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Wakeman, Rick (18th May 1949-Present)

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 1978.

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 by Ayreon.  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 Hohneklang, The 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.