Rick Wakeman

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Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman in 2012.
Background information
Birth name Richard Christopher Wakeman
Born (1949-05-18) 18 May 1949 (age 69)
Perivale, London, England
Genres Progressive rock, classical, hard rock, ambient, new-age, Christian
Occupation(s) Keyboardist, composer, song writer, television and radio presenter, author, actor
Instruments Keyboards (piano, organ, synthesizers), Hammond organ, electric piano, Mellotron, Minimoog
Years active 1969–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
Website www.rwcc.com

Richard Christopher "Rick" Wakeman (born 18 May 1949) is an English keyboardist, songwriter, television and radio presenter, and author. He is best known for being the former keyboardist in the progressive rock band Yes and his solo albums from the 1970s. In more recent years, he became known for his contributions to the BBC comedy series Grumpy Old Men, and his radio show on Planet Rock named Rick's Place, which aired from 2005 to 2010.

Wakeman left the Royal College of Music in 1969 to become a full-time session musician, when he played on songs by David Bowie, T. Rex, Elton John, Cat Stevens, and Black Sabbath.[1] In 1970, he joined the Strawbs for three albums before joining Yes for two runs from 1971 to 1980, playing on their successful albums Fragile (1971), Close to the Edge (1972), Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973), Going for the One (1977), and Tormato (1978). In 1988, Wakeman co-formed Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, which led to his return to Yes from 1990 to 1992; he returned twice after that, from 1995 to 1997 and 2002 to 2004.

Wakeman began his career as a solo artist in 1973. His first three albums are his most successful and well known: 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). Wakeman has released over 100 solo albums that have sold 50 million copies worldwide,[2] ranging from pop, solo piano, film scores, Christian, ambient, and New-age music. He has made many television and radio appearances throughout his career, and has written three books: an autobiography and two memoirs. He is the father of keyboardists Adam Wakeman and Oliver Wakeman.

Early life

Wakeman was born in the west London suburb of Perivale.[3] His parents, Cyril Frank Wakeman and Mildred Helen Wakeman, lived in nearby Northolt.[3] Cyril played the piano in a dance band while he was in the army[3] and worked at a building suppliers, joining as an office boy at fourteen to become one of its board of directors. Mildred worked at a removal firm.[4] In 1954, Wakeman began at Little Wood Harden Infants School in Greenford followed by Drayton Manor Park Grammar School in Hanwell in 1959.[5] When Wakeman turned seven, his father paid for weekly piano lessons with Dorothy Symes which lasted for eleven years. She recalled that Wakeman "passed everything with a distinction" and was an "enjoyable pupil to teach, full of fun and with a good sense of humour", but noted his lack of self-discipline when it came to practising.[6] Symes entered Wakeman in many music competitions around London[7] who went on to win over one hundred awards, certificates, and cups.[8] In his teenage years Wakeman attended church, became a Sunday school teacher, and chose to be baptised at eighteen.[9]

Wakeman described himself at school as "a horror ... I worked hard in the first year, then eased up".[10] During his time at Drayton Manor school Wakeman played in his first band, the trad jazz outfit Brother Wakeman and the Clergymen.[11] He also formed Curdled Milk, a joke on "Strange Brew" by Cream, to play at the annual school dance. The band were unpaid after Wakeman lost control of his car and drove across the headmaster's rose garden at the front of the school, thereby forfeiting their performance fee to pay for the damage.[12] At fourteen Wakeman joined the Atlantic Blues, a local blues group that secured a year's residency at a mental health rehabilitation club in Neasden.[12] In 1966, he joined The Concordes, later known as the Concord Quartet, playing dance and pop songs at local events with his cousin Alan on saxophone and clarinet.[8] Wakeman used the money earned from their gigs to buy a Pianet, his first electronic instrument.[8] In 1967, Wakeman began a tenure with the Ronnie Smith Band, a dance group based at the Top Rank ballroom in Watford. There he met singer Ashley Holt, who later sang on many of Wakeman's future albums and tours.

