Signe Anderson of Jefferson Airplane dies

Signe Anderson, the original female singer in Jefferson Airplane, has died at age 74.

Early Jefferson AirplaneAnderson, who sang with bands in Oregon over the years, had suffered from longtime health problems. Her passing of a heart condition in Beaverton, Oregon, came Jan. 28, the same day as the death of Airplane leader Paul Kantner.

“One sweet Lady has passed on,” Jefferson Airplane cofounder Marty Balin posted as the news broke. “I imagine that she and Paul woke up in heaven and said ‘Hey what are you doing here? Let’s start a band.'”

Anderson sang on the first Jefferson Airplane album, “Takes Off.” The album included her best-known song, “Chauffeur Blues.”

The singer, a new mother, found the road intolerable and decided to leave Jefferson Airplane in late 1966. Her final performances were at the Fillmore on Oct. 15 of that year. Grace Slick took over as female singer the following night. Anderson’s farewell gig was released to CD in 2010.

Anderson returned to Portland, Oregon, where she sang in the big band headed by Carl Smith. Anderson, a cancer survivor, also worked in a department store. She made occasional guest appearances with versions of the Jefferson Starship and with (Airplane spinoff) Hot Tuna.

Anderson credited the Airplane’s success with its members’ musical educations. “We all were very knowledgeable music-wise,” she told KGON radio in 2011. “We could all read music. We all knew the classics, we knew blues, we knew folk music — we had a lot of groundwork first.”

Airplane bassist Jack Casady wrote on Facebook that he’d been in touch with Anderson this past week when she moved from her home to a hospice. “She was a real sweetheart with a terrific contralto voice coming from a solid folk background,” he recalled. “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.”

Airplane lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen wrote on his blog: “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.”

Kaukonen’s blog post was titled, “Now we are four.”

Comments

  1. Craig Forester says:

    How Ironic that two members of the original Airplane should pass at the same time. Fortunately the music they made during that turbulent time still endures, and the memories they helped create I know we’ll treasure forever. Thank you ever so much Signe and Paul.

  2. Thanks for posting. Love the YouTube interview. Sounded like a wonderful lady.

  3. englishsunset says:

    When it rains it pours.

  4. Bill in Keizer says:

    Devastating news. Signe was one sweet lady-and one helluva singer, too.
    Condolences to her children and friends. Bill

    • Hello “Bill” — Haven’t talked to you in a long time, friend. Remember Signe used to tell the fans when they used to come up and say, “hi Sign! Will you “sign” your autograph for me! Remember Signe used to politely say, “Oh, sweetie, my name is SIGNEY (as in Sidney with a G) and she would always give her autograph, smile, shake hands and she’d thank the fan!?

  5. lovescatmother says:

    Really liked this article with the link to the song “Chauffeur Blues” live at Winterland and especially liked the long in depth easy going interview where Signe was able to give a detailed description of her time and knowledge of the formative years of the San Francisco musical scene. An obvious fan of Bill Graham, her insights into his early days were very informative.

  6. Ron Krueger says:

    Stumbling across Psychedelic Sight and listening to the Signe interview was like, Christmas. I’ve been down in the mouth since first hearing about Kantner and then the next day hearing Signe also passed. I never heard her voice before today and knew very little about her. What a sweetheart she was! Now I have to go find that CD of her last performance with JA. I look forward to visiting this site often.

  7. There were all very gifted artists but did not get the credit the Beatles of Grateful Dead did. An uncanny phenomena for her to die the same day Paul Kantner did.

  8. I am quite sure that I met Signe when she came for a short time to Laramie, Wyoming. She took some classes, worked in the local radio station and shared with my friends and I that she had sung with Jefferson Airplane. I wonder if anyone remembers this time in her life. I listened to the interview and I remembered her voice distinctly. I always wondered what her life was like. She was a very memorable person. Thanks for the interview.

  9. Wonderful human and musician, thank you, Signe! xoxo

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