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How did Alan White die? YES drummer, 72, performed with John Lennon and George Harrison

In recent years, White’s health restricted his stage time, but he would typically join Yes at the end of their sets
UPDATED MAY 27, 2022
Alan White, the longtime drummer for progressive rock pioneers YES dies at 72 (YESofficial/Twitter)
Alan White, the longtime drummer for progressive rock pioneers YES dies at 72 (YESofficial/Twitter)

Alan White, the longtime drummer for progressive rock band YES, died at his home in Seattle because of a short illness at the age of 72. White's family announced his death in a Facebook post. “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 one of the longest-running members of the group, having joined in 1972, replacing Bill Bruford (who joined King Crimson). He also played on projects with John Lennon and George Harrison. Just days earlier YES had announced that due to health issues White would not take part in the band’s upcoming tour of the United Kingdom to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic album “Close to the Edge.” Announcing the death, the band wrote on Twitter, "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 music industry has lost many stalwarts recently including Andy Fletcher, Meat Loaf, Taylor Hawkins, Vangelis, Ric Parnell among others. 


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White joined YES in 1972, replacing original drummer Bill Bruford. In a band noted for frequent lineup changes, White was a constant and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Yes in 2017. Though he didn't play on "Close to the Edge," he performed on every subsequent Yes studio album over nearly five decades, including the band's latest release, "The Quest," which came out last year. While YES has gone through many changes as of May 2022, it has consisted of guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Geoff Downes, singer Jon Davison, and bassist Billy Sherwood.

Born in 1949 in County Durham, White was the only child of May and Raymond White. He began playing drums as a child at the age of 12 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. He 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. 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. White's family took social media to pay tribute to White’s decades-long career in music. They wrote, "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. Gigi, Jesse, and Cassi Seattle, WA"


A fan wrote, "Alan White, Plastic Ono Band drummer on ‘Imagine’, ‘Instant Karma!’ and many others, Rest in Peace." One fan shared White's music calling him a 'monster drummer': "It was not a comfortable position to fill the shoes of one Bill Bruford, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Alan White was a MONSTER drummer who propelled on one of the most important bands ever. May you rest in peace, Maestro." Another thanked the legend calling his drumming 'part of the soundtrack' of his life.




Scot Lade, the Prog Corner critic wrote, "RIP: Alan White Thank you for 50 years of service in the greatest band of all time, Yes. This one hurts…"


Musician Peter Frampton wrote, "Dear friend & incredible drummer Alan White has left us way too soon. He was one of the most down to earth people I’ve known. When you next hear “Imagine” or “Jealous Guy” by John think of Alan as you hear his masterful playing. And all his wonderful work with Yes. RIP❤️"