In 1968, Wakeman secured a place at the Royal College of Music in London, studying the piano, clarinet, orchestration, and modern music, with the intention of becoming a concert pianist. To enter he needed to pass eight music exams to earn his A-levels, which required him, as his mother remembered, "to do two years' work in ten months".[10] Wakeman put in the effort following a ten shilling bet with his music teacher who believed he would not succeed,[10] and refusing his father's offer to work with him.[13] Wakeman joined the Royal College on a performers course before a change to a teachers course. He adopted a relaxed attitude to his studies, spending time drinking in pubs and missing lectures. He spent most of his spare time with the staff at the Musical Bargain Centre, a music shop in Ealing.[14] Wakeman's first booking as a session musician, and his first time in a recording studio, occurred when guitarist Chas Cronk entered the shop one morning in need of an organist and brass arranger for members of the Ike & Tina Turner band.[15] During the session Wakeman met producers Tony Visconti, Gus Dudgeon, and Denny Cordell,[16][17] who was impressed with his performance. Cordell offered him more session work for artists at Regal Zonophone Records, which Wakeman accepted.[18]


1969–71: Session work, Strawbs, and joining Yes

Wakeman first break as a session musician came in 1969 when he played "Space Oddity" by David Bowie.

In 1969, Wakeman left the Royal College of Music to pursue work as a session musician, playing keyboards for a variety of artists. His ability to play what was needed in the first take led to his nickname, One Take Wakeman.[19] In June 1969, Wakeman played the Mellotron on "Space Oddity" by David Bowie for a session fee of £9.[20] Wakeman also played organ and piano on American singer-songwriter Tucker Zimmerman's only single, "Red Wind".[21][22]

Wakeman's prominence rose during his tenure with the folk rock group Strawbs from 1969 to 1971. He first played the piano for them as a session on their 1969 album Dragonfly, first album with Wakeman's name on its credits.[23] In March 1970, he joined the band as a full-time member and married his first wife, Rosaline Woolford, at the age of twenty.[24] The group then performed a series of dates in Paris for a rock and roll circus with various bands backing the circus acts. During one performance, Wakeman pushed Salvador Dali off the stage as he made a special guest appearance during his piano solo. He wrote, "I didn't know who he was. I thought, 'Silly old sod, coming on the stage waving his stick'."[25][26] Wakeman's first major show with the Strawbs followed on 11 July 1970 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London which was recorded for their live album, Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios. The set included an extended organ solo and Wakeman's piano piece titled "Temperament of Mind", which received a standing ovation.[27] The piece originated from improvisations when the band would lose power during a show, leaving Wakeman to fill time by playing the piano. Following the Queen Elizabeth Hall concert, Wakeman appeared on the front page of Melody Maker for the first time; the paper named him "tomorrow's superstar."[28]

During the writing sessions for the next Strawbs album, Wakeman resumed session work to help pay for his new home in West Harrow.[29] He bought a Minimoog synthesizer at half price from actor Jack Wild, who thought that it was defective because it only played one note at a time.[30] Wakeman played the piano on "Morning Has Broken" by Cat Stevens for his 1971 album, Teaser and the Firecat. Wakeman was omitted from the credits and for many years, was never paid for it; Stevens later apologised and paid Wakeman for the error. Wakeman played further sessions in 1971, including "Get It On" by T. Rex, three tracks on Madman Across the Water by Elton John, and "Changes", "Oh! You Pretty Things", and "Life on Mars?" for Bowie's album Hunky Dory. Bowie invited Wakeman to his home and played the outline of the tracks for him to learn; Wakeman later called them "the finest selection of songs I have ever heard in one sitting in my entire life".[31] In 1971, an album compiled of pop tunes played by Wakeman on the piano produced by John Schroeder was released as Piano Vibrations by Polydor Records. Wakeman received no royalties from its sales, and was paid £36 for the four sessions that it took to make.[32]

