Richard Christopher Wakeman (born 18 May 1949 in Perivale, London) is an English keyboard player best known as the keyboardist for progressive rock group Yes. Originally a classically trained pianist, he was a pioneer in the use of electronic keyboards and in the use of a rock band in combination with orchestra and choir. He purchased his first electronic keyboard, a Minimoog, from the actor Jack Wild. Wakeman was able to buy it for half the regular selling price because Wild thought it did not work as it only played one note at a time.[1] He hosts a regular radio show on Planet Rock.


Wakeman was born in the suburb of Perivale, West London, and attended Drayton Manor Grammar School. He initially studied piano, clarinet, orchestration and modern music at the Royal College of Music, but he left of his own accord after a year and a half in favour of work as a session musician.

In 1970, Wakeman played with Strawbs and was an active studio musician, playing with such artists as David Bowie , Cat Stevens and Al Stewart notably playing piano on both Bowie's Life on Mars? and Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens He joined Yes in 1971, after keyboardist Tony Kaye was asked to leave the band because of his refusal to play anything more than the organ. His first album with the band was Fragile released 1971 in the UK and 1972 in the US, and very nearly his last was Tales from Topographic Oceans, released in 1973. He also played on the studio album Close to the Edge (his favourite Yes album) and his live performances with the group were released as Yessongs. He left the band following the Tales from Topographic Oceans tour.

During his time with Yes, he released his first solo album, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, which showcases his skills with various electronic and acoustic keyboard instruments. Some members of Yes played their respective instruments on certain tracks.

In 1975, he released the concept album The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table which was supported by a live show featuring ice skating theatrical performances accompanied by a large number of musicians, an orchestra and choirs. The cost of the show was extravagant and it caused Wakeman to declare bankruptcy.[2][3]

Of all the members of the band, Wakeman is the only non-vegetarian, a difference which contributed to his first departure from the band[citation needed]. The primary reason for that initial departure, however, was musical differences. Wakeman felt Tales from Topographic Oceans was thin on substance and did not connect with its themes. Further, he did not enjoy the experience of reproducing the entire work on stage each night. He felt the length of the songs prohibited the band from playing many of their more popular songs of the time. Following the tour, as the band began work on what would become Relayer, Wakeman felt further alienated from the group. Disenchanted with the direction in which Yes were going, and already into a successful solo career, Wakeman jumped ship. Rick Wakeman performing on stage with Yes in the 1970s Rick Wakeman performing on stage with Yes in the 1970s

He rejoined 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.[citation needed]

In 1989, he joined with three fellow ex-Yes members to form Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (a.k.a. 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 has been with the group ever since, but also enjoys a successful solo career.

He has also performed as a guest or session musician for artists as disparate as:

* John Williams, * Brotherhood of Man, * Elton John, * Lou Reed, * David Bowie (notably mellotron on 'Space Oddity', piano on 'Life On Mars' and 'Changes'), * Cat Stevens (including piano on Stevens' hit cover of the hymn "Morning Has Broken"), * T. Rex, * Ozzy Osbourne, * Black Sabbath (playing keyboards on "Sabbra Cadabra" and "Who are You" on 1973's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath), * Brian May and played piano on "There's no one quite like Grandma"[citation needed] by St. Winifred's School Choir.

Although Wakeman was a noted player of the Hammond Organ and the Minimoog, he also played a key part in the popularisation of the Mellotron – an electronic musical instrument that used a bank of prerecorded tape strips, activated by each key on its keyboard. It proved too unwieldy and unreliable for regular touring, and Rick eventually doused his in petrol and set fire to it in a field [4]. Undeterred, Rick worked with David Biro to develop the Birotron, which used the then popular 8-track cassette format rather than bare tape strips. Only 35 Birotrons were produced, it was not a commercial or technical success, and Rick eventually threw his across the stage after it broke down mid-concert, an action he now regrets, as there are only 6 known remaining examples.[5]

He has written the soundtracks for two films by Ken Russell: Lisztomania (1975), which features vocals from Roger Daltrey and which takes as its starting point the music of Liszt and Wagner; and Crimes of Passion (1985), much of which is built around themes taken from Dvorak's New World Symphony.

As announced on the official Yes website, Rick Wakeman will not be joining Yes on their 40th Anniversary tour, he will instead be replaced by his son Oliver Wakeman. In 2008, Wakeman has been touring with a solo show, "Rick Wakeman's grumpy old picture show", an evening of biography, stories and music.

Personal life

A self-confessed former alcoholic, he had several heart attacks in his twenties. The first of them occurred just after he left Yes in early 1974, during the release of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. He married former Page Three model Nina Carter, although they have since divorced. He has had a renewal of his Christian faith,[6] which began around the time of their marriage.[citation needed]

Children include Adam Wakeman, Oliver Wakeman, Oscar Wakeman, Jemma Wakeman, Ben Wakeman, and Manda Wakeman, who have inherited their father's interest in music.

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 never stopped loving the Bees. He was also 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. The Arthur section of his King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table suite is used as the theme tune to the BBC's Election Night Coverage since 1979 (with the exception of 2001). Wakeman's album Fields of Green '97 featured the track "Election '97/Arthur", which was used by the BBC for their coverage of the 1997 General Election. The music was further revamped for the BBC's 2005 Election Night coverage.

Rick can currently be seen as a contributor on BBC Two's series, Grumpy Old Men. He has also appeared in a number of episodes of Countdown; about twenty per year, according to Wakeman. He currently (2008) presents a weekly Saturday morning programme, "Rick's Place", on Planet Rock. He has also appeared on the satirical panel show Have I Got News For You as a guest.

Rick appeared as himself in "Journey to the Centre of Rick Wakeman", the last episode of season two 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 Rick could stop. The majority of the episode was set inside Rick where Mitch and his team are sent to rouse him from a coma and thus stop the war.

