Alan White, the longtime drummer of progressive rock pioneers Yes who also played on projects with John Lennon and George Harrison, has died aged 72.
White’s death was announced on his Facebook page by his family. The post said he died Thursday at his Seattle-area home after a brief illness. Days earlier, Yes announced that due to health issues, White would not be taking part in the band’s upcoming UK tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the band’s iconic album “Close to the Edge.”
White joined Yes in 1972, replacing original drummer Bill Bruford. In a band known for frequent lineup changes, White was a constant and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Yes in 2017.
Although he didn’t perform on ‘Close to the Edge’, he has performed on every Yes studio album for nearly five decades, including the band’s latest, ‘The Quest,’ released last year. .
White has remained with the band through its many iterations. A pioneering act in England’s progressive rock scene who rose to popularity in the early 1970s alongside bands like Genesis, Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull, Yes were particularly known for their intricate arrangements and the musical skills of their individual members.
When progressive rock fell into disuse in the late 1970s, many bands associated with the genre struggled.
After another line-up change, Yes, with White still behind the drums, reinvented themselves in the 1980s as a tougher band that appealed to younger listeners more susceptible to heavy metal and visual cues from music videos. In 1983, Yes released the hit album “90125”.
A longtime resident of the Seattle area, White was born in Pelton, County Durham, England in 1949. His family said he started piano lessons at age 6 and started playing the drums at age 12.
White played with bands in England throughout the 1960s. In 1969 John Lennon asked him to join his Plastic Ono Band, performing on songs such as “Jealous Guy” and “How Do You Sleep at Night.” . In a 2021 interview with the Seattle Times, White said he thought the famed Beatle’s call was a prank.
“A voice announced, ‘Hello, this is John Lennon,'” White said. “I thought it was a friend pulling my leg, I hung up and went back to the kitchen.”
White performed a 1969 gig in Toronto with Lennon’s band, which also included guitarist Eric Clapton. White also performed with another Beatle, contributing drums to George Harrison’s 1970 solo album “All Things Must Pass” and his hit song “Sweet Lord.”
In the statement announcing his death, his family wrote, “Alan was many things to many people: a certified rock star to fans everywhere; a member of the group of a privileged few, and a gentleman and friend to all who met him.
White is survived by his wife of 40 years, Gigi, two children and two grandchildren.