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Original Yes Guitarist Peter Banks Dead at 65

Guitarist Peter Banks, a founding member of Yes, died of heart failure March 7 at his home in London. He was 65.

A statement on Banks' website said he was found in his home after he failed to show up for a recording session.

Yes — who are in the middle of a US tour — released a statement on their Facebook page, mourning the loss of the band's founding guitarist:

"We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of fellow bandmate and founding Yes member, Peter Banks. He was a huge piece of the fabric that made Yes what it is, and our thoughts, sincere condolences, and prayers are with him and his family. Peter, we shall miss you greatly."

Banks, a pioneer of prog-rock guitar, has been called "The Architect of Progressive Music" by the BBC. In a February 2009 edition of Gibson Guitar's Lifestyle e-magazine, Banks is listed as one of the "10 Great Prog Rock Guitarists."

Quoting the column: "Before there was Steve Howe, there was Peter Banks. Artistic differences between Banks and singer Jon Anderson prompted Banks’s departure from Yes in 1970, but in his little-known '70s band, Flash, Banks used an ES-335 to create several should-have-been prog rock classics. 'Lifetime,' from Flash’s In the Can album, is his tour-de-force."

After playing with bassist Chris Squire in the Syn, Banks and Squire formed Yes in 1968. His playing can be heard on Yes' first two albums, 1969's Yes and 1970's Time And a Word. During the recording of Time And a Word, singer Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire wanted an orchestra to back the five members of the band. Banks wasn't into the idea at all, and things got worse when the orchestral arrangements left him with very little to do. Not long after the album was released, Banks was asked to leave Yes. He was replaced by Steve Howe.

Besides his work with Yes, Banks recorded albums with his '70s band, Flash, and with Empire and has released several solo albums, starting with 1973's Two Sides of Peter Banks. His most recent appearances on record can be heard on three compilation albums from 2012: The Prog Collective, Songs of the Century: An All-Star Tribute to Supertramp and Who Are You: An All-Star Tribute To The Who.

RollingStone.com reports that Banks was working on the live collection Flash: In Public at the time of his death.

CLICK HERE to check out Banks with Yes in 1969 (Sorry, we can't embed this video!).

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas (opens in new tab), was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron (opens in new tab), a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (opens in new tab). He now plays in two NYC-area bands.