YES Drummer Alan White Dies at 72

Longtime YES drummer Alan White died this morning at the age of 72. Posted on his Facebook page was the following statement…

Alan White, our beloved husband, dad, and grandpa, passed away at the age of 72 at his Seattle-area home on May 26, 2022, after a brief illness.

Throughout his life and six-decade career, Alan was many things to many people: a certified rock star to fans around the world; bandmate to a select few, and gentleman and friend to all who met him.

Alan was born in Pelton, County Durham, England on June 14, 1949. He began piano lessons at the age of six, began playing the drums at age twelve, and has been performing publicly since the age of thirteen.

Throughout the 1960s, Alan honed his craft with a variety of bands, including The Downbeats, The Gamblers, Billy Fury, Alan Price Big Band, Bell and Arc, Terry Reid, Happy Magazine (later called Griffin), and Balls with Trevor Burton (The Move) and Denny Laine (Wings).

In 1968, Alan joined Ginger Baker’s Airforce, a new group that was put together by the former drummer of Cream and other noted musicians from England’s music scene including Steve Winwood, formerly of Traffic.

In 1969, Alan received what he thought at the time to be a prank phone call, but it was John Lennon calling to ask Alan to join the Plastic Ono Band. The next day Alan found himself learning songs in the back of an airliner headed to Toronto with Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, and Klaus Voormann. The ensuing album, Live Peace in Toronto, sold millions of copies, peaking at number 10 on the charts.

Alan’s association with Lennon continued, recording singles like ‘Instant Karma’ and the subsequent landmark album, Imagine, with Alan providing drums for the title song, ‘Jealous Guy’, and ‘How Do You Sleep at Night’. Alan’s work with Lennon led to an introduction to George Harrison, who asked Alan to perform on the album All Things Must Pass, including the single, ‘My Sweet Lord’, released in 1970. Alan subsequently worked with many artists for the Apple label, including Billy Preston, Rosetta Hightower, and Doris Troy.

Alan joined YES on July 27, 1972, and with only three days to learn the music, YES opened their US tour before 15,000 fans in Dallas, Texas on July 30, 1972. Alan has been with YES ever since, and with the passing of founding member, Chris Squire, in June 2015, Alan was the longest continuously serving band member.

Glide recently talked to Alan in the summer of 2017 – please revisit this in-depth interview here. White’s first studio endeavor with Yes, the 1974 release Tales From Topographic Oceans, saw White creating massive multi-rhythmic passages for the track  ‘Ritual’. White moved from styles that seemed effortless from the complex musicality of Relayer to the new-wave leanings of Drama to the radio rock of 9012 and Big Generator not to mention all the other latter-era contributions on The Ladder, Magnification Keys to Ascension 1 & II and 2021’s triumphant The Quest. His contributions to the YES songbook are unsurpassed and his musicianship will be dearly missed in the rock and prog world listenership. YES will dedicate their 50th Anniversary Close to the Edge UK Tour in June to White.

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One Response

  1. Well written article that helps me cope with this devastating loss. Alan seemed to me to be perhaps the most relatable, “normal guy” member of Yes. A humble gentleman and a nice human being, nevermind his insane talent. Three days to learn the Yes catalog! I haven’t been this down about a rock death since Chris and Neil. R.I.P. Alan. Condolences to your family and fan. You live on forever through your music. Now to cheer myself and honor you, gonna listen to every Yes album you appeared on since 72. Thanks for an amazing 50 years. Love you and love all of you.

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