Wakeman's final album with Strawbs, From the Witchwood, was released in July 1971. It marked the growing differences between himself and the group; he made the better paid sessions a priority and made no substantial contributions to the writing of the music.[33] With his income from Strawbs failing to cover his mortgage and bills, Wakeman opted to leave. In July 1971, he was faced with "one of the most difficult decisions" of his career after Bowie chose him form his new backing band, The Spiders from Mars, with guitarist Mick Ronson. Later the same day, he a phone call at two in the morning from bassist Chris Squire of the progressive rock group Yes, who explained that Yes needed a keyboardist as Tony Kaye was asked to leave, following his resistance to learn instruments other than the piano and organ.[34][35] Wakeman agreed to meet the band as they rehearsed for their fourth album, Fragile, in August 1971. In his first session, the basis of "Heart of the Sunrise" and "Roundabout" were put together.[36] Wakeman turned down Bowie's offer as joining Yes presented more favourable opportunities, and played his final gig with Strawbs at a recording for John Peel's BBC radio show. Wakeman reappeared on the front cover of Melody Maker, his second in a year, accompanied by the headline "Wakeman joins Yes".[37] His earnings increased from £18 to £50 a week.[4]

1971–73: First Yes run and The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Yes made Fragile in five weeks to help finance a new set of keyboards for Wakeman. The album features five tracks written by each member of the group; Wakeman recorded "Cans and Brahms", an adaptation of the third movement of Symphony No. 4 in E minor by Johannes Brahms.[38] Wakeman later called it "dreadful" as contractual disputes between Atlantic Records, who signed Yes, and A&M Records, who he was with as a solo artist, prevented him from writing his own composition.[39] Wakeman claimed his contributions to the group written tracks were not credited, that management had agreed to "sort something out on the publishing side" but never took care of it. Wakeman "enjoyed the music too much" to cause a rift about the issue, but said it amounts to "a fair bit of money."[40] Released in November 1971, Fragile reached the top ten in the UK and the US; the Fragile Tour marked Wakeman's first visit to North America.[41] Its success made Wakeman buy a new home in Gerrards Cross and start a collection of cars,[42] which he rented out through a company he formed, the Fragile Carriage Company, now dissolved.[43][44] In late 1971, Wakeman played two noted sessions: piano on "It Ain't Easy" on Bowie's album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and on Orange by Al Stewart. In the 1972 Melody Maker readers poll, Wakeman came second in the top keyboardist category behind Keith Emerson.[45]

Yes recorded their fifth album, Close to the Edge, in 1972. The album showcases the band producing long tracks with multiple sections, exemplified by the 18-minute title track. It features Wakeman on church organ at St Giles-without-Cripplegate in London and a Hammond organ solo. Wakeman receives a writing credit on the third track, "Siberian Khatru". Close to the Edge was released in September 1972 and continued Yes's critical and commercial success. Wakeman singled out the album as "without doubt one of the finest moments of Yes's career."[46] The Close to the Edge Tour marked the first time Wakeman wore a cape on stage. His first, made with sequins by Denise Gandrup in two weeks, cost US$300.[47] In December 1972, Wakeman took part as a guest performer in The Who's performances of Tommy accompanied by an orchestra.

Wakeman began his solo career during his first run with Yes. His first album, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, was released in January 1973.[48] Recording took place throughout 1972 with an advance of £4,000 from A&M. The album is instrumental with its concept based on Wakeman's interpretations of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII. He used seven musicians from Yes and the Strawbs to play on the record that cost around £25,000 to make. On 16 January 1973, the album was previewed with Wakeman performing excerpts of the album on the BBC television show, The Old Grey Whistle Test.[48] An audience of around ten million planned to watch a controversial film about Andy Warhol, but was temporarily banned for broadcast. Wakeman said, "It seems most of them, rather than watch repeats, switched over to Whistle Test and saw my preview of Henry ... and suddenly it seemed as if the whole country had discovered my music ... it was a tremendous break."[49] The album reached No. 7 in the UK and No. 30 in the US. Time named the record one of the best pop albums of the year.[50]

