The Rock Star and the ‘Priest’ — A Tale of Two Brothers

The Rock Star and the ‘Priest’ -- A Tale of Two Brothers

How Jon and Tony Anderson went in different directions; Jon became a prog-rock superstar, and Tony, a Pentecostal pastor and has produced a Christian album along with his wife, Suzanne, and their band, Stop 

By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service 

Jon Anderson speaking at r and r hall of fameACCRINGTON, UK (ANS – August 10, 2017) -- As one of the most recognizable voices in progressive rock and arguably the creative force behind the British super group, Yes, UK-born Jon Anderson has undoubtedly one of the most recognizable voices in rock music.

And now, Anderson, and the various incarnations of Yes, have finally been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the 32nd Annual induction ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 7, 2017, and also their version of the group – Yes with Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman -- are touring the world and attracting sell-out crowds.

Anderson was the author and a major inspirational 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.

Tony and Jon Anderson in Bournemouth smallerAdditionally, Jon Anderson co-authored some the group’s biggest hits, including “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Roundabout,” and “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” written primarily by guitarist Trevor Rabin, with contributions to the final version by singer Jon, bassist Chris Squire, and producer, Trevor Horn.

Born John Roy Anderson in the Lancashire town of Accrington, England, on October 25, 1944, to Albert and Kathleen Anderson, who were of Scottish (father) and Irish (mother) ancestry. Anderson dropped the “h” from his first name in 1970. Accrington, a former centre of the British cotton and textile machinery industries, is not known for producing rock stars like Jon, but it does have a soccer team called Accrington Stanley FC, which plays in League Two, the fourth tier of the English football league system, but despite that, and Anderson living now in the United States, he once told me that he is still an avid follower of the team.

Tony Anderson performing on the Isle of WightIn 1962, Jon joined The Warriors, where he and his almost-look-alike brother, Tony, shared the role of vocalists. He quit this band in 1967, released two solo singles in 1968 under the pseudonym Hans Christian Anderson, and then briefly sang for the band The Gun.

Later, Jon, who once composed a tribute song to his brother, called “Tony and Me,” met the late Yes bassist Chris Squire and joined him in a group originally called Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, which included guitarist Peter Banks.

He then went on to superstardom with Yes, when Anderson, Squire, Pete Banks, drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Tony Kaye, launched their eponymous debut album Yes, which was released in 1969.

Among the line-up changes were that Rick Wakeman replaced Kaye in 1971 and Alan White took over the drums from Bruford in 1972, while Steve Howe replaced Pete Banks.

WivesDuring the years to come, which was 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” and “catalyst,” nicknamed by his musical mates as “Napoleon” for his diminutive stature and strong leadership of the band) and is recognized as one of the main instigators of the series of epics produced by the “prog rock” band at the time.

Yes released 11 critically acclaimed albums (including one live album “Yessongs” and one early compilation “Yesterdays” between 1969 and 1979, including such classic titles as “Fragile” (which contained the band’s first hit “Roundabout”), “Close To The Edge”, “Tales From The Topographic Oceans”, “Relayer” and “Going For The One.”

I have a humorous story about the release of “Fragile,” the first Yes album that keyboard legend, Rick Wakeman, played on. Each band member was given a place on the album cover to thank friends who had helped them in their careers, and Rick accidentally gave me two mentions, while Elton John and David Bowie only got one. If you happened to still have that cover, check out the insert from Rick. He also, for some reason, thanks to his dog at the time.

On May 13, 2008, Jon suffered a severe asthma attack which required a stay in hospital and that ended his time with Yes, but as he slowly recovered, and he continued with a solo career, and also did a series of concerts with his old friend, Rick Wakeman, who had by now also left the band once again.

A Different Direction

Jon Anderson performingAt around the same time, his older brother, Tony, began moving in a completely different direction. He made a commitment to Jesus Christ, and eventually became an Elim Pentecostal Church minister on the beautiful Isle of Wight located off the British mainland – although Jon would tell people that Tony had become a “priest.”

In the meantime, Tony married his wife Sue (Suzanne), and Tony retired from that church some eight years ago and the two of them continue to minister as they share the Gospel and sing their songs to a wide variety of audiences.

“We both write songs and we’ve always loved worshiping the Lord and that’s the key to what we now do,” he told me in a trans-Atlantic interview some time back. “We go out speaking at different churches and often when we do, we take the songs that the Lord has given us to help support the Word that we’re sharing. Through all of this, I have learned that you never lose anything when you come to Jesus.

Why Tony gave up rock and roll

Tony smiled and then added, “I gave up the whole rock and roll business to follow Christ and yet, a few years ago, the Lord told me, ‘You’re going to form a rock band so you can go out to the pubs and clubs and sing about Me.’ So, we’ve been into prisons on the Isle of Wight and we sing at local pubs, community events and uphold the church outreaches… nothing big; we’re just so happy to get out there and sing.’”

