White’s playing with Yes is wonderful, and even if you’re not a prog-rock fan it’s still easy to admire the depth and soul he gave to so many drum tracks. He also bought something of a pop feel to the group. He first recorded with the Alan Price Set, which is perfect proof of his beat-combo chops – most famously he did a stint with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band which includes playing drums on the songs Imagine, Oh Yoko, Gimme Some Truth, How? and How Do You Sleep? He also played the vibraphone across Jealous Guy and added both drums and piano to 1970’s smash Lennon single, Instant Karma.
He is on the Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album and the “Live Jam” side of 1972’s Some Time In New York City both credited to Plastic Ono Band.
In this same era, he has credits from George Harrison’s All Things Most Pass album.
For me, his playing on the live album Yessongs and that same year’s Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973) is what first alerted me to his talent. Such a great, somewhat underrated player.
I also had the pleasure of interviewing him in 2014. He was on the phone to plug a then upcoming NZ show by the version of Yes still touring with a few of its key and founder members. He was devoted to the band, but took time in that interview to speak lovingly of his ‘luck’ playing with Lennon and some of his other projects and connections. Humble, and warm, I remember that interview fondly.
His playing was perfect for the moment, never too flashy, never at the expense of the song – a problem area given the genre he worked in for the majority of his career. His was a rare skill. He will be missed. He seemed the true scholar and gent also. And that’s never nothing.
R.I.P. Alan White