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John Roy "Jon" Anderson (born 25 October 1944) is an English singer-songwriter and musician best known as the co-founder and former lead vocalist in the progressive rock band Yes and his solo career, for which he has collaborated with numerous artists.
Anderson was born John Roy Anderson in the town of Accrington in Lancashire, in north west England. His father Albert was from Scotland and his mother Kathleen was of Irish ancestry. Anderson dropped the "h" from his first name in 1970. Anderson attended St. John's Infants School in Accrington. There he made a tentative start to a musical career, playing the washboard in Little John's Skiffle Group who performed songs by Lonnie Donegan, among others. After leaving school at the age of fifteen, Anderson landed a series of jobs including farm hand, lorry driver, and a milkman. He tried to pursue a football career at Accrington Stanley F.C., but at 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m) tall he was turned down because of his frail constitution. He remains a fan of the club.
1962-68: Early career:
In 1962, Anderson joined The Warriors (also known as The Electric 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, One of which was a cover of The Association's "Never My Love". One of Anderson's first producers at EMI was songwriter Paul Korda.
1968-80: Forming Yes and start of solo career:
In early 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. Although the band had no formal leader, Anderson served as its main motivating force in the early days, doing most of the hustling for gigs and originating most of the songs.
In 1970, Anderson appeared as a featured guest singer with King Crimson on "Prince Rupert Awakes", the first part of the title track of their Lizard album. The tune was outside the range of the group's then-vocalist, Gordon Haskell.
Anderson played a key part in initiating some of the band's more ambitious artistic ideas, serving as the main instigator of some of the band's more popular songs, including "Close to the Edge", "The Gates of Delirium", and "Awaken", and the concept behind Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973). Despite his own initial lack of instrumental skills, Anderson was strongly involved in the selection of successive Yes members chosen for their musicality - guitarist Steve Howe (who replaced Banks in 1970), Kaye's successive replacements Rick Wakeman and Patrick Moraz, and drummer Alan White, who replaced Bruford in 1972. Ambitious and stubborn (he was sometimes referred to as "the hippie with the iron hand") Anderson was also fond of sonic and psychological creative experiments, and in so doing contributed to occasionally conflicted relationships within the band and with management. One celebrated example of Anderson's approach was his original desire to record Tales from Topographic Oceans in the middle of the woods: instead, when the band opted to use a standard recording studio Anderson decided to arrange hay and animal cut-outs all over the floor to create atmosphere.
In 1975, Anderson co-wrote "Pearly Gates" on Iron Butterfly's album Scorching Beauty and sang on "So Long Ago, So Clear" on Vangelis' album Heaven and Hell. Anderson released his first solo album, Olias of Sunhillow, in 1976, playing all the instruments himself.
In 1979, Anderson composed the score for a ballet, Ursprung which was part of a grouping of three dance works, collectively entitled Underground Rumours, commissioned and performed by The Scottish Ballet. The choreographer was Royston Maldoom, the theatrical set and costume designer was Graham Bowers, and the lighting designer was David Hersey. The principal dancers were Andrea Durant and Paul Russell.
In 1979, Anderson started recording again with Vangelis; this resulted in the first Jon & Vangelis album, Short Stories (1980).
Anderson stayed with Yes until a "bitter dispute" in March 1980.
1980-90: Solo career, return to Yes, and ABWH:
Following his departure from Yes, Anderson started work on his second solo album Song of Seven, released in November 1980 and supported by a UK tour with The New Life Band. In 1981, he appeared on Wakeman's concept album 1984 (1981) and released an album with Vangelis in July 1981, The Friends of Mr Cairo. The album produced two singles, "I'll Find My Way Home" and "State of Independence" which peaked at No. 67 in the UK. The album was also notable for the title track, which was an ode to classic Hollywood gangster films of the 1930s and 1940s with voice impressions of Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre and James Stewart which paid homage to The Maltese Falcon (1941). In 1982, Anderson released Animation and in 1983, appeared on "In High Places" and "Shine" from Crises by Mike Oldfield. Also that year, he performed with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and attempted to form a band with Wakeman and Keith Emerson, but it fell through.