1973–74: Journey to the Centre of the Earth and departure from Yes

Wakeman's success with Yes continued to grow in 1973. Their first live album, Yessongs, was released in May and includes his solo, "Excerpts from The Six Wives of Henry VIII". Wakeman is featured in the band's concert film, Yessongs, filmed in 1972 at the Rainbow Theatre and released in 1975. At the Melody Maker readers poll awards in September 1973, Wakeman came out first in the top keyboardist category.[45] Two months later, Yes released Tales from Topographic Oceans, an 80-minute concept album based on Anderson's interpretation a footnote from Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda that described the four classes of Hindu scripture, collectively known as the shastras, across four side-long tracks. Wakeman disagreed with the musical direction the band took, feeling much of the album was too experimental that required further rehearsal, and spent most of his time in the bar at Morgan Studios and playing keyboards on "Sabbra Caddabra" on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by Black Sabbath in the adjacent studio. Yes toured the album for six months, playing Close to the Edge and Tales from Topographic Oceans in their entirety. Wakeman's frustrations and boredom from playing Tales culminated in him eating a curry on stage during a show in Manchester.[51] Wakeman later explained his total dislike of the album is "not entirely true"; he recognises some "very, very nice musical moments" but "we had too much for a single album but not enough for a double, so we padded it out and the padding is awful".[52]

In January 1974, during a break in the Topographic Oceans tour, Wakeman recorded his new work, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, a piece based on Jules Verne's same-titled science fiction novel. He came up with the idea in November 1971, but put the project on hold until recording for The Six Wives of Henry VIII had finished.[53] After speaking about his idea to Lou Reizner, he worked with conductor David Measham who agreed to take part. Wakeman worked with Wil Malone and Danny Beckerman to help arrange the orchestral score.[54] Producing the shows was, who learned about Wakeman's idea for Journey and put him in contact with Measham.[55][56] As the cost of recording in a studio was too high, Wakeman pitched the idea of performing Journey in concert with an orchestra, choir, and a rock band.[56] As the cost of producing the album in a studio was too high, A&M Records agreed to record the album live. To help finance the project, Wakeman sold a few of his cars and "mortgage[d himself] up to the hilt" which cost around £40,000.[57] Wakeman held two concerts at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 18 January with the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Choir, actor David Hemmings as narrator, with a five-piece band formed of musicians that Wakeman once played with in a pub: vocalists Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford-Hopkins, drummer Barney James, bassist Roger Newell, and guitarist Mike Egan.[54] Management at A&M wanted more well known players, but Wakeman wanted the album to be known for its music, rather than the performers.[58] The album was poorly received among A&M management who refused to sell it.[59] As Wakeman was under contract with A&M in the US, however, a cassette was sent to co-founder Jerry Moss who subsequently ordered to release it.[60]

On 18 May 1974, his twenty-fifth birthday, Wakeman confirmed his departure from Yes to his and their manager, Brian Lane. He had heard some of the band's material for what became Relayer and felt unable to contribute to the music. Later that day, A&M Records called him with the news that Journey had entered the UK charts at No. 1, A&M's first. The album reached No. 3 in the US, and Wakeman received an Ivor Novello Award[61] and a Grammy Award nomination.[62] The album went on to sell 14 million copies worldwide.[63]

1974–80: King Arthur, No Earthly Connection, and second Yes run

After his departure from Yes, Wakeman headlined the year's Garden Party concert at Crystal Palace Park on 27 July 1974, performing selections from The Six Wives of Henry VIII and the whole of Journey to the Centre of the Earth.[64] Wakeman's health had deteriorated; he had not slept in five days prior to the show and had injured his wrist after he fell. A doctor treated him with morphine to help him through the gig. A few days later, he suffered a heart attack.[65] During his recovery in Wexham Park Hospital, he wrote the first song for his next concept album, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Wakeman decided to continue with his career and continued to smoke and drink.[66] In September 1974, Wakeman embarked on his first solo tour of North America across 20 dates, with the National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Choir of America, and his rock band. As per doctors orders, Wakeman was required to pass a heart monitor test before each performance.[67] The show featured selections from The Six Wives of Henry VIII with Journey to the Centre of the Earth performed in its entirety. Wakeman revealed the tour cost him £125,000.

