Rick Wakeman in 2012.
|Birth name||Richard Christopher Wakeman|
|Also known as||Rick, Wakey, Richard|
|Born||(1949-05-18) 18 May 1949 (age 63)|
Perivale, London, England
|Genres||Rock, progressive rock, pop, electronica, jazz fusion, classical, Christian music|
|Instruments||Keyboards, piano, synthesiser|
|Labels||A&M, Charisma, President Records, Voiceprint, Griffin, EMI, Music Fusion, Hot Productions, Studio T|
|Associated acts||Yes, Strawbs, ABWH, David Bowie, Warhorse, Black Sabbath, Cat Stevens|
Richard Christopher Wakeman (born 18 May 1949) is an English keyboard player, composer and songwriter 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 was born in West London. He purchased his first electronic keyboard at 12 years of age. In 1968, he studied the piano, clarinet, orchestration and modern music at the Royal College of Music before leaving after a year in favour of session music work. He went on to feature on songs by artists including Black Sabbath, David Bowie, T. Rex, Elton John and Cat Stevens. Wakeman joined the folk group Strawbs in 1969 and played on three of their albums. He first joined Yes in 1971 to replace Tony Kaye, and left the group in 1974 to work on his solo career. He returned in 1976 before leaving with lead vocalist Jon Anderson in 1980. Wakeman was part of the side project Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, a group of ex-Yes members formed in 1989, and the eight-member Yes line-up that followed until his third departure in 1992. He returned for two years in 1995 and once more in 2002, where he was part of the band's 35th anniversary tour until its end in 2004.
Wakeman began his solo career during his first run with Yes. His perhaps most known records being 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. In November 2010, Wakeman was awarded the Spirit of Prog award at the annual Marshall Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards.
He is the father of keyboardists Adam Wakeman and Oliver Wakeman.
Rick Wakeman was born on 18 May 1949 in the west London suburb of Northolt to Cyril Frank and Mildred Helen Wakeman. He attended Wood End Infants School in 1954, followed by Drayton Manor Grammar School in 1959. He started playing the piano at the age of 5 and purchased his first electronic keyboard at the age of 12. At age 14, he began playing with a succession of semi-pro bands. 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.
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. 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.
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. Wakeman appeared on the front page of Melody Maker soon after, which called him "Tomorrow's Superstar", and composed the theme music to the television show Ask Aspel. 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 Steve Howe asking if he would like to play with Yes.
In 1971, Wakeman joined the progressive rock band Yes, replacing their organist Tony Kaye. His first concert with the group took place in Leicester on 30 September 1971. 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 prevented 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, 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. In October 1975, the album was certified Gold.
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. The album was certified Gold in September 1974.
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. 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. The album has sold 12 million copies.
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 1976, Wakeman produced and created the album No Earthly Connection in France.
Wakeman returned to Yes for their 1977 album 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.
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.
He then returned in 1996 for the Keys to Ascension albums but left before the band could tour.
In 2002, he rejoined Yes and stayed with the band until their 2008 In The Present 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 anymore. So, for the group's 40th anniversary 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.
Although Wakeman is a noted player of the grand piano, electric piano, Hammond organ, 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. It proved too unwieldy and unreliable for regular touring, and he eventually doused the last Mellotron that he owned in petrol and set fire to it in a field. Undeterred, he 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, and Wakeman eventually threw his across the stage after it broke down mid-concert, an action he now regrets as there are only six remaining examples. These days, he can be found with more modern instruments such as the Roland Fantom, Korg M3, and the Korg Oasys.
Wakeman's track "Arthur" has been used as the theme tune to the BBC's Election Night Coverage since 1979, with the exception of 2001 and 2010. Wakeman's album Fields of Green '97 features the track "Election '97/Arthur" which was used by the BBC for their coverage of the 1997 General Election. The music was revamped for the BBC's 2005 general election night coverage.
His TV career was launched in 1982 when he hosted Gastank on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. The show featured a mix of interviews with 1970s musicians and impromptu performances where the guest artist would join Wakeman and his house band in playing re-arranged versions of their classic songs or entirely new pieces created for the show. Wakeman hosted the ITV comedy show Live at Jongleurs for 8 years.
Wakeman is a contributor to the BBC Two show Grumpy Old Men. He has also appeared in a number of episodes of Countdown. He has also appeared on the satirical panel shows Never Mind the Buzzcocks (4 appearances) and Have I Got News For You. Between September 2005 and December 2010, Wakeman presented Rick's Place, a weekly radio show on Planet Rock with David 'Kid' Jensen. Wakeman appeared as himself in "Journey to the Centre of Rick Wakeman", the season two finale of Mitch Benn's Crimes Against Music, a BBC Radio 4 comedy programme. The episode detailed a fictional war between England and Wales in 2009 which only Wakeman could stop. Wakeman provided piano for Benn's 2008 single "Sing Like an Angel", which was released on iTunes. In December 2006, Wakeman was the guest host for an episode of The Personality Test on Radio 4. He also appeared on Top Gear and set a race track lap time of 1'55.26. Wakeman made his debut appearance on Just a Minute on Radio 4 on 7 February 2011.
In October 2007, Wakeman commenced a new tour 'Rick Wakeman's Grumpy Old Picture Show', where he accompanies video performers such as Gordon Giltrap and the English Rock Ensemble (Ashley Holt, Lee Pomeroy, Dave Colquhoun and Tony Fernandez). A Freemason, he is a member of Chelsea Lodge No. 3098, the membership of which is made up of entertainers. In 2009, Wakeman became a Patron of Tech Music Schools.
In 2011, Wakeman, alongside Fiaba's drummer Bruno Rubino, has been recording and arranging the debut full-length studio album of the Italian singer Valentina Blanca.
In January 2012, Wakeman appeared as part of a group backing Jasper Carrott on BBC 1's The One Jasper Carrott.
On 28 March 1970, Wakeman married his first wife Rosaline Woolford at twenty years of age, 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, with whom he had one son, Benjamin (b. 1978). He had a daughter, Jemma Kiera (b.1983), with former Page 3 model Nina Carter and the two married in 1984, followed by the birth of their son, Oscar (b.1986). He had a renewal of his Christian faith, which began around the time of his marriage to Carter. They were divorced in December 2004. 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.
In his twenties, Wakeman suffered three heart attacks. The first occurred after a performance of Journey to the Centre of the Earth at the Crystal Palace Bowl on 27 July 1974. In 1980 he was mis-diagnosed 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.
A passionate football fan, Wakeman has supported Brentford F.C. since he was a child, and later on he also became a director of the West London club. After a disagreement with the board, he moved on to Manchester City F.C. but maintained his allegiance to Brentford. He was involved in the ownership of the American soccer club Philadelphia Fury in the late '70s, along with other rock celebrities such as Peter Frampton and Paul Simon.
He is a strong supporter of the UK's Conservative Party, and performed a concert in September 2004, for the benefit of the party. Wakeman has been president of the show business charity The Heritage Foundation (now administered by English Heritage). The charity erects blue plaques on the homes and/or work-places of late entertainers and sportspeople. He is also Honorary President of the Classic Rock Society, a UK-based organisation helping to promote classic and progressive rock.
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