In 1983, Anderson returned to Yes and sung on their best-selling album, 90125 (1983), and its follow-up, Big Generator (1987).
Anderson appeared on the song "Cage of Freedom" from the 1984 soundtrack for a re-release of the Fritz Lang film Metropolis. In 1985, his song "This Time It Was Really Right" was featured on the soundtrack for St. Elmo's Fire. He also sang "Silver Train" and "Christie" on the soundtrack to Scream for Help. Along with Tangerine Dream, he appeared on the song "Loved by the Sun" for Legend (1985). Anderson released a Christmas-themed solo album, 3 Ships (1985). Biggles: Adventures in Time (1986) features a song sung by Anderson. During this year, he recorded some demo tracks that would later be reworked. He and Vangelis also started writing new songs and recording demos for another album. Though the album was not made, they performed live together on 6 November 1986. The last three years of the 1980s saw Anderson sing on "Moonlight Desires" on Gowan's album Great Dirty World (1987), record his fifth solo album In the City of Angels, sing on "Stop Loving You" on the Toto album The Seventh One (1988), and recorded an album that would later be released as The Lost Tapes of Opio. He also sang on the songs "Within the Lost World" and "Far Far Cry" for the Jonathan Elias album Requiem for the Americas.
In 1988, after Yes' Big Generator tour, Anderson reunited with Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe to form Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe with bassist Tony Levin, who recorded one album and supported a successful world tour.
1990-2004: Yes and solo career:
In 1990, after the ABWH tour, 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 the Yes had been working on without Anderson. A successful tour followed.
Jon and Vangelis released their fourth album, Page of Life, in 1991. 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". He planned to release an Ancient America-influenced solo album called The Power of Silence in 1993, but it was not released due to issues with Geffen Records. He also toured South America with a band that included his daughters, Deborah and Jade. He appeared on the song "Along The Amazon" which he co-wrote for violinist Charlie Bisharat's album of the same name. He also recorded an orchestral solo album called Change We Must in 1993; it was released the following year.
From 1992 to 1994, Anderson recorded the Yes album Talk (1994). "Walls", written by Rabin and Roger Hodgson, reached number 24 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Also in 1994, Anderson released a solo album of Latino-influenced music called Deseo. There were plans to release a live album called The Best of South America, but it was not released due to management issues (though some copies were already released by Yes Magazine). Anderson sang on the 7th Level children's video game Tuneland. Also, his son Damion released a single called "Close 2 the Hype", which featured him and Jon on vocals. The next year, Anderson released Angels Embrace and spoke of a plan to tour and record in China, but this idea was soon abandoned in favour of focusing on work with Yes. In 1996, The Power of Silence was released under the title Toltec. This release included sound effects that were not on the original recording. Anderson also played a Mother's Day concert in San Luis Obispo.
1997 saw Anderson recording and releasing a Celtic-influenced solo album called The Promise Ring, around the time he married Jane Luttenberger. During their honeymoon, Earthmotherearth was recorded and later released, followed in 1998 by an album called The More You Know that Jon and Jane recorded in Paris, France, with Francis Jocky. Anderson appeared on the song "The Only Thing I Need" by act 4Him in 1999; it was recorded for a multi-group album called "Streams". Steve Howe's tribute album Portraits of Bob Dylan also featured a cover of the Bob Dylan song, "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands", with Jon's vocals. He also recorded with a band called The Fellowship on the album In Elven Lands, inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.
In 2000, Anderson and then-Yes keyboardist Igor Khoroshev worked on an album called True You, True Me. A tour was to commence in 2001, but due to Khoroshev's sexual assault charges during Yes's 2000 Masterworks Tour, the project was shelved. In 2002, Anderson started recording songs for a project called The Big If, which has not been released (as of 2015).
