Jefferson Airplane founder/vocalist Marty Balin wrote this song and sang lead. He quit the group in 1971, fed up with his bandmates Paul Kantner and Grace Slick, but in 1974, after they became Jefferson Starship, he dipped his toe back in with "Caroline," which he co-wrote and sang. He was a full participant in their next album, Red Octopus, which contains "Miracles."
The song has an R&B feel, which Balin brought to the group. One of the factors that drove him away in 1971 was the musical direction of the band, which had turned toward more improvised psychedelic rock.
In this song, Marty Balin sounds like he is crazy for a lady and thinks their love is a miracle. If only she'd believe it too, they'll be fine.
But below the surface lies a deeper meaning. Balin was inspired to write the song while reading Persian poetry that equated making love to women as a metaphor for making love to God.
"I had been involved with a living avatar Sathya Sai Baba," Balin told Shindig magazine in 2018. "They called him 'the man of miracles.' So I started playing it for the band and they kind of looked at it and went, 'I don't know about that... there's something wrong with that.'"
Balin stuck with his instincts and kept the song. It's a good thing he did, because it was the highest-charting single that the band, in either their Jefferson Airplane or the Jefferson Starship incarnation, had released to that point. They would eventually beat that sales record under the banner of Starship.
Balin gets rather florid in the lyrics, with windmills and rainbows and rippling rivers, but it's the soaring chorus that carries the song musically. The deeper spiritual meaning of the song may explain why Balin was able to sing it with so much conviction despite some fluffier elements, such as the highly repetitive use of the word "baby." The deeper meaning was lost on most listeners, but Balin's inspiration brings a new layer to lines like:
All we gotta do
Is get a little faith in you
So we're makin' love and you feel the power
Even with the spiritual meaning of the song, the line, "I had a taste of the real world when I went down on you, girl" was a risqué line for a mainstream release.
The album version runs 6:52, but was edited down to 3:27 for radio airplay by their producer Larry Cox, who made sure the radio edit got right to the chorus. Some of the suggestive lyrics were also removed, an action uncharacteristic of Jefferson Airplane. Cox, who had worked with Buddy Holly and Brian Wilson, told Melody Maker in 1976: "I cut the chorus in half and dealt with three verses of lyric which I wanted to preserve. Every verse was extremely important. I applaud the group for making the concession and allowing me to edit the tune down for radio play."
Red Octopus was the only #1 album Jefferson Airplane/Starship ever had, largely thanks to this ballad. The album sold more than four million copies.
A hit song can be an albatross for a band if it takes them in a direction they'd rather not go, and the very middle-of-the-road sound of "Miracles" didn't sit well with Grace Slick, who told BAM magazine in 1980: "All of that 'baby come back to me' stuff was us trying to copy 'Miracles.' We'd never been a real hot singles band. So, when 'Miracles' hit, it was all of a sudden 'better stick with that s--t.' But I felt odd doing it, felt like I was wearing a costume, a monkey suit or something."
The band's bass player, David Freiberg, came up with the organ riff on this song. In a Songfacts interview with Freiberg, he told the story. "We had rehearsed all the tunes for Red Octopus for quite a while, but that lick didn't show up until we were recording the basic tracks in the studio and we seemed to get a really great mix in headphones," he said. "I could really hear what everyone was playing really well and that lick just kind of rolled off my fingers. Everyone said, 'Hey, can you do that again?' So, I gladly did!"