Jefferson Starship’s Drummer John Barbata Dies at 79

John Barbata Playing Drums
Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS/VCG via Getty Images

The original drummer for Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, John Barbata, has died. The 79-year-old previously made records with bands The Turtles and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as well. His death was confirmed on the Facebook pages for Jefferson Airplane and its successor band Jefferson Starship.

The statement read, “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!” Barbata played the drums for the band Jefferson Airplane on their final studio album, Long John Silver in 1972. He then toured with the group and soon joined the rebranded band Jefferson Starship. Sadly, he was injured in a car crash in 1978 and had to leave the band.

American rock band Jefferson Starship, September 1978. Standing, left to right: Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, John Barbata and Craig Chaquico. Seated: David Freiberg and Pete Sears

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Prior to his time in both groups, he enjoyed some success with The Turtles in the 1960s and drums in the classic song “Happy Together.” He also played with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young just after the success of their album Déjà Vu, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Over the years, he recorded with all of the four stars in group and solo projects.

Drummer John Barbata performing with American rock group Jefferson Starship, New York, USA, September 1978

Michael Putland/Getty Images

After he recovered from his car accident, he resumed making music in the 1980s. In his later years, he mostly made music locally in his home of Comptche, California, and later in Ada, Oklahoma. He recorded two albums with his wife, Angela Evans before she passed away in 2016. Barbata continued to play music, often performing with his singer-songwriter daughter Leah before he died on May 8, 2024.

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May 2019

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