2004-present: Solo career:
In 2004, he appeared with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra of Cleveland. The concert was recorded but only released to the orchestra members. He also recorded live on XM Satellite Radio in Washington, D.C. on 1 April. This show was released on a DVD called Tour of the Universe in 2005, which incorporated visual effects. This release coincided with the release of Jon Anderson's single "State of Independence".
Anderson's earlier albums Olias of Sunhillow and Song of Seven were re-issued in 2006. 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 Elven Lands, an album containing Anderson's recordings with The Fellowship, was also released as were the first seven volumes of a box set called The Lost Tapes. Also in 2006, Anderson appeared with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (East Coast Troupe) during two 16 December shows in Philadelphia 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. During that year, Anderson also toured both the USA and England with The Paul Green School of Rock Music. Anderson's 1985 Christmas album 3 Ships was also released on CD with bonus tracks.
The year 2008 saw an ambient album using Anderson's voice and bird song called From Me to You added to The Lost Tapes. Anderson appeared on the song "Sadness of Flowing" which he co-wrote for Peter Machajdík's album Namah and he made similar contributions to a re-mastering of Tommy Zvoncheck's album ZKG.
In 2009 Anderson played on a European tour called "Have Guitar, Will Travel". Later that year, his 1997 album EarthMotherEarth was re-released with bonus tracks. Rather than just have Jon Anderson's name, it was released under "Jon and Jane Anderson". In The City of Angels and Change We Must were also reprinted during this year.
Anderson played a series of shows in Canada and the United States in 2010. He and Rick Wakeman began an autumn tour of the UK at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, on 9 October. A sample of Anderson's vocals from Mike Oldfield's "In High Places" is prominently featured in Kanye West's 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in the opening track "Dark Fantasy".
In October 2010, as Anderson/Wakeman, Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman released a joint album entitled The Living Tree. Initially sold only as a souvenir during their "The Anderson Wakeman Project 360" UK tour in Autumn 2010, the album was later made available to the public in November 2010.
In March 2011, Anderson played a rendition of "Owner of a Lonely Heart" with the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA) Philharmonic of San Antonio, TX.
In June 2011, Anderson released Survival & Other Stories, his fourteenth solo album.
In October 2011, Anderson released a single-track album entitled Open, featuring orchestration by Stefan Podell.
In late 2012, Anderson launched a site for Zamran Experience, his next concept album. It is to be a sequel of Olias of Sunhillow.
On 28 March 2013, Anderson embarked on an 8-date Australia spring tour, 40 years since Yes' first tour down under in March 1973, followed by a one-off performance at a spring festival in Canada (Rouyn-Noranda, QC), a 4-date short Europe summer tour and 2 separate shows in fall 2013, one in Florida (Miami Beach) and the other in Iceland (Reykjavík) as his very first visit in this country.
On 15 February 2014, Anderson embarked on a 2-month North America tour including a "Progressive Nation At Sea 2014" cruise (50-minute) performance that ended on 24 April 2014. After two shows in the US (on 16 August 2014 in Chesterfield, Missouri and on 31 August 2014 in Avila Beach, California), Jon completed a 5-date South America tour in October 2014. Two North America shows are yet scheduled for November 2014 (in San Francisco, CA and Las Vegas, NV).
In October 2014, Anderson announced the release on 19 October 2014 of a new Jon Anderson & Matt Malley charity single entitled "The Family Circle".
On 25 July 2014, Anderson announced the formation of a new ensemble, the Anderson Ponty Band, with French violinist and jazz composer Jean-Luc Ponty and the recording of an album. The band was announced with a line-up of Jamie Dunlap on guitars, Wally Minko on keyboards, Baron Browne on bass and Rayford Griffin on drums & percussion. An earlier line-up with Michael Lewis on guitar was dropped. The band has re-visited the music created by Anderson and Ponty over the years with new arrangements while creating new compositions as well. In September 2015, the Anderson Ponty Band released their debut (live) album, Better Late Than Never (as a CD with a bonus DVD), the partial recording of their debut public performance on 20 September 2014 at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado.
