Remembering Marty Balin and his music

In what turned out to be his last interview, Marty Balin told me that he couldn’t wait to get back to Mill Valley, his former hometown, to accept a Milley Award from the city for being one of the creators of the San Francisco Sound in the psychedelic ’60s, a historic moment in popular music that earned him a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Traveling from his Tampa, Florida, home to Mill Valley for the 24th annual Milley awards dinner on Oct. 21 would have been the Jefferson Airplane co-founder’s first major trip since suffering a near-fatal heart attack in 2016.

Sadly, tragically, Balin died Sept. 27, less than a month before the awards night, apparently while being rushed to a Florida hospital. He was 76.

When I spoke to his widow, Sue Joy, by phone and by email this week, she confirmed that she’ll be at the dinner at the Mill Valley Community Center to accept the award on her late husband’s behalf. She’ll be accompanied by Balin’s daughters Jennifer and Delaney, her daughters Rebekah and Moriah, and other members of their blended families.

The Jefferson Airplane featured, from left, Marty Balin, Grace Slick, Spencer Dryden, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady. (AP Photo, File)

“I’ll be giving my husband’s acceptance speech, but I’m not sure how I’ll do in the moment,” she says. “We’ll have the daughters as back-up if need be.”

In an email, she wrote, “It’s been very sad and incomprehensibly lonely without him. I will forever feel this loneliness.”

Understandably, as she grieves, she hesitates to go into detail about the night of her husband’s death, or the exact cause. Some memories, after all, aren’t easily shared and should be saved for oneself.

‘Gentle journey’

She would say only that his passing was unexpected and that “it took my breath away.” She called the 2½ years he’d been recovering at home “a very gentle journey.”

“I feel good that in the later part of his life, he was definitely in a good place,” she says. “He had the home he wanted, my family and his family had blended, and he had the love he wanted to be able to take care of his daughters. The best part is that he was doing the music he wanted.”

When I spoke to Balin in July, he talked about the 30-plus years he lived in Mill Valley – from 1968 to 1999 — in an unpretentious little house he bought at 180 Blithedale Ave., across from Scout Hall.

The pad had an open-door policy that admitted a steady stream of newly minted rock star friends such as Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin and Mike Bloomfield.

As Balin answered my questions about his life and career, I was sorry to hear that he was hampered by a speech impediment caused by a paralyzed vocal cord and an injury to his tongue, the result of a tracheotomy performed when he was hospitalized in New York for the emergency heart surgery that saved his life.

Sometime after we spoke, he …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


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