Possessing one of the most distinctive voices in rock music, Jon Anderson is a founding member of the progressive rock group Yes, which through many incarnations has maintained a loyal audience since the late '60s. Anderson has also pursued a varied solo career and collaborated with artists like Vangelis, Mike Oldfield, and Kitaro.
Born John Roy Anderson, he formed his first band, Little John's Skiffle Group, at age ten. After leaving school to help support his family, Anderson joined his first proper group, the Warriors (active 1962 - 1967). He also recorded under the name Hans Christian Anderson. Early in 1968, Anderson met bassist Chris Squire; by that summer, the two had formed Yes, which got some early attention opening for Cream at their November 1968 farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall. By the following year, Yes had released their first single, "Sweetness," and eponymous first album. Later that year, they recorded their second album, Time and a Word, supplemented by an orchestra.
But it was with the arrival of Rick Wakeman that Yes developed the sound for which they became known, combining soaring, multi-part vocal harmonies with complex, extended song structures and virtuoso instrumental work. The 1972 albums Fragile and Close to the Edge both entered the Top Ten — the former producing one of the group's standards, "Roundabout" — and Yes remained best-selling artists through most of the 1970s. Anderson released his first solo album, Olias of Sunhillow, in 1976. The year before, he had made his first recording with the Greek keyboardist Vangelis; the collaboration later bore fruit with a series of albums, including Short Stories (1980) and Page of Life (1991).
The punk revolution of the late '70s had cut into Yes' popularity and after they recorded a couple more straightforward rock albums, Anderson left the band for a few years, returning in 1983 for the album 90125, which spawned their first number one single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart." Further acrimony broke the group up again in 1988, leading to a single recording by Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe in 1989. But Yes re-emerged in 1991 with the album Union and carried on into the 1990s, playing concerts and making studio recordings like the two Keys to Ascension albums (1996 and 1997) and The Ladder (1999).
Anderson's solo efforts have explored many styles, including South American (1994's Deseo) and Celtic (1997's The Promise Ring). He worked with the London Chamber Academy for his album Change We Must (1994), and the orchestral theme re-emerged in 2001 when Yes embarked on the Yessymphonic Tour and recorded the album Magnification with a symphony orchestra.