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Rick Wakeman

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Subject: Jon Anderson, Yes (band), The Living Tree (album), Lisztomania (film), Progressive rock
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Rick Wakeman

Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman in 2012.
Background information
Birth name Richard Christopher Wakeman
Born (1949-05-18) 18 May 1949
Perivale, London, England
Genres Progressive rock, classical, hard rock, ambient, new-age, Christian
Occupation(s) Keyboardist, composer, songwriter, television and radio presenter, author, actor
Instruments synthesizers)
Years active 1967–present
Labels A&M, Charisma, President, Voiceprint, Griffin, EMI, Music Fusion, Hot Productions, Studio T
Associated acts Yes, Strawbs, ABWH, David Bowie, Warhorse, Black Sabbath, Cat Stevens

Richard Christopher "Rick" Wakeman (born 18 May 1949) is an English keyboard player and composer best known for being the former keyboardist in the progressive rock band Yes. He is also known for his solo albums, contributing to the BBC comedy series Grumpy Old Men and for Rick's Place, his former radio show on Planet Rock that aired until December 2010.

Wakeman's music career began in 1969 when he left study at the Royal College of Music in favour of session music work. He went on to feature on songs by various artists including David Bowie, T. Rex, Elton John, Cat Stevens, and Black Sabbath.[1] In 1969, Wakeman joined Strawbs before his first and second stints in Yes from 1971–74 and 1976–80. He co-formed Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe in 1988 which led to his inclusion in a Yes line-up of eight members from 1990–92. He returned twice from 1995–97 and 2002–04.

Wakeman's solo career began in 1973. His most successful albums are his first three, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1973), Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974) and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1975). He has produced over 100 solo albums that have sold more than 50 million copies.[2] In November 2010, Wakeman was awarded the Spirit of Prog award at the annual Marshall Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards.[3]

He is the father of keyboardists Adam Wakeman and Oliver Wakeman.

Early life

Rick Wakeman was born on 18 May 1949 in the west London suburb of Perivale to Cyril Frank and Mildred Helen Wakeman.[4][5] He attended Little Wood Harden Infants School, Greenford, Middlesex, in 1954, followed by Drayton Manor Park Grammar School in 1959, in nearby Hanwell.[6] He started playing the piano at the age of 5 and purchased his first electronic keyboard at the age of 12.[7] At age 14, he began playing with a succession of semi-pro bands.[8] In 1968, Wakeman secured a place at the Royal College of Music, where he studied piano, clarinet, orchestration and modern music. He left a year later in favour of session music work.

Music career

Session work and the Strawbs (1969–71)

Wakeman became an active session musician. In June 1969, he played Mellotron on David Bowie's single "Space Oddity" for a session fee of £9.[9] He went on to play piano for Bowie's "Life on Mars?", "Changes" and "Oh! You Pretty Things" in April 1971 and "Absolute Beginners" in 1985. He also played the piano on the Cat Stevens' hit "Morning Has Broken". In 1971 he acquired an early Minimoog synthesiser, purchasing it at half price from actor Jack Wild who believed that it was defective because it only played one note at a time.[7][10]

In 1970 and 1971, Wakeman was part of the folk rock group Strawbs. His first appearance on an album sleeve was on Dragonfly, the group's second studio album released in February 1970. The band held a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on 11 July 1970 where Wakeman performed a solo piano piece named "Temperament of Mind". He received a standing ovation for his performance, and the track appeared on the band's live record released that year, Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios.[11] Wakeman appeared on the front page of Melody Maker soon after, which called him "Tomorrow's Superstar",[12] and composed the theme music to the television show Ask Aspel.[13] He remained in the Strawbs for a third album, From the Witchwood, but was beginning to feel that their association was causing both him and the Strawbs to creatively stagnate and, in mid-1971, he received a phone call from Chris Squire asking if he would like to play with Yes.[8]

Joining Yes and start of solo career (1971–75)

In 1971, Wakeman joined the Tony Kaye. His first concert with the group took place in Leicester on 30 September 1971.[14] He worked on the group's fourth, fifth and sixth studio albums – Fragile (1971), Close to the Edge (1972), and Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973). Wakeman, however, felt Tales from Topographic Oceans was pretentious and – despite its ambition – insubstantial. He disliked performing the album on tour, feeling the length of the songs inhibited the band from playing their more popular tracks. Following the tour, as the band began work on what would become Relayer (1974), Wakeman felt further alienated from the group. Disenchanted with the direction in which Yes was going, and already into a successful solo career, he left.

Wakeman produced his first three solo albums during his first run with Yes. On 23 January 1973,[15] he released The Six Wives of Henry VIII, an instrumental concept album based on his interpretations of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII, using keyboard instruments. The album was overall well received by critics. TIME magazine named the record one of the best pop albums of 1973.[16] In October 1975, the album was certified Gold.[17]

Rick Wakeman performing live 1976 at Western Springs in Auckland, New Zealand.

