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Rick Wakeman

Born in Perivale, Middlesex, England, Rick Wakeman's interest in music manifested itself very early, and from the age of seven on he studied classical piano. At the age of 14, he joined a local band, Atlantic Blues, the same year he left school to enroll in the Royal College of Music. He had his eye on a career as a concert pianist, but Wakeman was dismissed from the college after it became clear that he preferred playing in clubs to studying technique.

By his late teens, he was an established session man, playing on records by such diverse acts as Black Sabbath, Brotherhood of Man, and Edison Lighthouse. At the end of the '60s, his name also began appearing on the credits of albums by such artists as Al Stewart and David Bowie, and one set of sessions with a folk-rock band called the Strawbs led to his joining the group in 1970. After two albums with the Strawbs, Wakeman joined Yes, a post-psychedelic hard rock band that had attracted considerable attention with their first three albums. Wakeman played a key role in the final shape of the group's fourth record, Fragile, creating a fierce, swirling sound on an array of electric and acoustic pianos, synthesizers, and Mellotrons. Fragile was a hit, driven by the chart success of the single "Roundabout," and Wakeman was suddenly elevated to star status.

Yes' next album, Close to the Edge, expanded his audience and his appeal, for his instruments were heard almost continually on the record. During the making of Close to the Edge in 1972, Wakeman also recorded his first solo album, an instrumental work entitled The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which consisted of his musical interpretations of the lives and personalities of the said six royal spouses. Released early in 1973 on A&M Records, it performed respectably on the charts. Public reception of Yes' 1974 album, Tales From Topographic Oceans, was mixed, and the critics were merciless in their attacks upon the record. Wakeman exited the group before the album's supporting tour. His new solo album, Journey to the Center of the Earth, adapted from the writings of Jules Verne and featuring a rock band, narrator (David Hemmings), and full orchestral and choral accompaniment, was released to tremendous public response in both America and England, where it topped the charts. In 1975, his next album, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, was given a grand-scale premiere at Wembley's Empire Pool, although it also cost Wakeman a fortune to stage the event on ice. During this same period, Wakeman began working on film scores with the music for Ken Russell's Lisztomania, which was a modest hit.

In 1977, Wakeman returned to Yes, with which he has continued recording and touring. His solo career continued on A&M into the end of the '70s, with Criminal Record and Rhapsodies, which were modestly successful. Wakeman's biggest media splash during this period, however, came through his alleged role in getting the Sex Pistols dropped by A&M Records soon after being signed. None of this bothered his fans, which rapidly expanded to encompass those he picked up through his work with lyricist Tim Rice on a musical adaptation of George Orwell's 1984, and his burgeoning film work, which included the music to movies about the 1976 Winter Olympics and the 1982 soccer World Cup competition. Additionally, he became a regular on Britain's Channel 4. Wakeman's audience and reputation survived the 1980s better than almost any progressive rock star of his era, as he continued releasing albums on his own label. He also remained associated with Yes into the '90s. ~ Bruce Eder
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: British Live Performance Series

1. Catherine Parr (Live)

2. Elizabethan Rock/Make Me A Woman (Live)

3. Anne Boleyn (Live)

4. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (Live)