Wakeman recorded King Arthur at Morgan Studios from October 1974 to January 1975, with the New World Orchestra, English Chamber Choir, and Nottingham Festival Vocal Group.[68] The album was released in April 1975 and peaked at number 2 in the UK and number 21 in the US. It earned Gold certifications in Brazil, Japan, and Australia.[69] A month later, Wakeman performed the album live for three sold out shows at Wembley Arena to a total of 27,000 people. As the arena floor was set up with ice, Wakeman decided to present the show on ice with fourteen dressed ice skaters and a castle in the middle for the orchestra, choir, and his band. The shows were well received but expensive to produce, consuming much of the income from the album's sales.[30][70] The event came in at number 79 on the 100 Greatest Shocking Moments in Rock and Roll program by VH1.[71] The album has sold 12 million copies.[72]

In 1975, Wakeman and his English Rock Ensemble toured the US and Brazil for a series of successful concerts. The tour marked his first association with drummer Tony Fernandez, who would perform on many of his future albums and tours. In late 1975, Wakeman produced the soundtrack for Lisztomania, a biography film about composer Franz Liszt written and directed by Ken Russell. Wakeman appears in the film as Thor, the god of thunder.

In January 1976, Wakeman started recording his next solo album, No Earthly Connection, at Château d'Hérouville near Paris. He proceeded to take a year out of the UK as a tax exile. The album's highlight is "Music Reincarnate", a 28-minute track split into five sections. The album reached number 9 in the UK and number 67 in the US. Wakeman's world tour to support the album was a scaled down production due to insufficient funds. Wakeman recorded the soundtrack to White Rock, a documentary film about the 1976 Winter Olympics directed by Tony Maylam, in 1976. The film premiered in 1977 as a double bill with the Genesis concert film, Genesis: In Concert. The album was released in the same year. The song "After the Ball" was a track Wakeman forgot to write; he proceeded to play it as a completely improvised song in one take, rather than confessing he forgot.

Following his No Earthly Connection tour, Wakeman was invited by Brian Lane to meet Yes in Switzerland as they worked on Going for the One in Mountain Studios in Montreux. Wakeman's replacement, Swiss musician Patrick Moraz, had left the band due to the "enormous psychological pressures within the group."[73] Wakeman heard the band's new material of shorter, more concise songs and felt Going for the One was "the album Yes should have made instead of 'Topographic Oceans'."[74] Wakeman was booked to play on the album initially as a session musician; in November 1976 he was convinced by Squire and Lane to rejoin full-time. Released in July 1977, Going for the One spent two weeks at number one in the UK and number 8 in the US. Wakeman has considered its 15-minute track "Awaken" as one of the band's best songs. During Yes's 1977 tour, Wakeman released Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record, a solo album loosely based on criminality with Squire on bass, Alan White on drums, Frank Ricotti on percussion, and Bill Oddie on "The Breathalyser". The album went to number 25 in the UK.

In 1978, Wakeman, along with musicians Mick Jagger, Peter Frampton, and Paul Simon, invested in the formation of the Philadelphia Fury, an American soccer team that ended in 1980. Wakeman funded the development of the Birotron, a tape replay keyboard that used 8-track tape cartridges, made by Dave Biro.

Wakeman recorded the next Yes album, Tormato, in early 1978. 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.[75][76]

1980–88: Solo projects

Following his departure from Yes, Wakeman reformed his English Rock Ensemble in 1980 and completed a European tour.[77] He came close to forming a band with drummer Carl Palmer, bassist John Wetton, and guitarist Trevor Rabin, but opted out "on a matter of principle" to as the record company was prepared to sign them without hearing any of the group's music. He recalled, "I basically sealed my financial fate, and things went downhill fast."[77] His father's death in November 1980 prompted his return to the UK and sign a record deal with Charisma Records to avoid bankruptcy.[77][78] In June 1981, Wakeman released 1984, a concept rock album based on George Orwell's eponymous dystopian novel with a band including Steve Barnacle on bass, Gary Barnacle on saxophone, and Frank Ricotti on drums. The album features tracks with Chaka Khan, Jon Anderson, Kenny Lynch, and Tim Rice on lead vocals with Rice the album's lyricist. 1984 reached number 24 in the UK. Plans to have the album worked into a 1984 musical were cancelled after lawyers from Orwell's estate blocked its development.[79] During Wakeman's 1981 tour of Europe and South America, he first met Nina Carter. In the same year, Wakeman recorded the soundtrack to the slasher horror film The Burning.

