John Barbata, Iconic Drummer for Major Rock Bands, Passes Away at 79

 May 20, 2024

John Barbata, a pivotal figure in rock music, has died.

According to Billboard, John Barbata, known for his dynamic drumming with several top bands from the 1960s and 1970s, passed away at 79.

His contributions spanned across a remarkable career with The Turtles, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jefferson Airplane, and Jefferson Starship. The music world mourns a talent who defined drum beats and shaped the rhythm of rock's golden era.

Contributions to Jefferson Airplane and Starship

In 1972, during a break from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, David Crosby introduced Barbata to Jefferson Airplane, which promptly led to his involvement as their drummer.

Barbata's skills were particularly showcased on Jefferson Airplane’s final studio album "Long John Silver" and the live album "Thirty Seconds Over Winterland."

Following his time with Jefferson Airplane, he became a founding member of the spin-off group Jefferson Starship, continuing to influence the rock music scene with his distinctive drumming style.

Jefferson Airplane's Facebook account shared a touching tribute:

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 Turtles and a Legacy of Hits

Before his involvement with Jefferson Airplane and Starship, Barbata was already making waves as the drummer for The Turtles. He played on several of the band's hits, including the iconic track "Happy Together," which remains a beloved classic.

His early career set the stage for his later work, establishing him as a versatile drummer capable of handling the evolving demands of rock music.

Reflecting on a Rich Musical Legacy

John Barbata's musical journey is also captured in his memoir, "Johny Barbata—The Legendary Life of a Rock Star Drummer," in which he recounts his experiences and interactions in the music industry.

In a 2014 interview with Desert Sun, Barbata reflected on his enduring legacy, stating:

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. I’m always talking to people about how [the ’60s and ’70s] was the best time, era for music.

His memoir provides a personal glimpse into the vibrant rock era, filled with stories of collaboration and innovation that shaped his career and the genre itself.


John Barbata's death marks the loss of a pivotal figure in the music industry whose drumming shaped the sound of the 1960s and 1970s. His influence extends beyond his performances, inspiring generations of musicians, as detailed in his memoir, which chronicles his significant contributions and experiences. The music community mourns his passing, honoring his dual role as a skilled musician and a chronicler of his genre.

About Robert Cunningham

With years of experience at the forefront of political commentary, Robert Cunningham brings a blend of sharp wit and deep insight to his analysis of American principles at the Capitalism Institute.

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