Alan White, 72, the longtime drummer for progressive rock pioneer Yes who also played on projects with John Lennon and George Harrison, died at his Seattle-area home Thursday after a brief illness. Just days earlier, Yes had announced that due to health issues White would not take part in the band’s upcoming tour of the United Kingdom to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic album “Close to the Edge.”
White joined Yes in 1972, replacing original drummer Bill Bruford. In a band noted for frequent lineup changes, White became an enduring presence and in 2017 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Yes. White stayed with the band through its many iterations. Following another lineup change, Yes, with White still behind the drum kit, reinvented itself in the 1980s as a harder-edged band that appealed to younger listeners more attuned to heavy metal and the visual cues of music videos. In 1983 Yes released the smash hit album “90125.”
A longtime Seattle-area resident, White was born in Pelton, County Durham, England, in 1949. His family said he began piano lessons at age 6 and playing the drums when he was 12.
White played with bands in England throughout the 1960s. In 1969, he was asked by John Lennon to join his Plastic Ono Band. In an interview with The Seattle Times in 2021, White said he thought the call from the famous Beatle was a prank. “A voice announced, ‘Hello, this is John Lennon,’ ” White said. “I thought it was a mate pulling my leg, put the receiver down, and went back to the kitchen.”
Ray Liotta, 67, an actor best known for his menacing, tough-guy roles in “Something Wild” and the mob drama “Goodfellas” who also had a significant supporting part in the baseball fantasy film “Field of Dreams,” was found dead Thursday in the Dominican Republic, where he was making a movie. His publicist, Jennifer Allen, confirmed the death but could not provide further details.
Liotta worked on daytime soap operas and other television dramas before he had his breakout role as an ex-convict in “Something Wild” (1986), directed by Jonathan Demme. Critic Roger Ebert called him “mesmerizing as the evil husband with vengeance on his mind,” and Liotta’s role became a template for the kind of volatile, charismatic character that would define his career.
In 1989, he played the ghostly embodiment of Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams,” depicting the real-life player who was banned from the game for betting on the 1919 World Series. But the centerpiece of Liotta’s career came in 1990 with “Goodfellas,” directed by Martin Scorsese and based on a nonfiction book, “Wiseguy,” by crime journalist Nicholas Pileggi. Liotta played Henry Hill, an Irish-Italian hoodlum in the 1950s and 1960s whose ambition was to become a member of the New York mob. In the film, which also starred Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, Liotta could explode in cackling laughter or maintain a glaring, stony silence, never far away from a sudden outburst of violence.
Thomas S. Murphy, 96, a farsighted executive who built Capital Cities Communications into a media juggernaut, shocking the business world when he engineered the $3.5 billion acquisition of ABC in 1985 and then oversaw his company’s blockbuster merger with Disney a decade later, died Wednesday at his home in Rye, New York.
Judging by stock price alone, his leadership was phenomenally successful. Between 1957 — when Capital Cities went public — and 1995, when Murphy arranged the merger with Disney for $19 billion, shareholders saw their investment increase in value 2,000 times. But beyond his efforts to improve the bottom line, he was also admired for building a corporate culture that emphasized ethical behavior, and for philanthropic work that included leading the humanitarian group Save the Children for seven years as board chairman.
John Thompson, 95, the first general manager in Seahawks history, who helped oversee the selection of the team’s nickname and colors as well as the hiring of first coach Jack Patera, died Tuesday morning in Las Vegas, his son, Mike, told The Seattle Times. A cause of death was not immediately available.
Thompson, who was born May 19, 1927, and grew up in South Bend, Pacific County, where he was valedictorian of his high school class at age 16 and later attended the University of Washington, was hired as general manager of the Seahawks on March 6, 1975, and held that position until October 1982. “That was his dream job,” Mike Thompson said.
The Thompson-Patera partnership proved to be an initial rousing success as the Seahawks had both the best records at the time for a second-year expansion team (5-9 in 1977) and third-year (9-7 in 1978). Patera was named NFL Coach of the Year following the 1978 season and Thompson named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News. The Seahawks went 9-7 again in 1979 keyed by an explosive offense led by quarterback Jim Zorn and receiver Steve Largent as the Kingdome earned a reputation for being one of the loudest NFL stadiums. The good times faded over the next few years as the Seahawks dropped to 4-12 in 1980 and 6-10 in 1981.
Mike Thompson said his father watched every second of the Super Bowl win in 2014. “He said, ‘That’s my baby,’ ” as the Seahawks won what remains their only title so far. “He was proud.”
Hazel Henderson, 89, the British-born environmental activist and futurist author, who successfully campaigned for new restrictions on air pollution, notably after smog blanketed New York City over Thanksgiving weekend in 1966, died May 22 at her home in St. Augustine, Florida. The cause was complications from cancer.
Henderson went on to spend decades campaigning for social change, turning from air pollution to broader issues of environmental justice, gender equality and economic development. A self-described “independent, self-employed futurist,” she wrote nine books, published a syndicated newspaper column and lectured around the world, influencing political activists such as Ralph Nader, who cited her work while running for president in 2000 as the Green Party nominee.