5. Merlin The Magician (Live)


Track List: Live At The BBC


Track List: White Rock Ii

1. Oriental Iceman

2. Ice Pie

3. Dancing On Snowflakes

4. Nine Ice Groove

5. In The Frame

6. Harlem Slalom

7. Frost In Space


Track List: Sunrise

1. Thoughts Of Love

2. Gentle Breezes

3. Whispering Cornfields

4. Peaceful Beginnings

5. Dewy Morn

6. Musical Dreams

7. Distant Thoughts

8. The Dove

9. When Time Stood Still

10. Secret Moments

11. Peaceful


Track List: Aspirant Sunshadows

1. The Night Wind

2. Churchyard

3. Tall Shadows

4. Shadow Love

5. Melancholy Mood

6. Mount Fuji By Night

7. Hidden Reflectons

8. The Evening Harp

9. The Moonraker Pond

10. The Last Lamplight

11. Japanese Sunshadows


Track List: Cirque Surreal

1. Gnash

2. Balance Of Power

3. Wings Of Fortune

4. Static

5. The Party

6. Wired For Sound

7. Juliet

8. Tubular Balls

9. Carlos

10. The Love That I Know

11. The Jig


Track List: Classic Tracks

1. Journey To The Center Of The Earth

2. Catherine Howard

3. Umberto II

4. Merlin The Magician


Track List: Aspirant Sunset

1. Floating Clouds

2. Still Waters

3. The Dream

4. The Sleeping Village

5. Sea Of Tranquility

6. Peace

7. Sunset

8. Dying Embers

9. Dusk

10. Evening Moods


Track List: Cost Of Living

1. Twij

2. Pandamonia

3. Gone But Not Forgotten

4. One For The Road

5. Bedtime Stories

6. Happening Man

7. Shakespeare Run

8. Monkey Nuts

9. Elegy - Written In A Country Churchyard


Track List: 1984

2. Julia

3. The Hymn

5. Robot Man

6. Sorry

7. No Name

8. Forgotten Memories

9. The Proles

10. 1984


Track List: No Earthly Connection


Track List: The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table

1. Arthur

2. Lady Of The Lake

3. Guinevere

4. Sir Lancelot And The Black Knight

5. Merlin The Magician

6. Sir Galahad

7. The Last Battle


Track List: Journey To The Center Of The Earth

2. The Battle / The Forest


Track List: The Six Wives Of Henry VIII: Live At Hampton Court Palace


Track List: The Six Wives of Henry VIII

1. Tudorture "1485"

2. Catherine of Aragon (2009)

3. Kathryn Howard (2009)

4. Jane Seymour (2009)

5. Defender of the Faith

6. Katherine Parr (2009)

7. Anne of Cleaves (2009)

8. Anne Boleyn (2009)

9. Tudorock


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Amazon keeps throwing dollars back in my face - this music is not available... ( e v e n though the promise was there)... My God - I have a deep seeded NEED to hear this guy's music !!! OMG - I am suffering here !!!
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Sing it to me again
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Now I lay me down to sleep , I pray the LORD my soul to keep,if I should die before I wake , I pray the LORD my soul to take. Please pray for love , peace and compassion.
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No mention of his becoming a born-again Christian either, which has transformed his music a great deal since then.
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A total snoozefest.
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He was already in Yes when he recorded keyboard tracks for Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, not in his teens as the bio incorrectly states. And as another person stated, he did tour for the Topographic Oceans tour.
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oopoo_why_no t
alan.arper, likely no mention of Stevens bcaus he turnd2darkSi d e & a g r e e d w/xtremistIs l a m W h o T h r e a t e n d 2 k i l l A u t h o r back in 1981/1982 &cartoonists that Extremist Islamists ordered removed from our blue planet. Consequently , i removed CatStevens Albums FromMyCollec t i o n . . .
He cant be riding a peace train any more when the turd bird advocates murder, assassinatio n & presumably beheadings since we dont hear him using his BULLY PULPIT to call for 'moderate muslims' to do something to restrain these insa
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Bio is wrong. Wakeman toured in support of Tales. Also; why no mention of his work with Cat Stevens?
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Yes there is something almost spiritual about his music and performance
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Saw Rick Wakeman in Fort Worth Texas. He sounds amazing. His music is very relaxing
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It also neglects to mention his subsequent works following his embracing Christianity .
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Who writes the bio. Wake man didnt leave Yes before the Tales tour. He toured it & then left
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Lovely, "Still Waters"
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@figclef...i t ' s Rick's fault for me, too.
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If you liked the classic Wakeman stuff - King Arthur, Journey to the Center of the Earth, etc. - you've GOT to go and get Retro and Retro 2. Classic Wakeman sounds and writing. I bought Retro, listened to it, and after the first three tracks started ordering Retro 2...
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And what might I ask his act shall be rick?perhaps a tiger wrestler? a bear beater upper?a lion thrower?a hippo hurler? a elephant Squasher? a great big horde of hornet ranglers? a big bad wolf whipper?a cat clawed?
