Haight-Ashbury Celebrates The Lives Of Paul Kantner And Signe Toly Anderson
On Sunday, the streets of San Francisco will once again resonate with the sights and sounds that made the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood so famous in the 1960s. That’s because June 12 is the date set for the 39th annual Haight Street Fair.
The 2016 version of the Haight Street Fair is poised to be a poignant reunion of old-school hippies, musicians, and artists who once overflowed the Victorian houses and tripped the sidewalks fantastic in the City’s most bohemian neighborhood. For the first time since the fair’s inception in 1978, two long-ago Haight-Ashbury denizens will be unable to attend, and the reason is almost too sad to comprehend.
Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson were founding members of the seminal psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, and they both died earlier this year. In addition to celebrating the colorful diversity of the people and the times that shined the 1960s, Sunday’s Haight Street Fair will honor the lives of the two musicians who helped shape and define the “San Francisco sound.”
On Thursday, whimsical painter and erstwhile rock goddess Grace Slick invited her Facebook followers to attend the free concert and celebrate the illustrious life of the father of her only child.
Kantner, a lifelong resident of San Francisco, passed away on January 28 due to septic shock and multiple organ failure. The very same day, Signe Toly Anderson died from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Beaverton, Oregon. Both musicians were 74-years-old at the time of their deaths.
The original Jefferson Airplane lineup consisted of rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner, singers Signe Toly Anderson and Marty Balin, lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Bob Harvey, and drummer Jerry Peloquin. Prior to recording their first album, Jack Casady took over bass duties, and Skip Spence replaced Peloquin at the drum kit.
Signe Anderson left the band after the release of the group’s debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off and was replaced shortly thereafter by powerhouse vocalist Grace Slick. Kantner was the only member to play on every album released by the Airplane and the band’s subsequent incarnation, Jefferson Starship.
It was Signe’s voice that featured prominently on the band’s first album, but it was the inclusion of Grace Slick’s blazing contralto voice and fashion model good looks that sent the San Francisco band on a trajectory into the stratosphere. Slick was familiar with the Airplane’s song catalog, having opened for them more than once when she was a member of the band Great Society.
Signe’s final performance with Jefferson Airplane happened at the Fillmore Auditorium on October 15, 1966, 10 days after LSD became illegal in the USA. At the end of the show, Marty Balin made the announcement that new mother Signe was leaving the band to follow more domestic pursuits. She received a standing ovation.
“I want you all to wear smiles and daisies and box balloons. I love you all. Thank you and goodbye.”
Upon hearing of Signe’s death, Balin posted the following on Facebook.
“One sweet Lady has passed on. I imagine that she and Paul woke up in heaven and said ‘Hey what are you doing here? Let’s start a band'”
Forbes magazine reported that Jorma Kaukonen paid tribute to Kantner in a blog post. Here is a portion of what Jorma had to say about Paul.
“The Airplane was an amazing aggregate of personalities and talent. That we could all coexist in the same room was amazing. That we could function together and make the lasting art that we did was nothing short of a miracle. In my opinion Paul was the catalyst that made the alchemy happen. He held our feet to the flame. He could be argumentative and contentious…he could be loving and kind…his dedication to the Airplane’s destiny as he saw it was undeniable.”
— Hoodline (@Hoodline) June 10, 2016
Surviving members of Jefferson Starship are slated to perform at this year’s Haight Street Fair. According to the fair’s website, the band will appear from 3:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. on the Stanyan stage.
If you are unable to attend the event, watch it here.
[Image via KRLA Beat | Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain]