Lives and Deaths of Musicians

Tragedy discussed: Badfinger and Marty Balin

Musicians of a certain kind find their way into your heart, the most relatable head for your soul. Recently, I learned a bit more than the tune and accompanying lyrics. It feels like getting a tad too close to a flame that you didn’t know existed.

These are souls who created extraordinary art in the 1970s, a personally formative time for this author. So I shall recount to my dear readers what happened behind the scenes.

Perhaps I should mention that two of the muscians considered here were brought to an end at their own hand, and both by hanging.

The bands are Badfinger and Jefferson Starship. Allow me to inform you that I am a member of a certain kinship: survivors of suicide. We often don’t know that we belong to a rather large segment of the population, we also do not ordinarily carry membership notices on our sleeves. Please know as well that membership does not expire. However, growth is possible and personal insight can become keen over time, but grief must take its course before the gift of deeper insight may be redeemed.

Stan Polley,

Stan Polley, the criminal who destroyed the enormously talented musicians of Badfinger. Two found an end via suicide by hanging. Polley lived onto the fulsome age of 87. Fate involves a personal discord that time cures slowly over many years. Survivors of Suicide may also succumb to suicide. Fate does not issue get-out-of-suicide cards. You must forge that on your own.

Celebrities do not need to declare an association with our kinship, they don’t have the luxury of remaining anonymous.


After Apple Records folded in 1973, Badfinger struggled with a host of legal, managerial and financial issues, leading Ham to commit suicide in 1975. Over the next three years, the surviving members struggled to rebuild their personal and professional lives against a backdrop of lawsuits, which tied up the songwriters’ royalty payments for years. Their subsequent albums floundered, as Molland and Evans alternated between cooperation and conflict in their attempts to revive and capitalise on the Badfinger legacy. In 1983, Evans also committed suicide.

Addendum on March 30, 2022:

Editor’s perspective

Through a bitter and raw coincidence, my wife also chose death at her own hand in that very year of 1983, she was 33, an age in life that finds kind souls in the darkest caverns of despair. Suicide appears as an angelic savior to rescue you from the dark pit that has become your living hell. Another age that finds brilliant minds losing their brilliant minds in abject horror is the decade earlier age 23. Kurt Cobain is one of many. A strange clockwork black.

Ham’s death

With their current album suddenly withdrawn and their follow-up rejected, Badfinger spent the early months of 1975 trying to figure out how to proceed under the unclear legal situation. Their March 1975 salary cheques did not clear, and the April cheques never arrived. Panic set in, especially for Ham, who had recently bought a £30,000 house in Woking, Surrey, and whose girlfriend was expecting a child.

According to Jackson, the band tried to continue without Polley’s involvement by contacting booking agents and prospective managers throughout London, but they were routinely declined because of their restrictive contracts with Polley and impending legal actions. Ham reportedly tried on many occasions to contact Polley by telephone during the early months of 1975, but was never able to reach him.

Rock and Roll Garage

The tragic story of Badfinger deaths

Recently, I discovered that a rock group that abrubtly disappeard owned a backstory that I found among the comments on YouTube: the comprehensive chronicler of our days and ways. The commenters were nearly of one in regard to the disdain they felt for the manager who more than skimmed the group’s bank account, he drained nearly every penny into his private coffer and went on to live off the blood money until he quietly expired at age 81.

Desperate and overwhelmed, Pete Ham hung himself in April 1975, after a night of drinking with his long-time bandmate Tom Evans. He cited Badfinger’s manager by name in the suicide note: “I will not be allowed to love and trust everybody. This is better.” Then, “P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.”

Read More: Why Badfinger Fell Apart With the Failure of ‘Wish You Were Here’ |

The next artist I consider here, Marty Balin, was brutalized (to be kind) by a US teams of medical criminals. I know of these kind of people because the serial criminals found brutish ways to mistreat someone who is likely familiar with readers of this blog: Lisa. You don’t know just how badly a medical professional can “treat” a patient until you witness their dark deeds first hand. There are multiple volumes that could be written on Lisa alone. I proceed.

