the Power of Love’

Rolling Stone logo Rolling Stone 9/30/2018 Ryan Reed
Marty Balin et al. sitting around each other with Studio 54 in the background: Jefferson Airplane, San Francisco, USA © Provided by Penske Media Corporation Jefferson Airplane, San Francisco, USA

Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen mourned and praised former bandmate Marty Balin, who died Thursday at age 76, in an emotional statement on his blog. “Marty’s passing reaffirms the power of love, the power of family, the power of possibilities,” he wrote.

Kaukonen moved from grief to optimism throughout the note. “Marty and I were young together in a time that defined our lives,” he said of their shared experience in the San Francisco psych-rock band. “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.”

The guitarist described the singer as “somewhat guarded” and “the quiet one,” with a “commitment to his visions [that] never flagged.” He continued, “[Balin] 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.”

Kaukonen ended the piece with a powerful meditation on death. “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,” he wrote. “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!”

Balin co-founded Jefferson Airplane in 1965, playing a crucial role in all of the band’s albums throughout the decade. The cause of his death is currently unknown.

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