Grace Slick may have been 'the face' of Jefferson Airplane, but Marty Balin, who turns 70 today (Jan. 30), was the heart and soul of the legendary band.

Martyn Jerel Buchwald was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on January 30, 1942, but he was raised in the San Francisco area. He began his music career as a solo singer in the early 1960's, releasing two singles on the Challenge label (early home of Jan & Dean, The Knickerbockers and others).

Though the singles went nowhere, Marty was already immersed in the Bay Area folk scene. Equally inspired by the Beatles and other invading Brits, he had a more electric vision for his folk sounds. In 1965, he formed Jefferson Airplane with the like-minded Paul Kantner.

With folk clubs not interested in anything with volume, Balin opened his own club, The Matrix, in the summer of 1965, giving a home to other adventurers like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service.  Jefferson Airplane became the house band.

They soon signed to RCA Records and within two years, were one of the country's hottest bands. Balin's soulful voice contrasted with Slick's edgier sound was a perfect union, sonically at least. Songs like 'It's No Secret,' 'Come Up The Years,' 'Today,' and 'Volunteers' are only a few of his classic contributions to the legacy of one of the most unique and important bands in rock and roll.

As the band moved on Kantner and Slick assumed the pilot's chairs and Balin eventually left the flight. He would return in 1974, as the Airplane became a Starship, and helped take the band to the top ten with the song 'Miracles.'

He would reunite with the Airplane for a full fledged reunion tour in the late 80's and has been an on-again, off-again member of all things Airplane and Starship ever since. In addition to his music, he is also an accomplished artist.

Happy Birthday Marty! The Airplane would never have flown without you and the rock and roll world would be a lesser place without the Airplane!

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