How Discovering the Music of Yes as a Child Influenced My Life

“When will he go to sleep?” cried my parents every night. From the moment I was diagnosed with autism and epilepsy, sleep during traditional nighttime hours didn’t come easily to me. Was it because I didn’t want to miss anything, or were my neurons working overtime and could not be shut off to rest? Either way, the gift of autism with its companion epilepsy gave me insomnia to the point that nobody slept in our house at night.  

My father tried everything he could to entice me to close my eyes, and I am sure that I exhausted him greatly. In an effort to bore me into a trance with the hope that I would fall asleep, my father would lay with me in my Fisher-Price racing car bed, praying that his little boy would eventually pass out.

After fruitless hours of insomnia on my part, my father would load up the now ancient VHS player with movies that he hoped would lull me into a deep sleep. He figured that his favorite old Masterpiece Theatre episodes of The Six Wives of Henry VIII  from 1970 starring Keith Michel and Elizabeth R  from 1971 with Glenda Jackson should be the cure for insomnia for a five-year-old boy, but it proved to be the opposite as it brought out an interest in the Tudors for me.

With the apparent lack of success from the videos, Dad had to come up with a different formula to induce sleep without drugging me. Thus, he strapped me into my car seat and off we went on a nighttime tour of New Orleans. Oh, how beautiful were the lights on the Crescent City Connection, the magnificent bridge that crosses the mighty Mississippi River. I can only imagine how many miles he drove just to put me asleep.

During these nightly excursions, I would find myself listening to my father’s favorite music of artists from the 70s and 80s, but it was the music of Yes that was ingrained into my head during these nightly Long Distance Runarounds.

Maybe, deep down, I looked forward to the Roundabouts, knowing that they would turn into Wonderous Stories.

After a while, I became enthralled with Yes, and it’s interesting to think that it was the insomnia from autism that influenced my love for their music. I was infatuated with Yes so much so that I downloaded videos and CDs of the band so that I could take that late-night road trip at any time of the day. Yes made me feel like a different person, so I spent hours and hours every day in front of my computer listening to the music of Yes with the ethereal voice of Jon Anderson.  

Have you ever heard a piece of music that can take you to another dimension? As corny as this may sound, this is the way I feel when I am listening to the music of Yes. The music calms me and brings me to places that I have never been. I can hear the trickle of a soothing stream in Close to the Edge. I feel the beating warmth of Heart of the Sunrise and fell in love with the wishful aspirations of Soon.

Soon oh soon the light
Pass within and soothe the endless night
And wait here for you
Our reason to be here

Soon oh soon the time
All we move to gain will reach and calm
Our heart is open
Our reason to be here (Yes)

Soon brings me hope. Soon makes me feel that maybe there will be a cure for autism from a godly light. Soon there will be a time when I will be at peace and not display the anger that rages inside of me because of my affliction. And of course, there is the inspirational I’ve Seen All Good People. This musical piece, with its rising chorus and the addition of John Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance, lifts people up together.

Interestingly, this year is the 50th anniversary of the band. It all started in 1968 in a London pub when Jon Anderson met Chris Squire, a bassist, and decided to form a band. Anderson and Squire wanted instrumental music with vocal harmonies and were not interested in pop music. The initial lineup for Yes, in addition to Anderson and Squire, included Tony Kaye on keyboards, Peter Banks on guitar, and Bill Buford on drums.

Their music was described as ambitious, eclectic, and grandiose, which was later known as progressive rock. Progressive rock music is more of a musical form and has arrangements that are in line with classical music. The structure of the music is often abstract, allowing for conceptual images within the themes, which is what I like the most because of my inability to speakor should I say singout loud.

The lineup for Yes has changed many times over the years. Its classic lineup had Jon Anderson on vocals, Chris Squire on vocals and bass guitar, Steve Howe on vocals and guitar, Rick Wakeman on keyboards, and Alan White on drums. This was the lineup when I saw Yes in concert for the first time in Tampa in 2004. I was just ten years old.

This concert left such an impression on me that I can relive the moment and talk about it over and over again. It was such a special evening that I had with my Dad and Yes! I was beaming with joy as I anticipated their appearance on stage, which brought out the biggest smile ever. Typical of progressive rock performances, the stage was decorated elaborately with colorful balloons in the shapes of sea anemones.

The concert began with the rapid song Going for the One, and all of us in the arena became one with Yes. All ages from young to old, including the 10-year-old autistic kid, were singing along with the angelic voice of Jon Anderson, the Yes lead singer. Everyone’s troubles were removed, including mine, as the music of Yes temporarily made my autism vanish.

I swayed to the beautiful melodies just like everyone else in the concert hall. The words flew out of my mouth, even though my lips didn’t move. This is why I love listening to Yes.  

As Going for the One continued its crescendo, I was stimulated into rapid hand flapping, a sign of excitement among us autistic types. I was thrilled to see Yes, but a woman sitting behind us had a different interpretation as she thought that it was not right for me to be there. She pestered my father so much that he had to call security over to remove her. She obviously did not understand my love for the music of Yes.

Throughout the concert, I felt as though Jon Anderson was speaking directly to me. Perhaps his words were telling me that everything was going to be ok. I saw myself “traveling over the seas and the valleys” during my favorite song And You and I. I felt like I was strumming the acoustic guitar like Steve Howe in The Clap or dancing across the stage with the bass guitar like Chris Squire in Starship Trooper.

My head swayed back and forth as I visualized myself being a rock guitarist. I was truly in heaven during Alan White’s solo drum roll in Ritual, and I was awestruck by his profuse perspiration during the sounding of the kettle drums in the climax of that piece. Of course, Rick Wakeman’s electrifying keyboards in Turn of the Century made me feel like the lyrics in that song: “Oh, let life so transform me” hoping that the beautiful sounds would chase the autism away. I was sad to see it end.

Over the years, I have seen Yes perform three other times but with different lineups. These concerts had Rick Wakeman’s son Oliver on keyboards and Benoit David on lead vocals. Lucky for me, the venues were small, and I was able to see all of the musicians up close and personal. I am sure that I even had moments of eye-to-eye contact with Chris Squire as I stood directly below him at a New Orleans House of Blues concert when I was 15. It is so sad that he is longer with us so that others may have the lucky moment I had.

Is it not a cliché to say that “a piece of music” can change one’s life? However, I can say that I have been profoundly influenced by the music of Yes. Their music has stimulated my neurons to release exhilarating, as well as relaxing, substances. Yes transports me to a land that I never believed existed. More importantly, Yes and their concerts temporarily transforms me into a person without autism.



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I am a resilient and motivated writer who wishes to pursue opportunities in media through columns or blogs and author novels. I am a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and I have just graduated from Tulane University with a BA in English and Jewish Studies.

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ENGAGE IN THE CONVERSATION

How Discovering the Music of Yes as a Child Influenced My Life

“When will he go to sleep?” cried my parents every night. From the moment I was diagnosed with autism and epilepsy, sleep during traditional nighttime hours didn’t come easily to me. Was it because I didn’t want to miss anything, or were my neurons working overtime and could not be shut off to rest? Either way, the gift of autism with its companion epilepsy gave me insomnia to the point that nobody slept in our house at night.  

My father tried everything he could to entice me to close my eyes, and I am sure that I exhausted him greatly. In an effort to bore me into a trance with the hope that I would fall asleep, my father would lay with me in my Fisher-Price racing car bed, praying that his little boy would eventually pass out.

After fruitless hours of insomnia on my part, my father would load up the now ancient VHS player with movies that he hoped would lull me into a deep sleep. He figured that his favorite old Masterpiece Theatre episodes of The Six Wives of Henry VIII  from 1970 starring Keith Michel and Elizabeth R  from 1971 with Glenda Jackson should be the cure for insomnia for a five-year-old boy, but it proved to be the opposite as it brought out an interest in the Tudors for me.

With the apparent lack of success from the videos, Dad had to come up with a different formula to induce sleep without drugging me. Thus, he strapped me into my car seat and off we went on a nighttime tour of New Orleans. Oh, how beautiful were the lights on the Crescent City Connection, the magnificent bridge that crosses the mighty Mississippi River. I can only imagine how many miles he drove just to put me asleep.

During these nightly excursions, I would find myself listening to my father’s favorite music of artists from the 70s and 80s, but it was the music of Yes that was ingrained into my head during these nightly Long Distance Runarounds.

Maybe, deep down, I looked forward to the Roundabouts, knowing that they would turn into Wonderous Stories.

After a while, I became enthralled with Yes, and it’s interesting to think that it was the insomnia from autism that influenced my love for their music. I was infatuated with Yes so much so that I downloaded videos and CDs of the band so that I could take that late-night road trip at any time of the day. Yes made me feel like a different person, so I spent hours and hours every day in front of my computer listening to the music of Yes with the ethereal voice of Jon Anderson.  

