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Jefferson Starship drummer John Barbata has died, age 79

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Veteran American drummer John Barbata from bands like Jefferson Starship and Jefferson Airplane has died at 79.

The news was announced on Monday night via Jefferson Starship’s official Facebook page, which wrote: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of the great John Barbata, Jefferson Starship’s original drummer. Our thoughts go our to his family, friends and fans. Rock in peace, Johnny!”

According to Best Classic Bands, Barbata died on May 8. A cause of death has not been announced.

Besides drumming in Jefferson Starship, Barbata was also known for his work with Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Turtles, The Sentinels and various other bands.

After a stint in surf-rock group The Sentinels, John Barbata joined The Turtles in 1966, with whom he enjoyed mainstream success. He recorded drums for the 1967 hit single ‘Happy Together’ as well the late-’60s hits ‘Elenore’ and ‘You Showed Me’.

John Barbata performing with American rock group Jefferson Starship, New York, USA, September 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Barbata left The Turtles in 1969 and joined Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for a spell of tour dates, appearing on the band’s 1974 live album ‘4 Way Street’. He would continue to record with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young in various iterations of the group and solo projects.

Throughout the years that followed, Barbata recorded and toured with a vast roster of artists including Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, Leon Russell and the Everly Brothers. According to his biography, he declined offers to drum for Elvis Presley and The Eagles.

Barbata then joined Jefferson Airplane for their final studio album, 1972’s ‘Long John Silver’. He also drums on the 1973 live record ‘Thirty Seconds over Winterland’. Jefferson Airplane would then rebrand as Jefferson Starship, and Barbata continued with the band alongside Grace Slick, Paul Katner and others for several albums between 1974 and 1979.

John Barbata performing with American rock group Jefferson Starship, New York, USA, September 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Following the news of his death, Jefferson Airplane wrote on social media: “Rest in Peace, John Barbata, a legendary drummer for Jeffersion Airplane and Jefferson Starship.”

“Known for his exceptional talent, John left his mark on the music world by playing with bands such as The Turtles, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jefferson Airplane, and Jefferson Starship. Back in ’72, during a hiatus for CSN&Y, David Crosby introduced John to the Airplane, who hired John instantly. You can hear John’s drumming skills on the band’s final studio album, ‘LONG JOHN SILVER’, as well as the live album ‘THIRTY SECONDS OVER WINTERLAND.’”

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