John Barbata, drummer for Turtles, Jefferson Airplane, CSNY, dead at 79

Drummer John Barbata, who played for The Turtles, Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, has died. He was 79.

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Barbata’s death was announced on May 13 in a post on the Jefferson Airplane’s official Facebook page. The group did not say when he died or provide a cause of death.

Barbata, who was born on April 1, 1945, in New Jersey, moved to Southern California as a teenager, the Los Angeles Times reported. He played for the Sentinels, a surf-rock band that scored a local hit in 1961 with “La Tinia,” according to the newspaper.

He would join The Turtles and played on the group’s No. 1 hit, “Happy Together,” which stayed atop the Billboard Hot 100 charts for three weeks during the spring of 1967.

“I heard that the Turtles were looking for a drummer, they called me down to the studio to try me out on some session work, the first song we recorded was ‘Happy Together,’” Barbata wrote on his website, which is now defunct but is archived by web.archive.org, The New York Times reported.

Barbata also played on two more top-10 hits by the group, according to Billboard: “She’d Rather Be With Me,” which peaked at No. 3 during the summer of 1967; and “Elenore,” which climbed to No. 6 in late 1968.

After The Turtles disbanded in 1970, Barbata joined CSNY, playing on the band’s 1971 live album, “4 Way Street,” The New York Times reported.

He would play on several of the group’s solo albums, the Los Angeles Times reported. That included “Time Fades Away” by Neil Young, “Songs for Beginners” by Graham Nash and Stephen Stills’ self-titled album. He also famously played a 45-minute drum solo to quell a riot when the Atlanta Pop Festival suffered a power outage in 1969, according to the newspaper.

After turning down chances to play for Elvis Presley and the Eagles, Barbata joined the Jefferson Airplane in 1972 and stayed when the band reformed as Jefferson Starship, The New York Times reported. He played on the Airplane’s final studio album “Long John Silver,” and also worked as a session drummer.

For Jefferson Starship, Barbata played on hits like “Miracles” and drummed on four albums with the group, the Los Angeles Times reported: 1974′s “Dragon Fly,” 1975′s “Red Octopus”, 1976′s “Spitfire” and 1978′s “Earth.”

After surviving a serious car accident in Northern California in 1978, Barbata was dropped by Jefferson Starship, The New York Times reported. He became a born-again Christian and decided to leave rock music.

After retiring Barbata released a memoir in 2005: “Johny Barbata – The Legendary Life of a Rock Star Drummer” (through the year, he was billed over the years as John, Johnny and Johny, according to the newspaper).

“I’ve done a lot of albums and 28 singles, and my wife said, ‘You know you’re a part of rock ‘n’ roll history. You really gotta write a book,’” he told the Desert Sun in 2014. “I’m always talking to people about how (the ‘60s and ‘70s) was the best time, era for music.”

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