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Marty Balin Pays Tribute to Former Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship Bandmate Paul Kantner

Mario Tama, Getty Images / YouTube
Mario Tama, Getty Images / YouTube

Marty Balin is remembering his old Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship bandmate Paul Kantner as a “devil’s advocate” who “has earned his wings now.”

Kantner, who also earned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction with Balin as members of Jefferson Airplane, died yesterday at age 74 after suffering a long period of failing health. He’d had at least two heart attacks since March 2015, and ultimately succumbed to multiple organ failure.

“So many memories rushing through my mind now – so many moments that he and I opened new worlds,” Balin writes in a new Facebook post.

Balin and Kantner co-founded Jefferson Airplane, appearing together on five studio albums between the band’s 1966 debut and 1969’s Volunteers – and then reuniting for 1989’s Jefferson Airplane. “He was the first guy I picked for the band, and he was the first guy who taught me how to roll a joint,” Balin remembers. “And although I know he liked to play the devil’s advocate, I am sure he has earned his wings now.”

Balin joined Kantner in Airplane’s successor group Jefferson Starship in 1975, helping create Red Octopus, the only album by either band to reach No. 1. The LP’s big single, “Miracles,” went to No. 3, becoming the first of two Balin-sung songs to reach the Top 10, followed by “Count on Me” in 1978. (Jefferson Airplane had earlier scored a pair of Top 10 singles off Surrealistic Pillow, with Grace Slick handling vocals on “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.”)

Founding Jefferson Airplane member Jorma Kaukonen also remembered Kantner in a post on his website. “We knew yesterday that Paul had suffered a grievous heart attack and probably wasn’t going to make it. We all hoped for better news, but it just wasn’t to be,” Kaukonen says. “Paul was the catalyst that made the alchemy happen. He held our feet to the flame. He could be argumentative and contentious; he could be loving and kind. His dedication to the Airplane’s destiny as he saw it was undeniable.”

Kantner and Balin later collaborated through four more Jefferson Starship projects, including 1976’s Spitfire, 1978’s Earth, 1998’s Windows of Heaven and 2008’s Jefferson’s Tree of Liberty. Balin left the group as a full-time member in 2003, but continued to make occasional guest appearances. Fellow former Jefferson Airplane alumni like Slick, Peter Kaukonen (Jorma’s younger brother) and Jack Casady were also part of Jefferson Starship over the years.

See Jefferson Airplane and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’60s

Next: Top 10 Jefferson Airplane Songs

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