When I knocked off this little piece back in 2008, I never imagined it would grow such long legs that it would still be striding along in 2014. I can’t remember a week that’s gone by since without a note from someone who, like me, remembers Signe with admiration and honor. She had a short run, but an unforgettable one.
Here’s the post as it ran in 2008:
This is a rock star? You’ve got to be kidding! She looks like a normal person. Shouldn’t a mid-sixties rocker have big hair like Dusty Springfield? Or long bangs like Cher? Rock stars aren’t supposed to wear pigtails, especially with little ribbons like Petunia Pig. And her teeth aren’t even capped. Girl rock stars are supposed to look glamorous, not like somebody’s sweet cousin from Astoria.
Signe Anderson had a couple of attributes, though, that sort of worked. First, she was a terrific singer. She could raise blisters on her microphone while sending chills down your spine. Second, we hippies loved her. She was real. She was one of us except she could sing like Aretha. Well, maybe not like Aretha – but she could sing really good.
After a year or so with the Jefferson Airplane, Signe got pregnant, but she was married, so it didn’t count as shocking rock star behavior. She sang right through her pregnancy up there on stage at the Fillmore, getting a little bigger each week, still belting it out out with her finger in her ear. She was breaking all the rock star rules, but not in the approved shocking way. We could hardly wait to see what would happen next.
(Side note: The finger in the ear posture was standard for San Francisco rock singers in those days, it was so they could hear themselves. In 1966, onstage monitor speakers still had a ways to go. And, after you got used to it, it actually looked kind of cool.)
What happened was, after Signe had her baby, she decided to move back home to Oregon. Suddenly, she was gone, leaving behind only that one so-so album, The Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.
Then the Jefferson Airplane stole equally talented Grace Slick from The Great Society, and really took off for fame and fortune. But I never could warm up to Grace, not that she cares. I can’t fault her fabulous singing or her appropriate rock star looks and shocking rock star behavior – it’s just that she wasn’t Signe, and Signe was the cat’s meow.
Signe had a rough road in her later life. In the early seventies, she was diagnosed with uterine, cervical, and bladder cancer. She has spent much of her adult life trying to beat them, plus other other physical problems that cropped up along the way, including an eighties bout with breast cancer. The thing is, she’s still out there fighting…and singing.
Her old band mate Marty Balin was up to see her in August and together they played a benefit billed as the Jefferson Airplane Family Reunion. Fans came all the way from San Francisco for the event. If I had known about it, I might have dropped in myself.
Happy 67th Birthday, Signe. You’re a gas.