While remaining best known for his contributions to the pioneering San Francisco psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane, Marty Balin also enjoyed a successful solo career, scoring a Top Ten hit in 1981 with "Hearts." Born Martyn Jerel Buchwald in Cincinnati, Ohio, on January 30, 1942, he was raised in the Bay Area and later attended San Francisco State University. Though he initially pursued a career as a painter, Balin turned to music after appearing in a production of West Side Story, and issued the solo singles "Nobody But You" and "I Specialize in Love" on Challenge in 1962. Two years later, he joined the folk combo the Town Criers, followed by a brief stint with the Gateway Singers. In 1965, Balin met singer/guitarist Paul Kantner at the local club the Drinking Gourd, and together they formed Jefferson Airplane. Initially a folk-rock venture, the group came to epitomize the nascent psychedelic scene, scoring a gold record with their 1967 sophomore LP Surrealistic Pillow. Although vocalist Grace Slick was the focal point of hits such as "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit," Balin's soulful tenor proved a pivotal element of their sound as well, and he also wrote key compositions including "Today," "Share a Little Joke," and "Volunteers."
Long-standing ego clashes with Kantner and Slick forced Balin out of Jefferson Airplane in 1971; he then formed the short-lived Bodacious D.F., which issued their lone, self-titled album two years later. In early 1975, he rejoined the newly rechristened Jefferson Starship, contributing perhaps his most memorable effort with the smash single "Miracles." Balin also sang lead on the hits "With Your Love" and "Count on Me," but he again left the group in 1978, penning the rock opera Rock Justice before mounting a solo career with 1981's Balin, which generated "Hearts" and its follow-up, "Atlanta Lady." After issuing 1983's Lucky, he joined Kantner and fellow Airplane alum Jack Casady in the K.B.C. Band; in 1989, all three participated in a Jefferson Airplane reunion that yielded a new studio album and tour before sputtering out. In 1991, Balin issued Better Generation and two years later joined Kantner's Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation project, concurrently continuing his solo career with 1997's Freedom Flight. 1999's Marty Balin's Greatest Hits assembled re-recordings of past favorites. In 2003, Balin issued the self-titled CD Marty Balin, beginning a successful run of independent albums issued on his Balince Music label that would continue through the 2000s. Among those releases are 2008's country-flavored Nashville Sessions and a pair of 2009 releases called Nothin’ 2 Lose and Time for Every Season. 2010 saw a more widespread release for Balin's album Blue Highway, which he had initially sold from his website in 2003. Following 2011's The Witcher, Balin recorded Good Memories, a 24-song tribute to his career with Jefferson Airplane that coincided with the band's 50th anniversary in 2015. He followed up in early 2016 with an album of new material called The Greatest Love. ~ Jason Ankeny & Al Campbell