On 11 January 2016 Anderson announced, via his official Facebook page, that the Anderson Ponty Band will be touring the US and Europe in the first half of 2016 up until the end of the summer. He also announced that the long-anticipated Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman project will performing live dates at the end of the year, something Rabin has also alluded to on social media in recent weeks and Wakeman has confirmed via his January 2016 website update.
It is a commonly held misconception that Anderson sings falsetto, a vocal technique which artificially produces high, airy notes by using only the ligamentous edges of the vocal cords; however, this is not the case. Anderson's normal singing/speaking voice is naturally above the tenor range. In a 2008 interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Anderson 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 Lancashire accent.
Anderson is also responsible for most of the mystically themed lyrics and concepts which are part of many Yes releases. These have occasionally alienated some members of the band (most notably drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist 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.
Anderson married Jennifer Baker in 1970, and they divorced in 1995. They have three children: daughter Deborah Anderson (b. 1970), son Damion Anderson (b. 1972), and daughter Jade Anderson (b. 1980). He married Jane Luttenberger in 1997.
Deborah Anderson sang on her father's solo album Song of Seven, sang background vocals on Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, and more recently has sung for the French electronica band Télépopmusik on the album Angel Milk (released 2005); she also works as a photographer. Damion Anderson spoke the final lines in the Yes song "Circus of Heaven" which appeared on Tormato, and is also a musician; he released the EP Close to the Hype ("C2T Hype") in 1994 with his father (remixes). Jade Anderson's birth is celebrated in her father's song "Animation" on the album of the same name, and she sang back-up vocals on many of his later albums. She has released a solo album in Japan.
In 2009, Anderson became an American citizen after 25 years living in the country.
Health and spirituality:
Anderson was a smoker in the 1960s and 1970s, but now prides himself on a much healthier lifestyle. In the mid-1970s, Anderson became a vegetarian, as did most members of Yes; however, in an interview he stated, "I was a veggie for a while, but again I grew out of that. But I do eat very healthy." In a 16 August 2006 interview on The Howard Stern Show, Anderson said he eats meat, mostly fish, on occasion. In the interview, he also stated he had a spiritual adviser that "helped him see into the fourth dimension". Before live performances, he often meditates in a tent with crystals and dreamcatchers, a practice he started in the 1980s. Anderson's religious beliefs are syncretic and varied, including respect for the Divine Mother Audrey Kitagawa. He has worked with the Contemporary Christian music band 4HIM: in 1999, his vocal was featured on the song "The Only Thing I Need", which appeared on a 'various artists' CD entitled Streams.
One of Anderson's passions is painting, and he uses his art as another channel for his creativity and self-expression. His artwork is available to view on his official website. He lived in France with Jennifer Baker at a farm in Saint-Paul de Vence for over five years from the very late 1970s, becoming friend of painters Marc Chagall and André Verdet, nearest neighbours (inspiring some of his songs and musical themes). In 1990 he returned in France to record demos between Le Domaine de Miraval still in Provence at Le Val and Paris, this time with ABWH for the perspective of an hypothetical second album.
On 13 May 2008, Anderson suffered a severe asthma attack which required a stay in hospital. According to Yes' website, he was later "at home and resting comfortably." Yes' planned summer 2008 tour was subsequently cancelled, with the press release saying, "Jon Anderson was admitted to the hospital last month after suffering a severe asthma attack. He was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure and was told by doctors to rest and not work for a period of at least six months." Further health problems continued through 2008. In September 2008, Anderson wrote that he's "so much better...so grateful and so blessed...I look forward to 2009 for the "Great Work" to come." He started singing again in early 2009. In 2009, he returned to touring (solo), performed along with Peter Machajdík and an ensemble of Slovakian musicians on Tribute To Freedom, an event to commemorate the fall of the Iron Curtain in former Czechoslovakia at Devin Castle near Bratislava, Slovakia, and continued touring in 2010 and the autumn of 2011, with Rick Wakeman for a UK tour (2010) and the eastern US (2011).