Songwriter and drummer Alan White died in his Seattle, Washington home at the age of 72. He came down with a sudden illness and died unexpectedly, reportedly leaving his bandmates in progressive rock band Yes shocked and saddened as he was expecting to join them on a 50th-anniversary tour soon.

He joined Yes four years after its formation after working with them occasionally in recording sessions when the band needed a replacement drummer last-minute for a 1972 concert tour. The first album White played on as a full member was the 1973 release Tales From Topographic Oceans, and that ended up becoming the band’s first release to top the UK Album Charts.

Even if his introduction to the band was spontaneous, White remained with the band up until his death and currently is the longest-running member of the entire group. He was also a songwriter and collaborated in the writing process for a great many tracks from the band’s 22 total studio albums.

Alan White was born in Pelton, Country Durham, England on June 14, 1949. He began playing piano with lessons at the age of six, and later took up drums at the age of 12 when his uncle informed White’s parents he played the piano “very percussively.” He joined his first band, The Downbeats, just a year later at 13.

By the time White joined Yes, he had played with a huge number of bands and even collaborated with John Lennon as a member of The Plastic Ono Band, and later as a session musician on Lennon’s landmark album Imagine.


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White is survived by his wife of 40 years, Rogena “Gigi” White, children Jesse and Cassi, grandchildren JJ and Ellie, and sister-in-law Andrea Holmqvist.

The track below, “To Ascend,” is off 2014 Yes release Heaven & Earth and is co-written by White and the band’s current lead vocalist Jon Davison.

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