Marty Balin on Jefferson Airplane, Painting, and a Professional Farter

By ALEX HORVATH

A musical riddle: What do Johnny Mathis, San Francisco's beatnik jazz scene, eastern religion, a notorious 19th century flatulist and painting have in common?

Answer: They are brush strokes in the story that make up local rock legend Marty Balin.

Balin founded the Jefferson Airplane in 1965, doing the writing and lead vocals on songs like “It's No Secret” and “Volunteers” (the latter co-written with Paul Kantner). Balin wrote and sang many hits with Jefferson Starship in the mid-1970s before embarking on a solo career. He's well known as a writer of romantic love songs such as “Miracles,” “Count on Me,” and “Hearts.” But these days, when he's not touring, Balin can be found pursuing another lifelong passion — painting. He specializes in portraits of the many musicians he has known and worked with, including Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jerry Garcia, B.B. King, Otis Redding, Jerry Lee Lewis, Al Green, and KISS.

His repertoire also includes a sentimental portrait of one-time manager and friend Bill Graham, and several renditions of the French flatulence artist, Le Pétomane, for whom Balin professes a special interest. His paintings are on permanent display at a gallery near where he lives in St. Augustine, Florida. But Balin is taking his artwork on the road in a tour titled “Marty Balin — Music of My Life.” Before the tour comes to Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, this Saturday, Feb. 22, we spoke with Balin about starting the Airplane, the inspiration for his works, and painting a famous 19th-Century Frenchman who actually sang through his asshole.

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