Music News

Happy Birthday, Jon Anderson!

Known to most as the high-pitched warbler who's helped define such classic Yes songs as "Your Move," "I've Seen All Good People," "Roundabout," and a steady stream of signature songs initiated in 1968 and continuing to this day, Jon Anderson could easily rest on his laurels without making any moves of his own beyond his band's parameters. And yet, while his singing -- which sounds either like a prepubescent choir boy or a man whose gonads have suddenly been grabbed and squeezed unmercifully -- are obviously identified with the Yes template, there are other aspects of Anderson's career that are well worth mentioning. 

Born 67 years ago today in Lancashire, England, and given the formal name John Roy Anderson, he began his musical career in his brother's band, the Warriors. Three other obscure outfits were to follow -- the Party, the fanciful Hans Christian Anderson, and a hard-rock ensemble called Gun -- but after he was introduced to Chris Squire, he started sitting in with the bassist's band, then known as Mabel Greer's Toy Shop. Being the late '60s, offbeat names were all the rage, and so it was somewhat refreshing that after a series of personnel changes, the band eventually settled on a brand that was simple, to the point, and unerringly affirmative, that of course being Yes.

The rest, as they say, is history, but over the years, Anderson has wandered in and out of Yes' ranks, content to help further its legacy while also stepping out on his own. Here, then, are some of the more notable solo sojourns Anderson's taken over the course of his career: 

* Anderson has contributed vocals to numerous outside efforts, one of the earliest being the King Crimson album Lizard. Other guest appearances would include Mike Oldfield's Crises, Toto's The Seventh One, film soundtracks scored by Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones and German synth band Tangerine Dream, and various diverse efforts by Johnny Harris, Kitaro, Bela Fleck, Jon Elias, and 4Him. 

* In 1976, the current members of Yes all opted to record solo albums. In keeping with his Hobbit-like persona, he dubbed his debut Olias of Sunhillow. Several others would follow over the years, among them, Song of Seven (1980), Animation (1982), a holiday collection titled Three Ships (1985), In the City of Angels (1988), Deseo (1994), Change We Must (1994), Angels Embrace (1995), Lost Tapes of Opio (1996), Toltec (1996), The Promise Ring (1997), Earth Mother Earth (1997), The More You Know (1998). and Survival & Other Stories (2010). 

* Anderson left the helm of Yes on at least a couple of occasions, replaced at different times by Trevor Horn of the band the Buggles ("Video Killed the Radio Star") and South African singer/guitarist Trevor Rabin. At least one reunion didn't even use the Yes name, opting instead for the moniker Anderson-Bruford-Wakeman-Howe when it was determined that Squire had legal rights to the Yes name. Still, in the spirit of camaraderie, Anderson offered his vocal support to his bandmates' own solo endeavors, specifically drummer Alan White's Ramshackled and, later, guitarist Steve Howe's Portraits of Bob Dylan

* Anderson may have ventured the furthest from the Yes brand when he teamed with Greek musician/composer Evangelos Papathanassiou, otherwise known as Vangelis. Having gained fame as the composer of the theme from Chariots of Fire, Vangelis was once considered a candidate to take Rick Wakeman's place in Yes following Wakeman's departure. Even though that opportunity fell through, Anderson still agreed to partner with Vangelis on several of the keyboardist's individual outings. The pair later expanded their collaboration, releasing several efforts in tandem during Anderson's extended sabbatical from Yes in the early '80s. They even managed to place a few chart hits -- "I Hear You Now," "I'll Find My Way Home," and "The Friends of Mr. Cairo." 

Inevitably, though, whether it's Yes or no, the prolific Mr. Anderson was certainly done all right.

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Lee Zimmerman