In 1982, Wakeman hosted the Channel 4 music show Gastank with Tony Ashton that aired in 1983. He released a second album for Charisma, Cost of Living, a mixture of instrumental and rock tracks with Tim Rice on vocals, which "did nothing" to improve his financial situation.[80] He then released Rock 'n' Roll Prophet, a spoof on the pop duo The Buggles that was recorded in Switzerland in 1979 and reissued in 1991 with four additional tracks. The album was not well received; Wakeman remembered his situation by 1983 had got to the point where he was "managerless, penniless and homeless."[81] He and Carter moved to Camberley in Surrey after the birth of their daughter Jemma. Wakeman took up work by recording the soundtrack to the official 1982 FIFA World Cup documentary film G'olé!, and his second Ken Russell film, Crimes of Passion (1984), with Fernandez on drums and Strawbs member Chas Cronk on bass. He then toured Australia in early 1984 with Sky as a guest musician.

In 1984, Wakeman signed a deal with President Records and recorded Silent Nights with Fernandez, Cronk, and Rick Fenn on guitar. The track "Glory Boys" was released a single and became a minor hit.[82] Wakeman took the band on a tour of the UK, the US, and Australia to promote Silent Nights,[83] which spawned a live album, Live at Hammersmith. The tour cost him money, leaving him "seriously in debt" and forced to remortgage his Camberley home.[83] In September 1985, during the tour's Australian leg, Wakeman fell ill from his alcoholism and has been teetotal since.[84] Wakeman produced his first of a series of New age albums titled Country Airs, a solo piano album released in 1986 that topped the UK New age chart.[85] This was followed by The Family Album in 1987, featuring tracks dedicated to each of his family members and pets. Also in 1987, Wakeman recorded and released The Gospels, a Christian album based on the four Gospels for Stylus Records, with tenor vocalist Ramon Remedios and actor Robert Powell as narrator. The music was originally written for a concert as part of a fund raising event for a church.[86] Wakeman played the album with Remedios and his band in Caesarea, Israel in the following year.[87] Wakeman recorded Time Machine, a concept album based on the science fiction novel The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, featuring Roy Wood and Tracey Ackerman as guest vocalists. The album was released in 1988; Wakeman intended to record it with an orchestra and choir and put on an ice show, but the idea was cancelled due to lack of funds.[88]

1988–99: ABWH and third and fourth Yes runs

In March 1988, Wakeman and Carter sold their Camberley home and moved to the Isle of Man to improve their finances. To save money, Wakeman set up his own recording studio named Bajonor in a converted coach house next to his home.[89] Wakeman released two New age albums recorded at Studio House in Wraysbury: A Suite of Gods, based on Greek and Roman mythology with Fernandez and Remedios, and Zodiaque with Fernandez featuring tracks dedicated to each of the twelve signs of the zodiac.

In late 1988, Wakeman received a call from Brian Lane who invited him to form Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe with former Yes band members Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford and Steve Howe. Anderson wished to make an album that reflected Yes's 1970s sound and wanted to record on the island of Montserrat. The album was released in June 1989 and sold 750,000 copies. The band's world tour ran from July 1989 to March 1990. During the tour, Wakeman released two more solo albums: Black Knights at the Court of Ferdinand IV with Italian musician Mario Fasciano and a sequel to Country Airs named Sea Airs.

Work on a second Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe began in France in 1990. Development was interrupted when it was decided to merge their tracks with an in-progress Yes album to create 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.

In 1993, Wakeman embarked on a world tour with his son Adam Wakeman. He recorded a solo piano album about the Isle of Man named Heritage Suite, and an album with Adam named Wakeman with Wakeman. Later in 1993, Wakeman's financial situation worsened when he was ordered with a payment from the Inland Revenue close to £70,000 for interest charges and unpaid penalties for tax he had paid for the past six years. He paid it by, as he wrote, "...with help from Brian Lane's office and Yes's accountants, in my signing away all publishing income from everything I had ever written ... Twenty-two years' work had vanished in the three seconds it had taken to sign my name."[90]

In 1995, Wakeman wrote music for the Cirque Surreal. The same year he scored the soundtrack to Bullet to Beijing, a made-for-television film starring Michael Caine and Jason Connery, and also scored the sequel, Midnight in Saint Petersburg, the following year.[91]

In late 1995, Wakeman returned to Yes for a fourth time. Yes then played three nights at the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo, California from 3–6 March 1996. The Keys to Ascension albums but left in 1997 before the band could tour with him.

