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Rick Wakeman

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Richard Christopher Wakeman (born May 18, 1949) is the keyboard player of Yes. He has joined and quit the group many times, and was last featured in the studio tracks of Keys To Ascension and Keys To Ascension 2.

Rick Wakeman pioneered the use of concentric melodies in rock music, although Johann Sebastian Bach was doing it nearly 300 years ago. This means he would create a melody line with one hand and a harmonically related countermelody with the other - at the same time - with different intervals. McCoy Tyner is a jazz pianist that does the same thing. Wakeman also pioneered the use of multiple keyboards in a live context, and was very proficient with early synthesizers, such as the mellotron and mini-moog. He currently works as a presenter on the UK digital radio station "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 was expelled due to neglect of his studies in favour of work as a session musician.

In 1970, Wakeman played with The Strawbs and was an active studio musician, playing with such artists as David Bowie, Cat Stevens and Al Stewart. He joined Yes in 1971, following keyboardist Tony Kaye's departure. 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.

Of all the members of the band, Wakeman is the only non-vegetarian, a difference which contributed to his first departure from the band. 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. Following the tour, as the band began work on what would become [Relayer]], Wakeman felt further alienated from the group. Disenchanted with the direction Yes were going, and already into a successful solo career, Wakeman jumped ship.

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. He rejoined the band in 1991 but left a year later. 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 '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 (under the nickname Spock Wall), Brian May and played piano on "There's no one quite like Grandma" a follow up to Clive Dunn's hit "Grandad"

Wakeman played the Mellotron – an electronic musical instrument that used a bank of prerecorded tape strips, activated by each key on its keyboard. He worked with David Biro to develop the Birotron. The Birotron was not a commercial or technical success.

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.

A self-confessed former alcoholic, he allegedly 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, which began around the time of their marriage.

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. and Portsmouth 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 now supports Manchester City F.C. 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 (2007) presents a weekly programme 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".

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.

Wakeman is also Honorary President of the highly acclaimed 'Classic Rock Society', founded by Martin Hudson in 1991 and based in Rotherham, near Sheffield. Rick has performed many times for the CRS, including at Martin Hudson's 50th Birthday Concert, where 'the Oakwood Centre' (the CRS's largest venue) was nearly filled up with loyal fans.


Solo Discography Edit

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Strawbs Discography Edit

Wakeman With Wakeman Discography Edit

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