Drummer for Yes and John Lennon, Alan White, Dies at 72

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Videos by American Songwriter

The longest-tenured member of Yes, Alan White, has died at the age of 72. The famed drummer, who also briefly played in John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, passed away this morning (May 26) following a “brief illness.”

White’s family announced the details of his passing across social media saying: “Alan White, our beloved husband, dad, and grandpa, passed away at the age of 72 at his Seattle-area home on May 26, 2022, after a brief illness.”

Yes also took to Twitter to express their “deep sadness” at the passing of “their much-loved drummer and friend of 50 years.” White joined the prog-rock outfit in 1972 and remained their drummer until his passing. Find the full statement from the band below.

White made his live debut in support of Yes’ 1972 album Close to the Edge and his recording debut on Tales from Topographic Oceans. Across his tenure with the group, he played on more than 40 studio and live albums, including their most recent offering The Quest, shared in 2021.

Prior to joining the group, White performed with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. He played eight songs on Lennon’s landmark Imagine album, including the title track. He was also recruited by another ex-Beatle, George Harrison, for All Things Must Pass in 1970. Other performance credits include stints with Ginger Baker’s Air Force and Joe Cocker.

The drummer suffered from health complications in recent years. He was forced to sit out of the band in 2016 due to back surgery and was supported by a second drummer Jay Schellen in 2018 while recovering from a bacterial infection.

White is survived by his wife of forty years Rogena “Gigi” (née Walberg), his children, Jesse (Emily), their two children JJ and Ellie, and Cassi (Kela), and sister-in-law Andrea Holmqvist (Robert).

Yes’ full statement in response to Alan White’s passing:

“It is with deep sadness that YES announce Alan White, their much-loved drummer and friend of 50 years, has passed away, aged 72, after a short illness. The news has shocked and stunned the entire YES family. Alan had been looking forward to the forthcoming UK Tour, to celebrating his 50th Anniversary with YES and their iconic Close To The Edge album, where Alan’s journey with YES began in July 1972. He recently celebrated the 40th Anniversary of his marriage to his loving wife Gigi. Alan passed away, peacefully at home.

Alan is considered to be one of the greatest rock drummers of all time. He was born in 1949 in County Durham and joined YES on 30th July 1972 for the Close to the Edge Tour. He had previously worked with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono band after a phone call in 1969 to play at the Toronto Rock Festival. Alan continued working with Lennon including on the Imagine album and with George Harrison on All Things Must Pass. He also worked with several other musicians over the years, including Ginger Baker’s Air Force, Joe Cocker, Gary Wright, Doris Troy and Billy Preston to name but a few. Alan White was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of YES in 2017.

A number of health setbacks since 2016, had restricted Alan’s time on stage with YES on recent tours with Jay Schellen filling in and Alan joining the band, to great applause, towards the end of each set.

YES will dedicate their 50th Anniversary Close to the Edge UK Tour in June to White.”

Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Image

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