Yes drummer Alan White has died, his family confirmed in a statement that was also shared by the band. White died Thursday (May 26) at his Seattle home 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,” his family wrote. White was 72.
Alan White, the only child of May and Raymond White, was born in Pelton, County Durham, England on June 14, 1949. White began playing drums as a child and was a member of many bands throughout the 1960s. In 1968, he joined Ginger Baker’s Air Force, a supergroup founded by the former Cream drummer.
In 1969, White was invited by John Lennon to join the Plastic Ono Band, which also included Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, and Klaus Voormann. White is featured on the project’s album Live Peace in Toronto 1969. White would continue to work with Lennon on songs like “Instant Karma” and the 1971 album Imagine. White also contributed to George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, and he would go on to play the drums on other Apple albums, including those by Billy Preston, Rosetta Hightower, and Doris Troy.
White joined Yes in 1972 after the departure of Bill Bruford. The British prog outfit weas about to begin touring the new album Close to the Edge, and White learned the music in three days and became a permanent member of the band. He soon performed on the 1973 live record Yessongs and that same year’s studio album Tales From Topographic Oceans. White would go on to perform on many of Yes’ biggest hits, including “Love Will Find a Way,” “Changes,” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” In 1976, he released his only solo album, Ramshackled.
After Yes broke up in the early 1980s, White and founding bassist Chris Squire formed a project with Jimmy Page called XYZ; the band only produced a few demos. Squire and White would then release a Christmas single called “Run With the Fox.” In 1983, Yes returned with a comeback album titled 90125.
After the death of Squire in 2015, White became the longest continuously serving Yes band member. In recent years, White’s health restricted his stage time, but he would typically join Yes at the end of their sets. In 2017, Yes were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and reunited for a performance with frontman Jon Anderson. According to a statement from Yes, White had intended to join his bandmates on their upcoming tour, which would have celebrated drummer’s 50th anniversary with Yes. The tour will now be dedicated to White.