Legendary Drummer Alan White Passed Away At 72
via RenderEdgeMedia / Youtube
Legendary drummer and the longest-tenured member of Yes, Alan White, has passed away on May 26 at the age of 72.
His wife Gigi confirmed the news on Facebook. In the statement, his family wrote:
“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.”
The news was reported following Yes’ announcement that White will not be taking part on their upcoming tour due to health issues, which marks the 50th anniversary of their Close to the Edge album. Jay Schellen will be taking on the drumming duties.
Born in Pelton, County Durham, England on June 14, 1949, White took piano lessons at the age of six, then moved to playing drums at age twelve. While, throughout the 1960s, White played in several bands such as 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).
He also performed with Ginger Baker’s Air Force, Joe Cocker, George Harrison, and John Lennon. In one of White’s gigs in London, Lennon and Yoko Ono happened to attend and later received a surprising phone call at home.
White told The Seattle Times in 2021:
“A voice announced, ‘Hello, this is John Lennon.’
“I thought it was a mate pulling my leg, put the receiver down and went back to the kitchen. Luckily, the caller rang back. This time I listened and thought: Hang on. Maybe it is John Lennon.”
Lennon invited White to play with his Plastic Ono Band that featured members Ono, Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann. They played the following night at the Toronto Rock and Roll Festival, which led to more session work, including performance on Lennon’s 1970 single “Instant Karma!” and 1971 LP, Imagine, along with Harrison’s 1970 triple album, All Things Must Pass.
In 1972, after losing co-founding drummer Bill Bruford of King Crimson, Yes recruited White to join the lineup. He learned the band’s set in just three days ahead of their Close to the Edge tour. White told Rolling Stone in 2019:
“I was sitting in a pub with him in London. We got to be very good friends. One day [Yes singer] Jon [Anderson] and [Yes bassist] Chris [Squire] came around and he said, ‘Yes want you to join the band.’ I think Chris Squire saw me play with Joe Cocker previous to that. I was just finishing a Joe Cocker tour when Yes asked me. I agreed and said, ‘When are we rehearsing?’ They said, ‘We don’t really have any rehearsals and we’ve got a gig on Monday. Can you learn the repertoire between now and Monday?’ It was a Friday. I said, ‘Well, I’ll give it a shot, but it’s a long shot.'”
White played on dozens of Yes concerts and studio albums, starting with the divisive 1973 double-LP Tales From Topographic Oceans. His tenure lasted more than a half-century, up through 2021’s The Quest, making White the band’s longest-remaining member. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Yes in 2017.
He told Examiner in 2013:
“Every album is different in its own way. Relayer was a great album that I enjoyed playing on. 90215 had a lot of memorable songs on it. After that, it would be Talk, which is a great underestimated album. The Ladder is another. There’s a lot of them, they’re all different and parts of the band’s life. I enjoyed all of them.”