Marty Balin’s Love Without End, Amen

Jefferson Starship’s late vocalist gave me an early lesson in true romance.

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Balin, front and center, with the rest of Jefferson Starship, in 1976 (Grunt/RCA Records)

The first time I ever heard Marty Balin’s name was in 1981 when Casey Kasem introduced the singer’s first solo hit “Hearts” on his weekly American Top 40 radio countdown. The single would go on to peak at number eight, the same position Balin had reached three years earlier, singing lead on “Count on Me,” Jefferson Starship’s final Top 10 hit as Jefferson Starship.

I paid homage to “Count on Me” on my personal blog Theme for Great Cities, on March 31, 2012. Exactly six and a half years later, I’m paying homage to Balin, who died on September 27 at age 76, by revisiting what I wrote about “Count on Me” that day.

Have you ever really loved a woman (or man)? Enough to write — or sing — lines like this?

“Emerald eyes and china perfume
Caught in the wheel and lost in
The feel of a love so soon
Ruby lips
You make my song
Into the night and saved by the lite
Of a love so strong”

Cats have nine lives to live. Most rock & roll bands have but one. Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship had three, and enjoyed notable success in each one.

Alas, some were better lived than others. Jefferson Airplane (1965–1972)would have been indispensable if it had never recorded anything other than “White Rabbit.” Starship (1984–1989), which crash landed creatively while soaring commercially with three number-one singles (“We Built This City,” “Sara” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”), was little more than a late-’80s cash cow.

But it’s Jefferson Starship (1974–1984) that will forever have a special place in my heart, mostly because of one incredible love song that I can still remember hearing on the radio every day when I was eight years old. I had no idea who was singing at the time, but as hymns to everlasting love go, they don’t get more beautiful than “Count on Me.” It was deservedly a big hit (number eight on Billboard’s Hot 100) in 1978.

I’m not sure why Wikipedia devotes an entire page to Whitney Houston and CeCe Winans’ “Count on Me” (same title, different song) also a number eight hit almost exactly 18 years later, and identically titled singles by the Statler Brothers and Bruno Mars, and not Jefferson Starship’s, but what does Wikipedia know? (Apparently, Wikipedia has learned something since 2012. Jefferson Starship’s “Count on Me” now has its own page.)

Thankfully, “Count on Me” — and, by extension, the incomparably talented Balin, who also sang lead on three other Jefferson Starship indispensables: “Miracles,” “With Your Love,” and “Runaway”— have always gotten their full due on YouTube. In 2012, I found various “Count on Me” videos there and a live rehearsal version from 1978 that I never knew existed.

R.I.P., Marty Balin.

“Miracles,” Jefferson Starship

“With Your Love,” Jefferson Starship

“Runaway,” Jefferson Starship

“Hearts,” Marty Balin

Written by

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa”

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