In December 2006, Rick was the guest host for an episode of The Personality Test, a BBC Radio 4 programme where the panel stay the same and the host changes each week. The questions set in the programme are all about the host. Rick set a challenge for a new concept album idea, and the comedian Will Smith suggested "Spiders and Other Invertebrates". Rick said he liked that idea so much, he would include a track of his next album called "Spiders and Other Invertebrates", and would include a sleeve credit to Will. Will responded by saying that Rick had "...just made my life".[7]

Rick has been president of the show business charity The Heritage Foundation (formerly Comic Heritage) for the past two years. 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. In October 2007 Rick commenced a new tour 'Rick Wakeman's Grumpy Old Picture Show', where Rick accompanies video performers such as Gordon Giltrap and the English Rock Ensemble.

He also appeared on Top Gear and got a lap time of 1.55.26.

In December 2006 and 2007, Rick was the celebrity who turned on the Christmas lights in Diss, Norfolk, a town close to his home.


Solo and with his son Adam

Rick Wakeman at Western Springs Auckland New Zealand 1976 Rick Wakeman at Western Springs Auckland New Zealand 1976

* 1971 Piano Vibrations * 1973 The Six Wives of Henry VIII * 1974 Journey to the Centre of the Earth * 1975 The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table * 1975 Lisztomania (soundtrack, he also acted in the film) * 1976 No Earthly Connection * 1977 White Rock (soundtrack to winter Olympics) * 1977 Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record * 1978 The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Performs the Best Known Works of Rick Wakeman * 1979 Rhapsodies * 1981 The Burning (soundtrack) * 1981 1984 * 1982 Rock 'N' Roll Prophet * 1983 The Cost of Living * 1983 G'ole! (soundtrack to 1982 FIFA World Cup) * 1984 Black Nights in the Court of Ferdinand IV * 1985 Silent Nights * 1985 Live at Hammersmith * 1985 Beyond the Planets * 1986 Country Airs * 1986 Crimes of Passion (soundtrack) * 1987 The Gospels * 1987 Family Album * 1988 Time Machine * 1988 Suite of Gods * 1988 Zodiaque * 1989 Sea Airs * 1990 Night Airs * 1990 Phantom Power (soundtrack) * 1990 In the Beginning * 1991 Rock 'n' Roll Prophet Plus (reissue of Rock 'n' Roll Prophet plus 4 new tracks) * 1991 Aspirant Sunset * 1991 Aspirant Sunrise * 1991 Aspirant Shadows * 1991 Suntrilogy * 1991 The Classical Connection (remakes of earlier works) * 1991 2000 A.D. Into the Future * 1991 African Bach * 1991 Softsword: King John and the Magna Charter * 1993 Heritage Suite * 1993 Classic Tracks * 1993 Wakeman with Wakeman * 1993 No Expense Spared * 1993 The Classical Connection II * 1993 Prayers * 1994 Wakeman with Wakeman: The Official Bootleg (live) * 1994 Live on the Test (live – recorded in 1976) * 1994 Rick Wakeman's Greatest Hits (remakes of old works) * 1995 The Piano Album * 1995 Seven Wonders of the World * 1995 Cirque Surreal * 1995 Romance of the Victorian Age * 1995 King Biscuit Flower Hour (live – recorded in 1975) * 1995 Visions * 1995 Simply Acoustic (known as The Piano Album) * 1995 The Private Collection * 1995 Almost Live in Europe (live) * 1996 Fields of Green * 1996 Voyage (compilation) * 1996 The New Gospels * 1996 Tapestries * 1996 The Word and Music * 1996 Orisons * 1996 Can You Hear Me? * 1996 Vignettes * 1997 Tribute (Beatles covers) * 1998 Themes * 1999 Return to the Centre of the Earth * 1999 The Natural World Trilogy * 1999 The Art in Music Trilogy * 1999 White Rock II * 1999 Stella Bianca alla corte de Re Ferdinando * 2000 Recollections: The Very Best of Rick Wakeman 1973-1979 (compilation) * 2000 Preludes to a Century * 2000 Chronicles of Man * 2000 Christmas Variations * 2000 Rick Wakeman Live in Concert 2000 (live) * 2001 Out of the Blue * 2001 Classical Variations * 2001 Two Sides of Yes * 2002 The Wizard and the Forest of All Dreams * 2002 Hummingbird with Dave Cousins * 2002 The Yes Piano Variations * 2002 Two Sides of Yes – Volume 2 * 2003 Out There * 2005 Rick Wakeman at Lincoln Cathedral * 2006 Retro * 2007 Amazing Grace * 2007 Retro 2 * 2007 Live at the BBC

With Strawbs

Live album

* 1970 Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios

[edit] Studio album

* 1971 From the Witchwood

With Yes

Studio albums

* 1971 Fragile * 1972 Close to the Edge * 1973 Tales from Topographic Oceans * 1977 Going for the One * 1978 Tormato * 1989 Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (as ABWH) * 1991 Union * 1996 Keys to Ascension * 1997 Keys to Ascension 2

Live albums

* 1973 Yessongs * 1980 Yesshows * 1996 Keys to Ascension * 1997 Keys to Ascension 2 * 2007 Live at Montreux 2003

Compilation albums

* 1975 Yesterdays (first track) * 1981 Classic Yes * 1991 Yesyears * 1992 Yesstory * 1993 Highlights: The Very Best of Yes * 2001 Keystudio * 2002 In a Word: Yes (1969 - ) * 2003 The Ultimate Yes: 35th Anniversary Collection * 2005 The Word Is Live * 2006 Essentially Yes

User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License and may also be available under the GNU FDL.

    blog comments powered by Disqus