An Evening with Rick Wakeman
Rick was born Richard Christopher Wakeman in Perivale, West London on 18 May 1949, the only child of Cyril and Mildred Wakeman. Cyril played piano and encouraged Rick to take lessons and enter music competitions. Rick learned to play the church organ and by the age of 14 was a member of Atlantic Blues, a local group that had secured a year's residency at a mental health rehab club in Neasden.
In 1968, Rick began studying piano, clarinet and orchestration at the Royal College of Music planning a career in classical recital. He was soon distracted from study by the lure of performing in clubs and as a session musician and in 1969 he left the RCM to play keyboards for a range of recording artists.
During the early 70s Rick was a regular in the studios with David Bowie, Cat Stevens and Al Stewart. He played piano on Bowie’s “Life on Mars” and Cat Steven’s “Morning has broken” and popularised the Mellotron which he played on “Space Oddity” for a fee of £9! His reputation for arranging keyboard accompaniment in quick time led to him being referred to as “One Take Wakeman”.
In 1969, Rick played with The Strawbs on “Dragonfly”, the first album released with the Wakeman name on the credits. The next year he joined the band full-time, went on to tour and made further recordings. Melody maker described him as “tomorrow’s superstar”
In 1971, amidst growing differences with the Strawbs, Rick was faced with the choice of joining either David Bowie’s backing band, “The Spiders from Mars” or the prog rock band “Yes”. He chose “Yes”. His first album with the band was “Fragile” released later that year, the successful single “Roundabout” taken from it. Rick’s unique playing of a variety of acoustic and electric keyboards was central to this commercial success, elevating him to rock star.
During his time with Yes, Rick began his solo career with his first album, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”, released in January 1973 reaching No 7 in the UK album chart. “Yessongs”, was released in May and included his solo, "Excerpts from The Six Wives of Henry VIII". Other works followed; “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” and “The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table”. “Journey” entered the UK chart at No 1. and went on to sell 13 million copies worldwide.
Following David Bowie’s death in January 2016, Rick performed piano versions of "Life on Mars" and "Space Oddity" with proceeds donated to Macmillan Cancer Support. The recording was so popular that Rick was inspired to put together a full album of solo piano tracks featuring a mix of classical and pop.
In late 2016, Rick toured extensively in North America with Trevor Rabin and Jon Anderson as Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman (ARW). The tour was billed “An Evening of YES Music & More”. The tour continued during Spring 2017 in the UK and Japan.