By Christopher Scapelliti
Signe Anderson, the original vocalist for Jefferson Airplane, died on January 28 at age 74 in Beaverton, Oregon. Her death came on the same day as that of the group’s founding guitarist, Paul Kantner.
No official cause of death has been provided. Psychedelicsight.com said Anderson’s death was due to a heart condition and noted that she had longtime health problems.
Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady also noted that Anderson had moved into a hospice care facility last week.
Anderson was asked to join Jefferson Airplane in 1965 when group founder Marty Balin heard her singing at the Drinking Gourd, a San Francisco folk club. He had previously joined up with Kantner after seeing him perform at the venue, and the two had begun scouting around for members to join their fledgling folk-rock and blues band.
With Anderson on lead vocals, Jefferson Airplane cut their first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, in 1966. But as a new mother, Anderson found life on the road unsustainable for herself and her daughter, and she left the band to return to Portland, Oregon. Her final performance with the group was at the Fillmore on October 15, 1966. The following night, singer Grace Slick too over. The group adopted a more electric-rock sound and found mainstream success the following year with their sophomore album, Surrealistic Pillow, which featured the hits “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.”
Anderson and Kantner were preceded in death by Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden who died January 11, 2005.
Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen said he got news of Anderson’s death from Slick while in Santa Monica for a performance.
“We were just checking into the hotel in Santa Monica this afternoon,” he wrote on his blog, Cracks in the Finish. “I got a call from Grace who told me that Signe, the Airplane’s first female voice, passed on the same day as Paul.
“Signe was one of the strongest people I have ever met. She was our den mother in the early days of the Airplane… a voice of reason on more occasions than one… an important member of our dysfunctional little family. I always looked forward to seeing her when we played the Aladdin in Portland. She never complained and was always a joy.”
Bassist Jack Casady noted on Facebook, “I had been in touch with Signe this past week as she had moved from her home to hospice care. She was a real sweetheart with a terrific contralto voice coming from a solid folk background. Listen to how she made the three part harmonies of JA Takes Off (first album) sound so thick…her wonderful tone between Paul’s and Marty’s.
“A sad day …..for those of us still here.”
Marty Balin reflected on Anderson’s loss and how her death occurred so near that of Kantner’s.
“One sweet Lady has passed on,” he wrote on Facebook. “I imagine that she and Paul woke up in heaven and said ‘Hey what are you doing here? Let’s start a band’ and no sooner then said Spencer was there joining in!”
The video below is reportedly of Anderson’s last appearance with Jefferson Airplane, singing “Chauffeur Blues.”