In 1998, Wakeman started work on Return to the Centre of the Earth for the original album's twenty-fifth anniversary. Recording was disrupted after Wakeman suffered from a serious case of double pleurisy, pneumonia, and a case of Legionnaires' disease.[92][93] In December 1998, Wakeman was featured on an episode of This Is Your Life.[94]

2000–present: Fifth Yes run and solo projects

In 2000, Wakeman was invited to reform his English Rock Ensemble and perform in Argentina following a renewed interest in progressive rock there.[93] Wakeman noted his playing was "...the best in a long time."[95] In 2001, Wakeman was offered to play with Yes in Amsterdam during their 2001 Symphonic Tour in support of Magnification, but his solo tour dates clashed with the concert.[95] Initial plans for a project involving Wakeman and Keith Emerson were shelved in early 2002.[93]

On 16 April 2002, Yes management announced Wakeman's return to the band.[93] Wakeman remembered it took "...eight months to get the paper work together."[95] Yes completed a 2002 North American tour that ran from July to December 2002 and a world tour from June to October 2003. Yes completed a 35th Anniversary Tour from April to September 2004. 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.

In 2005, Fidel Castro wrote a letter to Wakeman asking him to perform in Cuba. Castro gave Wakeman some earth around Che Guevara's body.[74]

In October 2006, Wakeman and Anderson began a UK tour.[96]

For Yes's 2008–2010 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.

In 2010, Wakeman was awarded the Spirit of Prog Award at the annual Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards.[97]

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.[98]

In February 2014, he appeared as himself in The Life of Rock with Brian Pern, a comedy series which spoofs the career of his progressive rock contemporary Peter Gabriel.[99]

On 29 March 2014, Wakeman played the newly restored Royal Festival Hall organ for the "I Do To Equal Marriage" event, which celebrated the introduction of same-sex marriage in England and Wales.[100]

In 2014, Wakeman completed a 14-date UK tour to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Journey to the Centre of the Earth.


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 grand piano, electric piano, pipe organ, 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. 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.[101]

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.[102] 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.[103] He also appeared on What the Dickens? in 2009, where he demonstrated his appreciation for opera.

Personal life

Wakeman has been married four times and has six children. On 28 March 1970, at the age of 20, he married Rosaline Woolford[24] and they had two sons, Oliver (b. 26 February 1972) and Adam (b. 11 March 1974). The couple divorced in 1977. He married studio secretary Danielle Corminboeuf in January 1980, in the West Indies,[104] and they had one son, Benjamin (b. 1978).[105] He had a daughter, Jemma Kiera (b. 1983), with former Page 3 model Nina Carter;[106] they married in 1984 and had a son, Oscar (b. 1986).[87]

He had a renewal of his Christian faith[107] which began at around the time of his marriage to Carter.[107] He and Carter divorced in December 2004.[108] 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.[109][110] In 2011, Wakeman married Rachel Kaufman.[74]

In his twenties, Wakeman suffered three heart attacks.[75] 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 discovered in 2008 that the pain he was suffering was simply due to overwork after a period of lack of keyboard practice.[111]

A former smoker and self-confessed alcoholic, Wakeman quit smoking in 1979 and has been teetotal since 1985.[74]

A Master Freemason, he is a member of Chelsea Lodge No. 3098, the membership of which is made up of entertainers.[112] 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.[74]



  • Wakeman, Rick (1995). Say Yes! An Autobiography. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-0-340-62151-6. 
  • Wakeman, Rick (2008). Grumpy Old Rockstar: and Other Wondrous Stories. Preface Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84809-004-0. 
  • Wakeman, Rick (2010). Further Adventures of a Grumpy Old Rockstar. Arrow. ISBN 978-1-84809-176-4. 


