John Barbata, The Turtles & Jefferson Starship Drummer, Dies at 79

John Barbata, the drummer for bands such as The Turtles, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, has died at 79.

The Facebook account for Jefferson Airplane — which Barbata joined in 1972 — shared this post on Monday: “Known for his exceptional talent, John left his mark on the music. 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,” the post concludes, with a red heart emoji.

After pioneering psych-rock band Jefferson Airplane regrouped in the mid-1970s to create Jefferson Starship, Barbata was the new group’s founding drummer. “We are saddened to hear of the passing of the great John Barbata,” reads a Facebook post on the Starship page. “Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans. Rock in peace, Johnny!”

Prior to his time with the Jefferson outlets, Barbata served as percussionist for The Turtles, lending his skills to recordings of hits such as the Billboard Hot 100-topping “Happy Together” as well as “Elenore” and “She’d Rather Be With Me.” After the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame group disbanded in 1970, the New Jersey native was tapped by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for live performances and session work on the members’ solo projects before he transferred over to the Airplane.

Following his retirement, Barbata released a memoir: Johny Barbata – The Legendary Life of a Rock Star Drummer. “There are lots of great stories about all the the bands and people I have had the pleasure to be involved with during my incredible career,” reads a description of the book on Amazon.

“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 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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