On 18 January 1974, Wakeman performed Journey to the Centre of the Earth, a forty-minute piece based on the Jules Verne novel of the same name, at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Combining rock with an orchestra and choir, the concert was recorded and released on 18 May, where it topped the UK album charts on entry for one week. The record became a multi-million dollar seller in six weeks.[18] The album was certified Gold in September 1974.[17]

In May 1975, Wakeman released The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, with the album performed live at the Empire Pool on ice. The show was well received but expensive to produce, consuming much of the income from sales of the album.[7][19] The album was also a worldwide success, reaching No.21 in the United States while going Gold (the third time a Wakeman record had achieved this) in Brazil, Japan and Australia.[20] The album has sold 12 million copies.[21]

In 1975, Wakeman produced the first of two soundtracks for films by Ken Russell, that being Lisztomania; Wakeman would go on to create the soundtrack for Crimes of Passion in 1984 in which he made a brief appearance in the film. In 1976, Wakeman produced and created the album No Earthly Connection in France. Another soundtrack made by Wakeman is The Burning, for the film of the same name in 1981, directed by Tony Mailan.

Rejoining Yes (1977–80)

Wakeman decided to return to Yes in 1977, announcing that he would play with Yes occasionally. His first album back with Yes was Going for the One. He remained until their next album, Tormato, a year later. He is reputed to have given the album its name by throwing a tomato at a showing of the art used for the album's cover.[22][23]

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe and Yes (1989–92)

In 1989, he joined with three fellow ex-Yes members to form Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe ("ABWH"). After ABWH's first album, some of the completed tracks for a planned second album were merged with tracks from an in-progress Yes album to create the album Union. Wakeman, along with the combined members of both bands then joined to form a Yes supergroup (made up of past and present members of Yes) for the subsequent tour in 1991. When the tour ended a year later, Wakeman left again.

Fourth run with Yes (1995–97)

He then returned in 1996 for the Keys to Ascension albums but left before the band could tour.

Fifth run with Yes and Hampton Court (2002–09)

In 2002, he rejoined Yes and stayed with the band until their 2004 35th Anniversary Tour. Wakeman was advised by doctors that it would be best to not do lengthy touring. Due to this, he left Yes because they said that they will continue lengthy touring, something Wakeman wanted nothing to do with any more. So, for the group's 2008 In The Present tour, Wakeman was replaced by his son, Oliver Wakeman.

In 2008, Wakeman toured with a solo show named Rick Wakeman's Grumpy Old Picture Show, featuring an evening of music and stories.

In May 2009, Wakeman performed The Six Wives of Henry VIII live at Hampton Court Palace for the first time, for two nights. The performance was recorded and released as The Six Wives of Henry VIII Live at Hampton Court Palace.

Recent years (2007–present)

On 22 August 2013, Arjen Lucassen announced that Rick Wakeman would be performing on keyboard as a guest on the upcoming Ayreon album The Theory of Everything.[24]

On 29 March 2014, Wakeman played the newly restored same-sex marriage in England and Wales.[25]

On 28 April 2014, at the Royal Albert Hall London Wakeman launched a 40th anniversary tour of the Journey to the Centre of the Earth album. Although the 1974 album had been a multi-million selling success very few live performances of the piece were played at the time. The 40th anniversary tour was to play on 14 different dates throughout the UK in 2014.


Wakeman performing at the Royal Albert Hall in aid of the Performing Right Society for Music Members' Benevolent Fund in 2009.

Although Wakeman is a noted player of the Minimoog and many later models of synthesiser, he is well known as a proponent (for a time) of the Mellotron – an analogue electronic musical instrument that uses a bank of pre-recorded magnetic tape strips, each of which is activated by a separate key on its keyboard and lasts approximately 8 seconds. Wakeman featured playing this instrument, to varying degrees, on the David Bowie track "Space Oddity", the Yes albums Fragile, Close to the Edge and Tales From Topographic Oceans, as well as the solo albums The Six Wives of Henry VIII and White Rock. An urban legend claims that Wakeman got so frustrated with one Mellotron that he poured petrol on it and set fire to it, but this was debunked in a 2010 interview.[26]

He subsequently worked with David Biro to develop the Birotron, which used the then popular 8-track cassette format rather than tape strips. Because of the advent of digital keyboards at that time, and expensive components used in the instruments' manufacture, the Birotron was never a commercial or technical success. Only 35 Birotrons were produced.[27] These days, he can be found with more modern instruments such as the Roland Fantom, Korg Kronos, Korg M3, and the Korg Oasys.

