Alan White, a seasoned rock drummer who had worked with two former Beatles by the time he turned 21, but who was best known for his long tenure with the trailblazing British progressive rock band Yes, died Thursday at his home in the Seattle area. He was 72.
His death was announced by his family. The announcement did not specify a cause, saying only that he died “after a short illness”.
The news of Mr. White came just days after Yes announced he would not be joining the band’s upcoming UK tour, which kicks off June 13. He had been a member of Yes since 1972, but the band noted in a statement, “a number of health setbacks” had limited his time on stage since 2016, with Jay Schellen doing most of the drumming and Mr. White joined the band late in each set.
Alan White was born on June 14, 1949 in Pelton, County Durham, England, to Raymond and May (Thrower) White. He started playing drums when he was 12. The following year he played professionally for the first time and during the 1960s he worked with a number of British groups.
In September 1969, John Lennon, who had overheard him with one of those groups, called Mr. White and asked him to join the band he was putting together for a concert in Toronto.
Like mr. White told interviewers over the years, he assumed the call was a joke and hung up. Lennon called back, Mr. White was convinced he was who he said he was and he soon made his way to Canada as a member of the Plastic Ono Band, which also included Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann.
The Toronto concert, one of only two the band would play (the second was a charity concert in London in December), was a momentous event, marking Lennon’s return to the stage after a long absence and the hit album ‘Live Peace in Toronto.” mr. White then recorded with Lennon the single “Instant Karma” and on several songs from the album “Imagine”, including the title version, which was a Top 10 hit like “Instant Karma”.
mr. White also recorded with another former Beatle, George Harrison, during sessions for Harrison’s first solo album, “All Things Must Pass”.
After those recordings, as well as backing up Joe Cocker and others and a brief stint as one of several percussionists with fellow drummer Ginger Baker’s band, he was invited to join Yes in 1972 after the original the band’s drummer, Bill Bruford, had left to join. another leading progressive rock band, King Crimson.
Yes’s music, like that of other bands in the so-called prog-rock movement, was more complex and challenging than standard rock ‘n’ roll. But mr. White only had three days to get to know the band’s repertoire before a concert in Dallas—and, he later recalled, when he told the band’s lead singer, Jon Anderson, and its bassist, Chris Squire, they told him that if he They wouldn’t throw me out the third floor window. He agreed, he learned the music and his long association with Yes began.
Yes went through numerous changes in both personnel and style over the years, most notably a more straightforward pop sound for the album “90125” and the single “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, which became a number 1 hit in 1983. mr. white and mr. Squire were the band’s only constant presence until Mr. Squire in 2015.
mr. White, who also helped write some of the band’s songs, was first heard with Yes on a few tracks from the live album “Yessongs” (1973) and a year later on the studio album “Tales From Topographic oceans. He was on every subsequent album up to and including ‘The Quest’, which was released last year.
Yes was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.
mr. White is survived by his wife of 40 years, Rogena (Walberg) White; a son, Jesse; a daughter, Cassi; and two grandchildren.