In their latest musical project, Tony and Sue have just released a new Christian reflective CD, with their band, Stop, called ‘Songs of Eshcol,’ [Eshcol was one of three Amorite confederates of Abram in the Hebron area, who joined their forces with those of Abraham in pursuit of King Chedorlaomer and his armies who had taken Abram’s nephew Lot and others as captives. (Genesis 14:13-24)

Tony Anderson with brother and othersSue told me, “We have also produced a seasonal song called ‘Christmas Blu’, the latter with our band Stop.” [For more information either of these recordings, just send an e-mail to Sue at stopanderson41@gmail.com, and if you are with a radio station and would like to feature this music, she can give you details].

I then asked Tony if, as he looked quite a bit like his legendary brother, if people ever recognized him, and he replied, “Occasionally someone will say, ‘You remind me of someone’ and I tell them who that ‘someone’ might be. And also, through the years, I’d be at a cafe having a coffee and I’d be thinking about how I could share the gospel with someone and then one of Jon’s song will just come on the radio and I’ll say, ‘That’s my brother singing’. Then, I’ll tell them my story and it’s an opportunity to share about Jesus. Thank you, Jon, for giving me that opportunity!

“We love Jon so much and we saw him in Bournemouth where he was playing as part of ARW (Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman), and we had a wonderful couple of hours with him reminiscing, while Sue chatted with Jon’s wife, Jane. It was a really special time.”

Sue and Tony performingTony said that his brother’s voice was quite incredible, and added, “The Grace of God was evident. Even after his health setbacks, he sounded just like he did as a teenager. We just love each other to bits. When you’re as close as Jon and I are, nothing can separate us.”

Tony and Suzanne also recently made a visit to Accrington, where they met up with an older brother, Stuart Anderson, and his wife, Marilyn, and enjoyed some “pub grub” in the town where they were all born.

Spiritual tone to Jon’s music

Rick Wakeman and Jon AndersonI told Tony that I’d noticed that there’s quite a spiritual tone to his brother’s music these days.

“Yes, there is,” he replied. ‘He wrote a song called ‘Just One Man’ which is all about Jesus. He wrote it just after our sister Joy had died and he send me a message saying, ‘Tony. I’m sending you a lovely song about Jesus. You’ll love it.’ I’ve actually taken those words to a service or two because I said, ‘I just want to read you some beautiful words that my brother wrote.’ There are so many people praying for Jon and I do believe that he’s getting closer and closer to that time when he will say, ‘I am a Christian too.’”

Jon has worked with the Contemporary Christian music band 4HIM, and in 1999, his vocal was featured on the song “The Only Thing I Need,” which appeared on a “various artists” CD entitled Streams.

Caped Crusader cover useIf you would like more information about the couple’s music ministry, just go to http://stopband.weebly.com/, and for more about Jon Anderson, go to www.jonanderson.com. You can also watch and hear one of the beautiful songs recorded by Tony and Sue, called “I Will Sing,” by going to www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnsUYHYF81k

Note: Jon’s close band-mate, Rick Wakeman, has been a friend of mine for some 50 years now, and recently my authorized biography of Rick called “Caped Crusader, Rick Wakeman in the 1970s,” which has been updated and re-released, features material about Jon Anderson and Yes during that period, and carries a foreword by Sir Elton John. To order a copy, please go to https://www.amazon.com/Caped-Crusader-Rick-Wakeman-1970s/dp/1908728302

Photo captions: 1) Inductee Jon Anderson of Yes speaks onstage at the 32nd Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 7, 2017. 2) Tony Anderson playing guitar at a performance on the Isle of Wight. 3) Jon Anderson with his wife, Jane. 4) Tony Anderson with his band, including wife Suzanne (right) and Mark Collins, Bass Guitar, and 2nd Lead Guitar. 5) Tony Anderson (far right) and Suzanne Anderson (far left) in Accrington, where they met up with an older brother, Stuart Anderson, and his wife, Marilyn, and enjoyed some “pub grub” in the town where the boys were born. 5) Caped Crusader cover. 6) Dan and Norma with Jon Anderson after an ARW show in Anaheim, California.

Dan and Norma Wooding with Jon Anderson in AnaheimAbout the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning author, broadcaster, and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 54 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Besides running the ASSIST News Service, he has written some 45 books and hosts a weekly radio show and two TV programs in Southern California. Before moving to the United States in 1982, Dan was a senior reporter with two of the UK’s largest-circulation newspapers, Sunday People, and Sunday Mirror, and also specialized in writing about rock music in Britain at that time, interviewing and/or meeting with many of its rock legends such as David Bowie, Sir Elton John, Sir Cliff Richard, as well as Pete Townshend and John Entwistle of The Who.

For more information contact ASSIST News Service.

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