Have you ever heard a piece of music that can take you to another dimension? As corny as this may sound, this is the way I feel when I am listening to the music of Yes. The music calms me and brings me to places that I have never been. I can hear the trickle of a soothing stream in Close to the Edge. I feel the beating warmth of Heart of the Sunrise and fell in love with the wishful aspirations of Soon.

Soon oh soon the light
Pass within and soothe the endless night
And wait here for you
Our reason to be here

Soon oh soon the time
All we move to gain will reach and calm
Our heart is open
Our reason to be here (Yes)

Soon brings me hope. Soon makes me feel that maybe there will be a cure for autism from a godly light. Soon there will be a time when I will be at peace and not display the anger that rages inside of me because of my affliction. And of course, there is the inspirational I’ve Seen All Good People. This musical piece, with its rising chorus and the addition of John Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance, lifts people up together.

Interestingly, this year is the 50th anniversary of the band. It all started in 1968 in a London pub when Jon Anderson met Chris Squire, a bassist, and decided to form a band. Anderson and Squire wanted instrumental music with vocal harmonies and were not interested in pop music. The initial lineup for Yes, in addition to Anderson and Squire, included Tony Kaye on keyboards, Peter Banks on guitar, and Bill Buford on drums.

Their music was described as ambitious, eclectic, and grandiose, which was later known as progressive rock. Progressive rock music is more of a musical form and has arrangements that are in line with classical music. The structure of the music is often abstract, allowing for conceptual images within the themes, which is what I like the most because of my inability to speakor should I say singout loud.

The lineup for Yes has changed many times over the years. Its classic lineup had Jon Anderson on vocals, Chris Squire on vocals and bass guitar, Steve Howe on vocals and guitar, Rick Wakeman on keyboards, and Alan White on drums. This was the lineup when I saw Yes in concert for the first time in Tampa in 2004. I was just ten years old.

This concert left such an impression on me that I can relive the moment and talk about it over and over again. It was such a special evening that I had with my Dad and Yes! I was beaming with joy as I anticipated their appearance on stage, which brought out the biggest smile ever. Typical of progressive rock performances, the stage was decorated elaborately with colorful balloons in the shapes of sea anemones.

The concert began with the rapid song Going for the One, and all of us in the arena became one with Yes. All ages from young to old, including the 10-year-old autistic kid, were singing along with the angelic voice of Jon Anderson, the Yes lead singer. Everyone’s troubles were removed, including mine, as the music of Yes temporarily made my autism vanish.

I swayed to the beautiful melodies just like everyone else in the concert hall. The words flew out of my mouth, even though my lips didn’t move. This is why I love listening to Yes.  

As Going for the One continued its crescendo, I was stimulated into rapid hand flapping, a sign of excitement among us autistic types. I was thrilled to see Yes, but a woman sitting behind us had a different interpretation as she thought that it was not right for me to be there. She pestered my father so much that he had to call security over to remove her. She obviously did not understand my love for the music of Yes.

Throughout the concert, I felt as though Jon Anderson was speaking directly to me. Perhaps his words were telling me that everything was going to be ok. I saw myself “traveling over the seas and the valleys” during my favorite song And You and I. I felt like I was strumming the acoustic guitar like Steve Howe in The Clap or dancing across the stage with the bass guitar like Chris Squire in Starship Trooper.

My head swayed back and forth as I visualized myself being a rock guitarist. I was truly in heaven during Alan White’s solo drum roll in Ritual, and I was awestruck by his profuse perspiration during the sounding of the kettle drums in the climax of that piece. Of course, Rick Wakeman’s electrifying keyboards in Turn of the Century made me feel like the lyrics in that song: “Oh, let life so transform me” hoping that the beautiful sounds would chase the autism away. I was sad to see it end.

Over the years, I have seen Yes perform three other times but with different lineups. These concerts had Rick Wakeman’s son Oliver on keyboards and Benoit David on lead vocals. Lucky for me, the venues were small, and I was able to see all of the musicians up close and personal. I am sure that I even had moments of eye-to-eye contact with Chris Squire as I stood directly below him at a New Orleans House of Blues concert when I was 15. It is so sad that he is longer with us so that others may have the lucky moment I had.

Is it not a cliché to say that “a piece of music” can change one’s life? However, I can say that I have been profoundly influenced by the music of Yes. Their music has stimulated my neurons to release exhilarating, as well as relaxing, substances. Yes transports me to a land that I never believed existed. More importantly, Yes and their concerts temporarily transforms me into a person without autism.



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