He is a
keyboard player and songwriter born Richard Christopher Wakeman
in Perivale in West London, England.
He began playing
the piano when he was five years old and moved on to an electronic keyboard
when he was twelve. He entered
many music competitions and festivals and proceeded to win many of them.
By the time he
was fourteen he was a member of various bands and around the time he was 19
he became a student of clarinet, modern music, piano and orchestration at
the Royal College of Music.
He only stayed
a year at the RCM as he decided to pursue work as a session musician. In 1969 this work was starting to get
him noticed after he was paid just £9.00 for a session where he played
the mellotron on David Bowie’s internationally
successful “Space Oddity”.
In 1970 he briefly
joined the rock band Warhorse before he started working as a member of the Strawbs and featured on their second album Dragonfly in February of that year. He then performed the solo piano
piece “Temperament of Mind” in the July when they appeared in concert
at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and following the standing ovation
he received, the piece was added to their live album Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios. This was enough to be asked to compose
the theme for the new TV series Ask Aspel and be hailed “Tomorrow’s Superstar”
by Melody Maker magazine.
In 1971 he performed
on “Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens and appeared on the Strawbs From the Witchwood.
Continuing his work with David Bowie in that same year he performed
on “Changes”, “Life on Mars?” and “Oh! You
Pretty Things” which were tracks from his Hunky Dory and all released as singles He also became the owner of a Minimoog synthesiser which was a new instrument that had
only been on the market since 1970.
Before 1971 was
out he was invited to join the band Yes as a replacement for their keyboard
player Tony Kaye and after accepting the offer he made his first appearance
in concert with them in the September and appeared on their Fragile that same year. He also
released his debut solo album Piano Vibrations.
The following year he was on their Close
to the Edge and Tales from Topographic
Oceans in 1973. He wasn’t
happy performing on the tour for the latter album and before they had recorded
their next album Relayer
he had made the decision to pursue his solo career.
In 1973 he
released his conceptual album The Six
Wives of Henry VIII which received critical acclaim and achieved got
gold certification. Following the
success of his previous album he performed a 40-minute piece at the Royal
Festival Hall with a choir and orchestra, which was based on Journey to the Centre of the Earth
by Jules Verne. He released the
live album of the performance in May 1974 and within six weeks it became a
massive seller and received gold status later that year. At a further concert of this piece
of music in July 1874 he suffered the first of three heart attacks.
1975 was another
busy year when he issued his next live album The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round
Table. Once again it was an
international success, has sold around 12 million copies to date and achieved
gold status in several countries. That same year he supplied the soundtrack
for the movie Lisztomania.
A year later,
in 1976, he went to France and recorded the album No Earthly Connection and in 1977 he
agreed to return to Yes on an occasional basis. He began recording with the group again
and featured on their Going for the On
in 1977and their Tormato
In 1979 his “Arthur”
was used by the BBC for their Election
Night coverage and it has since been used every election coverage except
for 2001 and 2010.
When the 1980s
came around he hosted the Channel 4 TV show Gastank in 1982 and wrote the soundtrack for the movie Crimes of Passion in 1984 and played
on the song “Absolute Beginners” by David Bowie in 1985. At the end of the decade he got together
with other ex-band mates from Yes and was a co-founder of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. They released their first album, which
was self-titled, in 1989, but their second was merged with material for a forthcoming
Yes album using the title Union.
In 1991 he became
a member of a supergroup that comprised present and
former members of Yes. They
embarked on a year’s tour and then he decided to leave them once again. He did, however, return to them in 1996
for the album Keys to Ascension.
Also during the
1990s, he was the host of the television comedy show Live at Jongleurs. He remained its host for 8 years.
The new millennium
soon appeared and in 2002 he once again joined Yes and this time remained with
them until they toured in 2007. He was, however, advised by his doctor
that he shouldn’t take part in long periods of touring and therefore left
the band. His successor in Yes was
his son Oliver while he went on to give solo performances in Rick Wakeman’s
Grumpy Old Picture Show. In
2009 became a Patron of the Tech Music Schools and he gave a live performance
of his The Six Wives of Henry VIII
at Hampton Court Palace. This was subsequently released on a recording.
2011 saw him working
with the drummer Bruno Rubino on the debut album
of the singer Valentina Blanca. The next year he was one of Jasper Carrott’s backing group on The One Jasper Carrott and in 2013 he
performed on The Theory of Everything
2014 saw him embarking on a tour of his 2012 version of Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
He has appeared
on and/or worked on several television and radio programmes since 2005. Some of these are Countdown, Grumpy Old Men, Have I Got News
for You, Just a Minute, Mitch Benn’s Crimes Against Music, Never Mind
the Buzzcocks, The Personality Test, Rick’s
Place and Top Gear.
During the course
of his career he has appeared as a composer, musician and/or producer on several
albums aside from his own and some of these include Tour of the Universe by Jon Anderson, The Complete BBC Sessions by Aswad, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by Black Sabbath,
Twopenny Prince by Marc Bolan,
Man of Words/Man of Music by David
Bowie, Friends and Relatives by Electric
Light Orchestra, Chess Masters by
Dr. Feelgood, Remember
This by Gordon Giltrap, Homebrew 2 by Steve Howe, Madman
Across the Water by Elton John, Blue
Nights by Denny Laine, Seasons by Magna Carta, Variations by Orchester
Ozzman Cometh: Greatest Hits by Ozzy Osbourne, Back Against the Wall by Pink Floyd,
You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here by
Ralph McTell, A
Spoonful of Time by Nektar, Epilogue by The Prog
Collective, Original Album Classics
by Lou Reed, Ponder the Mystery
by William Shatner, Teaser and the Firecat by Cat Stevens,
Orange by Al Stewart and Electric Warrior by T-Rex.
He has been
married four times and has six children.