A major figure in the emergence of psychedelic rock in the 1960s has died. Marty Balin, who co-founded Jefferson Airplane and played on and off with its later iteration, Jefferson Starship, died en route to the hospital in Tampa, Florida, at age 76, reports the New York Times. The cause of death wasn't immediately known. The Times calls Balin a "prime mover in the flowering of psychedelic rock in mid-1960s San Francisco," not only through the band he co-founded in 1965 but through a nightclub he owned called the Matrix. Rolling Stone has a detailed obituary on Balin's interesting career, noting that he was a struggling folk guitarist when he met another guitarist named Paul Kantner and decided to form a band.
Other original Airplane members were guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady, drummer Skip Spence, and singer Signe Toly Anderson, but the band didn't truly take off until Anderson left and was replaced by Grace Slick in 1967, notes Rolling Stone. Balin wrote or co-wrote many of the songs, and his "high and soulful" voice became a signature sound for the group, per Variety. (Here is "Comin' Back to Me.") But he was also a savvy businessman, as this old quote from the late Kanter shows: “He was the leader of the band on that level. He was the one who pushed us to do all the business stuff, orchestrating, thinking ahead, looking for managers and club opportunities. He was very good at it.” (Read more obituary stories.)