Signe Toly Anderson, the original female lead vocalist for Jefferson Airplane, died on January 28 2015. She had suffered bouts of cancer on an off since the Seventies. By a strange coincidence, she died the same day as fellow Jefferson Aiplane member Paul Kantner.
Signe Toly was born on September 15 1941 in Seattle, Washington. She grew up in Portland, Oregon, where she established herself as a respected folk and jazz singer. She moved to San Francisco and, following a performance there, was asked by Marty Balin to join Jefferson Airplane in 1965. She married Jerry Anderson of The Merry Pranksters, author Ken Kesney's group of individuals who promoted the use of psychedelic drugs.
Signe Toly Anderson sang on Jefferson Airplane's debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. It was three months after the album's release and the birth of her child that Mrs. Anderson decided to leave Jefferson Airplane, her reasoning being that she could not take her baby with her on tour. Her last shows with Jefferson Airplane took place on October 15 1966 at The Filmore in San Francisco. The shows would surface on bootlegs for years before being legitimately released by Sony as as Jefferson Airplane: Live at The Fillmore Auditorium 10/15/66 Signe's Farewell in 2010.
After leaving Jefferson Airplane Signe Toly Anderson went home to Oregon. There she sang with the band Carl Smith and the Natural Gas Company for nine years. She experienced her first bout with cancer in the mid-Seventies. She made guest appearances with both the KBC Band and Jefferson Starship. Since the Nineties she had experienced a number of difficulties with her health.
Signe Toly Anderson was a remarkable vocalist. She was gifted with a rich contralto voice, one that blended well with Marty Balin and Paul Kantner's voices in harmony. She also played a significant role in the early days of Jefferson Airplane. Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen said of her, "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."