Drummer John Barbata (The Turtles, CSNY, Jefferson Starship) Dead At 79

Drummer John Barbata (The Turtles, CSNY, Jefferson Starship) Dead At 79

John Barbata, a drummer who played with a number of noteworthy bands including the Turtles, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, has died. Best Classic Bands confirmed Barbata’s death with sources in his hometown of Ada, OK, and some of his former bands have posted tributes. A cause of death has not been reported. He was 79.

Barbata was born in 1945 in Passaic, NJ. He grew up in Saranac Lake, NY and then Nutley, NJ. When he was an infant, his mother rescued a man stranded in a boat that had run out of gas, who turned out to be Albert Einstein. He began playing drums after seeing his older brother play percussion in marching band. At age 16, after his family relocated to Rialto, CA, Barbata joined his first band, the Velvatones. After another move, this time to San Luis Obispo, Barbata formed another band called the Ambassadors. In 1961, a surf-rock group called the Sentinals recruited him to be their drummer, and he spent the next five years touring the United States with them.

After the Sentinals’ breakup, Barbata relocated to Hollywood. In 1966, he became the new drummer for the Turtles, and the very first song he recorded with them was “Happy Together,” their most enduring hit. Barbata stuck with the Turtles through the end of the ’60s, then was invited to join CSNY in 1970. You can hear his playing on the live album 4 Way Street. He went on to drum on albums by all four members of the group.

In 1972, David Crosby introduced Barbata to Jefferson Airplane, which became the next item on his resume. He continued with the band as it endured lineup changes and morphed into Jefferson Starship. A devastating car crash in 1978 broke his neck, arm, and jaw, forcing him to resign from the group. He retreated from the music industry and, in 1981, married the artist Angela Evans. The couple eventually relocated to Ada, Evans’ hometown, where they lived until her death from cancer in 2016. Barbata continued living there up until his own death.

Jefferson Starship’s Facebook account posted, “We are saddened to hear of the passing of the great John Barbata, Jefferson Starship’s original drummer. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans. Rock in peace, Johnny!” The Instagram account for Jefferson Airplane posted the following:

Rest in Peace, John Barbata, a legendary drummer for Jefferson 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.

Rest in Peace, John❤️

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