JON ANDERSON is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable voices in progressive rock as the lead vocalist and creative force behind Yes. Anderson was the author and a major creative influence behind the series of epics produced by Yes and his role in creating such complex pieces as "Close to the Edge", "Awaken", and especially "The Gates of Delirium" was central to the band's success. Additionally, Anderson co-authored the group's biggest hits, including "I've Seen All Good People," Roundabout," and "Owner Of A Lonely Heart."
Jon was born John Roy Anderson in Accrington, Lancashire, England, to Albert and Kathleen Anderson, who were of Irish ancestry. Anderson dropped the "h" from his first name in 1970.
In 1962, Anderson joined The Warriors, where he and his brother Tony shared the role of lead vocalist. He quit this band in 1967, released two solo singles in 1968 under the pseudonym Hans Christian Anderson, and then briefly sang for the bands The Gun and The Open Mind.
In March 1968, Anderson met bassist Chris Squire and joined him in a group called Mabel Greer's Toyshop, which had previously included guitarist Peter Banks. Anderson fronted this band, but ended up leaving again before the summer was over. He remarks on his website that his time with the band consisted of "too many drugs, not enough fun!".
Anderson, Squire, and Banks went on to form Yes, with drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Tony Kaye. Their debut album was released in 1969. He stayed with the group until 1980, and this period is now known as the classic period of Yes. Jon was a major creative force and band leader throughout the period (describing himself as the 'team captain'; nicknamed by his bandmates "Napoleon" for his diminutive stature and leadership of the band) and is recognized as the main instigator of the series of epics produced by Yes at the time. His role in creating such complex pieces as "Close to the Edge", "Awaken", and especially "The Gates of Delirium" is central, despite his limited instrumental abilities.
He rejoined a reformed Yes in 1983, which produced their most commercially successful album 90125 with newcomer Trevor Rabin, and departed again in 1988 over the band's continued pursuit of major commercial success and mainstream radio play. In 1989, Anderson and other former Yes members formed the group Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe (ABWH), augmented by bassist Tony Levin who had played with drummer Bill Bruford in King Crimson. After the successful first ABWH album, a series of business deals caused ABWH to reunite with the then-current members of Yes, who had been out of the public eye while searching for a new lead singer. The resulting eight-man band assumed the name Yes, and the album Union (1991) was assembled from various pieces of an in-progress second ABWH album as well as recordings that "Yes proper" had been working on, without Anderson. A successful tour followed, but the eight-man lineup of Yes never recorded a complete album together before splintering in 1992. Many more personnel changes followed, but Anderson has been with the band ever since. He appears on all Yes albums except their 1980 album Drama.
Vocal and lyrical style
It is a commonly held misconception that Jon Anderson sings falsetto, a vocal technique which artificially produces high, airy notes by using only the ligamentous edges of the vocal cords; however, Jon Anderson does not sing falsetto. His normal singing (and speaking) voice is naturally above the tenor range. In a 2008 interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jon stated, "I'm an alto tenor and I can sing certain high notes, but I could never sing falsetto, so I go and hit them high." He is also noted for singing in his original Lancastrian accent.
Anderson is also responsible for most of the mystically-themed lyrics and concepts which are part of many Yes releases. These elements are crucial components of the classic Yes sound, but have occasionally alienated some members of the band (most notably Bruford and Rick Wakeman), contributing to their leaving the group. The lyrics are frequently inspired by various books Anderson has enjoyed, from Tolstoy's War and Peace to Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. A footnote in Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi inspired an entire double album Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973). Recurring themes include environmentalism, pacifism and sun-worship.
In 1970 Anderson appeared as a featured guest singer on King Crimson's Lizard album, on the track "Prince Rupert Awakes". The tune was outside the range of the group's then-vocalist, Gordon Haskell.
In September 1975 Anderson appeared on the Vangelis album Heaven and Hell.
In 1979 Anderson composed the score for a ballet Ursprung. Ursprung was part of a grouping of three dance works collectively entitled Underground Rumours which was commissioned and performed by The Scottish Ballet. The choreographer was Royston Maldoom, the set and costume designer was Graham Bowers, and the lighting designer was David Hersey. The principal dancers were Andrea Durant and Paul Russell.
In early 1980 when Anderson and Wakeman left Yes, Anderson started recording again with Vangelis and by summer 1980 Jon & Vangelis had released Short Stories, followed in November by Jon's solo album Song of Seven and a major UK tour with The New Life Band.
In 1981 Anderson appeared on Rick Wakeman's concept album 1984.
In 1983 Anderson appeared on Mike Oldfield's "In High Places" from the album Crises as well as another song called "Shine". In 1983 Anderson also appeared with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.
In 1984 Anderson appeared on the song "Cage Of Freedom" from the 1984 soundtrack for a re-release of the silent Fritz Lang film Metropolis.
In 1985 Anderson's song "This Time it Was Really Right" was featured on the soundtrack for the movie St. Elmo's Fire. He also sang "Silver Train" and "Christie" on the film soundtrack Scream for Help. Along with Tangerine Dream Anderson appeared on the song "Loved by the Sun" for the film Legend directed by Ridley Scott.
The 1986 film Biggles: Adventures in Time features a song sung by Anderson.
In 1987 Anderson sang on "Moonlight Desires" on Gowan's album Great Dirty World.
In 1988 Anderson sang on "Stop Loving You" on the Toto album The Seventh One.
In 1992 Anderson appeared on Kitaro's album Dream, adding both lyrics and vocals to three songs: "Lady of Dreams", "Island of Life" and "Agreement".
In 1993 Anderson appeared on the song "Along The Amazon" which he co-wrote for guitarist Charlie Bisharat's album of the same name.
In 1994 Anderson sang on the 7th Level children's video game Tuneland.
In 1999 Anderson appeared on the song "The Only Thing I Need" by act 4Him; it was recorded for a multi-group album called "Streams".
In 2004 Anderson appeared with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra of Cleveland. The concert was recorded but only released to the orchestra members.
In 2006 Anderson's earlier album Animation was tardily released on CD to complaints about the professionalism of the sound. To some ears a later pressing used a better master, although the label "Voiceprint" denies any differences between the pressings.
In 2006 Anderson appeared with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (East Coast Troupe) during two December 16 shows in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to play "Roundabout".
In 2007 Anderson contributed vocals to an album Culture of Ascent by American progressive rock group Glass Hammer; and appeared as part of a vocal ensemble on the track "Repentance" from the Dream Theater album Systematic Chaos". In 2007 Anderson toured both the USA and England with The Paul Green School of Rock Music.
In 2008 Anderson appeared on the song "Sadness of Flowing" which he co-wrote for Peter Machajdik's album Namah. Anderson made similar contributions to a remastering of Tommy Zvoncheck's album "ZKG". One of Anderson's passions is his painting and he uses his art as yet another channel for his creativity and self expression. His artwork is available to view on his official website.
(Bio courtesy of Ted Kurland Associates)