Colin Cantwell, 90, a concept artist, animator and computer engineer who helped bring the “Star Wars” universe to life, designing and building prototypes for a fleet of epic spacecraft — from the menacing TIE fighter to the elegant, dart-shaped X-wing — and giving the Death Star its alien look and fatal flaw (a trench), died May 21 at his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The cause was dementia.
A veteran of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he created educational programs to teach the public about early space launches, Cantwell went on to work with directors including Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, developing miniatures, computer graphics and other visual effects for movies including “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” (1979). He also worked on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “WarGames.”
Roger Angell, 101, the elegant and thoughtful baseball writer who was widely considered among the best America has produced, died May 20 at his home in Manhattan. The cause was congestive heart failure, his wife, Margaret Moorman, said.
The baseball season didn’t seem complete until, as he did late each fall, Angell wrapped up its multiple meanings in a long New Yorker article. The New Yorker was, to some degree, the family shop. Angell’s mother, Katharine Sergeant Angell White, was among the magazine’s first editors hired by Harold Ross in 1925. His stepfather, the essayist E.B. White, was a frequent contributor.
Angell published his first piece in the magazine, a short story, in 1944 and went to work there in 1956, becoming a fiction editor, discovering and nurturing writers, including Ann Beattie, Bobbie Ann Mason and Garrison Keillor. A baseball fan, he was asked by William Shawn, the magazine’s editor, to “go down to spring training and see what you find.”
Angell’s voice was original because he wrote more like a fan than a sports journalist, loading his articles with inventive imagery. He wrote well into his 90s. In 2014 he was awarded the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, the Baseball Hall of Fame’s honor for writers. In 2015, when he was 94, he published a collection of essays, holiday poems and other writings titled “This Old Man.”
Kristine Gebbie, 78, who was named by President Bill Clinton as the country’s first coordinator of AIDS policy in 1993, then left the post after a year, saying the job was poorly defined and had little real authority, died May 17 at a hospital in Adelaide, Australia. The cause was cancer.
With a background in nursing and education, Gebbie was the top public health official in the states of Oregon and Washington before joining the Clinton administration as coordinator of the Office of National AIDS Policy. She was often described as the country’s “AIDS czar.” Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, had claimed the lives of about 200,000 Americans at the time and was the leading cause of death of people ages 25 to 44. It was particularly widespread among gay men.
Donald K. Ross, 78, one of consumer advocate Ralph Nader’s early associates who was an architect of the country’s first student-run public interest groups, and who later directed the Rockefeller Family Fund and led efforts to reform the juvenile legal system, died May 14 at a nursing facility in Salisbury, Connecticut. The cause was lymphoma.
Ross had been a Peace Corps volunteer and was a recent law school graduate when he joined Nader’s Public Citizen movement in 1970 as one of the first of the idealistic “Nader’s Raiders,” who aimed to improve environmental and consumer protections and to make corporate America more responsible to the public. Ross and Nader co-wrote “Action for a Change: A Student’s Manual for Public Interest Organizing,” which became a blueprint for launching consumer research groups on campuses across the country, looking to combine scientific research and legal advocacy to create a more informed citizenry and to bring awareness to public policy concerns.
James “Stocky” Edwards, 100, a Canadian fighter pilot and ace during World War II who was heralded as his nation’s “top gun” over the North African desert in 1942 and 1943, died May 14 in Comox, British Columbia.
With the rank of wing commander, Edwards shot down a confirmed 19 Luftwaffe fighter planes and scored many more “probables,” which were the aircraft he put out of action but did not see hit the ground. He also destroyed at least 12 more enemy warplanes at their desert bases before they could take to the air. In all, he flew 373 combat missions during World War II, mostly over North Africa but also to provide air support for the Allied landings in Italy in 1943 and 1944 and in Normandy on D-Day — June 6, 1944 — a rare “triple” among Allied pilots.
Ben Roy Mottelson, 95, an American-born physicist who shared the Nobel Prize for a groundbreaking explanation of the structure and behavior of the atomic nucleus, including its shape, its rotations and its oscillations, died May 13. His death was confirmed by Nordita, the Danish institute for theoretical physics where he was a professor emeritus. No additional details were provided.
Mottelson and his co-winners of the 1975 prize were honored for work that scientists regard as one of the landmarks in the development of nuclear physics. In what is still regarded as one of the crowning achievements of nuclear physics, Mottelson helped show, using arguments and techniques from quantum theory, how each individual constituent of the nucleus — each proton and each neutron — exerted an effect on the properties and character of the nucleus as a whole. And vice versa.
Robert J. Vlasic, 96, who by combining a keen sense for business with an even keener sense of humor turned his family business into the nation’s largest purveyor of pickles, gherkins, sauerkraut and a host of other briny condiments, died May 8 at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Vlasic Pickles entered the American pop-culture pantheon in 1974 with the debut of its mascot, the Vlasic stork. Improbably bedecked in a bow tie, pince-nez glasses and a mail carrier’s hat, he held a pickle like a cigar and cracked wise in a voice borrowed from Groucho Marx. “Now that’s the best-tasting pickle I ever hoid!” went one of his tag lines, delivered with a friendly leer and a wag of his pickle. “Ham up your ham! Make your toikey poiky!” went another.