Marty Balin

Marty Balin was attacked at the very source of his genius, his voice. Marty walked into a hospital in basically good health, he left wounded at the dark hands of medical professionals as well. We live in a society that does not believe in stopping medical maltreatment whenever the criminals who make their way into the system wreak havoc and walk away clean. These serial killers go on to destroy lives as an occupational perk that comes with the job. I note this clearly and forcefully because I am a serial witness to the carnage left in their wake.

The 2018 legal complaint accused the hospital and one of its specialists of negligently performing a tracheotomy on Balin following the heart surgery. That procedure caused him to lose half his tongue and suffer a paralysed vocal chord, the lawsuit claimed. Further negligence, it then said, resulted in a hand injury and the musician’s left thumb being amputated. More tragically significant, that additional amputation of half a tongue destroyed this incomparable signature organ. Watch Jefferson Starship videos on YouTube and see the unique quality it offered the range of his voice. These are not unavoidable slips of a scalpel. When you mutilate a God-given gift of this order, you become a Dr. Mengele in my estimation of your evil talent.

Please consider watching this very poignant review of “Hearts”, particularly if you are unfamiliar with Marty Balin.

The lawsuit stated: “Mr Balin walked into the hospital able to speak and with a fully functional left hand. By the time Mr Balin was finally released from the hospital, he had lost half his tongue, so that he cannot speak or eat properly; he also has a paralysed vocal cord; he [has] a necrotic left hand and has lost his left thumb; he had become totally disabled and has never recovered properly.” Keeping this vivid image in mind, please view this video of Count on Me. Consider the impact of Balin’s lost tongue function. This is wrenching stuff, I can no longer view it in the same way.

I simply ask you to listen to fellow members of humanity who have become victims of high crimes and misdemeanors. Knowing something of what they met at the prime of their lives is the burden, the price and responsibility of tragically witnessing a dismemberment, knowing that these guys are protected by laws that always seek to exonerate systemic malpractice.

Please exercise caution when reading YouTube comments. They are often the lairs of ignorant loud trolls who take turns in demeaning talent: here the sentiments largely damn Marty Balin for finding success, but not passing on some cash to the trolls who find comfort in eviscerating Balin for the crime of earning wide and sincere audiences rather than giving to the Troll Welfare Fund.

Again, consider the impact that an intact tongue brings to the unique gift possessed by this artist. Then consider the impact of mutilating that organ’s depth of vocal range. How can one not be devastated at the abject brutality inflicted in a sequestered surgical facility within that hospital?

This did not make the news of course

Fame is fraught with stars who believe that instant success is easy to obtain and hard to lose. Focus solely on the thousands of players who succeed, ignore the vast majority who fail miserably. But failure is not for you, is it? In San Jose, the stars that never were are not parking cars and pumping gas.

Thanks for reading.

Author: Bill Ziegler

I am a former resident of Delhi Township. These are memories of my life and times in that community during the 1950s and 1960s. A time capsule.

5 thoughts on “Lives and Deaths of Musicians”

    1. Hi Terry, Thanks for the kind comment. I like to bring understatement to my public points of expression, so it is a delight to find that a published author has recognized its successful application to this poignant discussion, something that has spoken truth to me for some time now.


    1. Thanks, Rosaliene. As another published author to comment on this blog entry, I greatly appreciate your recognition of its essential tragic impact on all parties, except for those principal participants who brought about the tragedy.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. This post is made by Lisa Chieco, Bill’s partner who has lots of trouble with technical aspects of word press!
    Your elegant and carefully crafted voice is worth the wait! My voice is effuse yet you love hearing the same songs from me in different arrangement, but present. I love knowing the exquisite treasure of you is my lucky secret. You blast me out of the running when you take your deeply feeling, observing presence out for its rare airing. The club we share is the vehicle of our first encounter, but as you said, membership is no guarantee of a free pass. When I met you and your children still living in that fall out it clarified the violence accepting that “angel of release” does to your family and friends. It was the beginning of my determination to refuse that form of relief and release out of plain human compassion. You, the valiant and always quietly steeped in romance,were daring enough to walk with me as long as I chose without obligation, close to the edge.
    You gave me what I needed instinctively. You diffused dependency. You loved without expectation or confinement. The brief encounter I had envisioned was deftly woven together meshing our love and loved ones into this larger whole that has spanned familial generations. It is a sweet privilege living next to you.


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