Other career endeavours

Wakeman appeared on Just a Minute in 2011.[28]

Personal life

Wakeman has been married four times. On 28 March 1970, Wakeman married Rosaline Woolford at twenty years of age,[29] and had two sons, Oliver (b. 26 February 1972) and Adam (b. 11 March 1974). They were divorced in 1977, and he married studio secretary Danielle Corminboeuf in January 1980, in the West Indies,[30] with whom he had one son, Benjamin (b. 1978).[31] He had a daughter, Jemma Kiera (b. 1983), with former Page 3 model Nina Carter[32] and the two married in 1984, followed by the birth of their son, Oscar (b. 1986).[33]

He had a renewal of his Christian faith,[34] which began around the time of his marriage to Carter.[34] They were divorced in December 2004.[35] He had a daughter, Manda (b. 9 May 1986), with his long-time friend, designer and seamstress Denise Gandrup, whom he first met in 1972. She designed many of Wakeman's stage outfits, including his famous capes.[36][37] In 2011, Wakeman married Rachel Kaufman.[38]

In his twenties, Wakeman suffered three heart attacks.[22] The first occurred after a performance of Journey to the Centre of the Earth at Crystal Palace Park on 27 July 1974. In 1980, he was misdiagnosed as having rheumatoid arthritis in his hands. He only found out in 2008 that the pain he was suffering was just due to overwork after a period of lack of keyboard practice.[39]

A former smoker and self-confessed alcoholic, Wakeman quit smoking in 1979 and has been teetotal since 1985.[38]

A Master Freemason, he is a member of Chelsea Lodge No. 3098, the membership of which is made up of entertainers.[40] In 2009, Wakeman became a Patron of Tech Music Schools. As of 2014, he is the King Rat of the showbusiness charity the Grand Order of Water Rats.[38] In 2014, he appeared in The Life of Rock with Brian Pern as himself.




  1. ^ I am Ozzy. Ozzy Osbourne with Chris Ayres. Grand Central Publishing/Hatchet Book Group. 2009. Pages 160-162. ISBN 978-0-446-56989-7. Wakeman plays on the song "Sabbra Cadabra" on the album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.
  2. ^ "INTERVIEW: Rick Wakeman's Grumpy Old Picture Show". Worthing Herald. 3 April 2008. Retrieved 12 July 2010. 
  3. ^ Johnston, Emma (11 November 2010). "AC/DC, Stones, Slash Win At Classic Rock Awards". Billboard. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  4. ^ Wooding, pp. 23–25
  5. ^ "Rick Wakeman Communication Centre – Biography". Retrieved 9 June 2010. 
  6. ^ Webber, Richard (24 April 2009). "Me and my school photo: Rick Wakeman remembers his first day at school". Daily Mail. Retrieved 6 May 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c Wright, Jeb (2009). "Henry at the Hampton: An Exclusive Interview with Rick Wakeman". Classic Rock Revisited. Retrieved 26 October 2009. 
  8. ^ a b  
  9. ^
  10. ^ A conversation with Rick Wakeman and Robert Moog in the 2004 documentary Moog.
  11. ^ Wooding, pp. 56–57.
  12. ^ Wooding, p. 58.
  13. ^ Wooding, p. 66.
  14. ^ Wooding, p. 73.
  15. ^ Wooding, pp. 98–108.
  16. ^ "Music: The Year's Best". Time Magazine. 31 December 1973. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  17. ^ a b "RIAA – Gold and Platinum Search". RIAA. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  18. ^ "Music: Rock Goes to College". Time Magazine. 23 September 1974. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  19. ^ Miller, Jonathan (November 1995). "Rick Wakeman: Cirque Surreal". Sound On Sound. Retrieved 26 October 2009. 
  20. ^ Live on the Test (1994) liner notes.
  21. ^ John Bungey (20 December 2008). "Prog Rock Britannia celebrates the men in loon pants". The Times. UK. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  22. ^ a b Wright, Jeb (May 2002). "Rick Wakeman of Yes". Classic Rock Revisited. Archived from the original on 6 January 2004. Retrieved 24 October 2009. 
  23. ^ Tiano, Mike (3 September 2008). "Conversation with Roger Dean [nfte #308]". Notes From the Edge. Retrieved 24 October 2009. 
  24. ^ Rick Wakeman to guest on Ayreon Theory of Everything on YouTube Official Arjen Lucassen channel (2013)
  25. ^ "Thousands help comedian Sandi Toksvig renew vows after introduction of gay marriage". Herald Scotland. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  26. ^ Holmes, Mark (28 July 2010). "Interview with Rick Wakeman". Metal Discovery. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  27. ^ The Birotron
  28. ^ Just A Minute, Series 59, Episode 1 Retrieved on 2 March 2011.
  29. ^ Wooding, p. 46
  30. ^ Wakeman 1995, p. 138
  31. ^ Wakeman 1995, p. 146
  32. ^ Wakeman 1995, p. 155
  33. ^ Wakeman, p. 185
  34. ^ a b Wakeman, Rick (1995). Say Yes! An Autobiography, Hodder & Stoughton Religious, ISBN 0-340-62151-6 ISBN 978-0340621516
  35. ^ Rick Wakeman Retrieved on 25 July 2011.
  36. ^ Rick Wakeman Retrieved on 14 January 2012.
  37. ^ Welch, Close to the Edge 2008, p. 122
  38. ^ a b c Lester, Paul (8 January 2014). "'"Rick Wakeman: 'Punk was a revolution ... things had to change. The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  39. ^ Kaufman, Rachel. Rick Wakeman hid his crippling 'arthritis' for 30 years fearing it would ruin his rock career. In fact, he didn't have it at all... 23 September 2008. Retrieved on 25 December 2011.
  40. ^ Chelsea Lodge No. 3098 100 Years 1905–2005


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