  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. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Wooding 1979, p. 23.
  4. 4.0 4.1 McBride, Lorraine (4 May 2014). "Rick Wakeman: 'David Bowie's advice made me millions'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  5. Webber, Richard (24 April 2009). "Me and my school photo: Rick Wakeman remembers his first day at school". Daily Mail. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  6. Wooding 1979, p. 24.
  7. Wooding 1979, p. 25.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Wooding 1979, p. 28.
  9. Wooding 1979, p. 26.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Wooding 1979, p. 29.
  11. Wyatt, Malcolm (3 September 2015). "The interview: Rick Wakeman". Chorley Guardian. Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Wooding 1979, p. 27.
  13. Wooding 1979, p. 30.
  14. Wakeman 1995, p. 61.
  15. Wakeman 1995, p. 62.
  16. Wakeman 1995, p. 64.
  17. Wakeman 1995, p. 66.
  18. Wakeman 1995, p. 69.
  19. Welch 2008, p. 112.
  20. [1] Archived 29 January 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  21. Marchese, Joe (10 November 2015). "RPM Reissues Lost Album By David Bowie Favorite Tucker Zimmerman, Collects Australian "Dream Babes"". The Second Disc. Retrieved 21 November 2015. 
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  30. 30.0 30.1 Wright, Jeb (2009). "Henry at the Hampton: An Exclusive Interview with Rick Wakeman". Classic Rock Revisited. Retrieved 26 October 2009. 
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  32. Wooding, pp. 107–108.
  33. Wakeman 1995, p. 104.
  34. Welch 2008, p. 113.
  35. Valentine, Penny (28 August 1971). "Just Another Yes Man...". Sounds. Spotlight Publications. p. 7. 
  36. Morse 1996, p. 27.
  37. Wakeman 1995, pp. 108–109.
  38. Welch 2008, p. 115.
  39. Morse 1996, p. 29.
  40. Welch 2008, p. 117.
  41. Wooding 1979, p. 73.
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  43. Wooding 1979, p. 82.
  44. "The Fragile Carriage Company Limited". DueDil. 1975-06-02. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
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  50. "Music: The Year's Best". Time Magazine. 31 December 1973. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  51. Wooding 1979, p. 110.
  52. Wakeman, Rick (2007). Classic Artists: Yes. Disc One. (DVD). Image Entertainment. 1:23:48–1:24:49 minutes in. 
  53. Concert programme for Rick Wakeman: Journey to the Centre of the Earth. 18 January 1974.
  54. 54.0 54.1 Wooding 1979, p. 13.
  55. Wooding 1979, p. 11.
  56. 56.0 56.1 Wooding 1979, p. 12.
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  58. Wakeman 1995, p. 120.
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  63. "Rick Wakeman, six wives and one hell of a party". The Times. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
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  69. Booklet notes to Wakeman's live album, Live on the Test, recorded in 1976 and released in 1994.
  70. Miller, Jonathan (November 1995). "Rick Wakeman: Cirque Surreal". Sound On Sound. Retrieved 26 October 2009. 
  71. "100 Most Shocking Moments in Rock & Roll". Vh1.com. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2009. 
  72. John Bungey (20 December 2008). "Prog Rock Britannia celebrates the men in loon pants". The Times. UK. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  73. Hedges, p. 108.
  74. 74.0 74.1 74.2 74.3 74.4 Lester, Paul (8 January 2014). "Rick Wakeman: 'Punk was a revolution ... things had to change'". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
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  76. Tiano, Mike (3 September 2008). "Conversation with Roger Dean [nfte #308]". Notes From the Edge. Retrieved 24 October 2009. 
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  97. Johnston, Emma (11 November 2010). "AC/DC, Stones, Slash Win At Classic Rock Awards". Billboard. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  98. Rick Wakeman to guest on Ayreon Theory of Everything on YouTube Official Arjen Lucassen channel (2013)
  99. Dowell, Ben (17 February 2014). "Why you must all watch the Life of Rock with Brian Pern on BBC4 tonight". Radio Times. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  100. "Thousands help comedian Sandi Toksvig renew vows after introduction of gay marriage". Herald Scotland. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
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  102. The Birotron
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  105. Wakeman 1995, p. 146.
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  109. Rick Wakeman Retrieved on 14 January 2012.
  110. Welch, Close to the Edge 2008, p. 122.
  111. 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... dailymail.co.uk. 23 September 2008. Retrieved on 25 December 2011.
  112. "Chelsea Lodge No 3098". Chelsea-lodge.org.uk. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 

External links