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I believe that wake man can and should push the musical boundaries past the point of no return,meani n g he has the ability to blow the musical universe wide open with an extremely synthesized, e t c concept or similar concoction if ya will!Emerson should join him,that says it all!
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Wakemans CD "music of middle earth"is very nice,its based on Lord of the rings themes,very eccentric ,like the rest of his music.
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This chaps nuttier than a liberal convention grab him now!his keyboard playing is sciztso,just kiddin,he's just a brilliant musician! episodes of musical mayhem with lively kaleidoscopi c bizarreness
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At the end of every gig while I'm tearing down, I tell myself that one day I'm going to make Rick help me with my gear because it's his fault I'm a keyboard player
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The Keyboard player in my Prog Rock band preferred Emerson. As a Bass Player, loved Yes, found ELP redundant. BUT, they did a tour with a 66 piece orchestra in Madison Square Garden just amazing. After the Works album.
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As far as Yes tours, the reunion Going for the One was a great album and a better tour. Wakeman IS BACK! saw all three nights at Madison Square Garden debuting the PolyMoog keyboard. What a step forward in sound. Still, Rick did not disappoint in having a truckload of keyboards on stage. Gold cape and all. Man, the nonsense we loved back then. Still love the music!
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In the selected discography, perhaps his finest solo album was left off - Criminal Minds, just well recorded, great playing, plus Rick playing the pipe organ in (if I remember correctly) Notre Dame. Criminally neglected.
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OMG, how awesomely beautiful !!!
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Wakeman vs. Emerson - two months before the Tales show at the Nassau Coliseum in '74, ELP were at the Garden for Brain Salad Surgery. Unreal. This may have been the height for both bands. Both utterly impressive shows. If you were into synthesizers , it didn't get much better. Then of course there was Genesis with The Lamb that year too. Album rock - started with Tommy in '69.
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Wakeman played the Tales tour. Bio needs correction. At least Wakeman was there at Uniondale, Long Island, NY on 2/14/74. What a show, they openned with the Firebird Suite into Siberian Khatru, And You and I, Close to the Edge, and then played the all the tracks to Tales and ended with Roundabout. The show went on forever, almost 2 1/2 hours.
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Great musicianship indeed.
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ASPIRANT: One who seeks or desires.
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wingedliones s
Ultimately, my fave work of his has been with his longtime friend and associate Jon Anderson...t h e i r duet The Meeting from the ABWH album just sent ripples of loveliness into my very being. I have yet to get their collaborativ e album The Living Tree into my collection, but I will, Soon, oh, soon...
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Finally, an artist comment log with some intelligent discourse.
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Wakeman smokes da keyboard, Rick's got game...
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enjoy good tunes
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Gerry, you are a very fortunate person! I got to meet Wakeman in 2004 after a Yes concert in Las Vegas, and got to meet Moog sometime in the late '90s when he gave a talk on electronic music at a local church. But I don't have their signatures on a 50th Anniversary Voyager! In retrospect, I should have brought along my '78 Minimoog for them to sign!
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I had the opportunity to meet Rick Wakeman in 2005 when I attended his Christmas Party titled, Four Wakemans and a Chrstmas Tree at Marlborough College, in Marlborough, England. That was where he performed with his children, two sons Oliver & Adam, as well as his daughter, Gemma. While there I got him to sign my 50th Anniversay MinMoog Voyager, which I got Dr. Bob Moog to hand sign for me before he died in August of that same year. Now it has not only the signature of the great man who designed
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This Wakeman vs. Emerson debate was a big topic of discussion in the early 70s. My own take is that they are both so great whichever one I was listening to at the time was the best. Concerning that Knights of the Round-table LP which is listed in the discography. If it had been done without that awful vocalist whatever his credentials were it might have gone down as a classic along along with the Six Wives masterpiece .
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Odd that there is no reference to Myths and Legends of King Author and the Knights of the Round Table, my favorite Wakeman solo project.
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Continuing, Eddie Jobson's Green Album is his "Six Wives" to me, absolutely fantastic. I love everything he's done, with Zappa, UK, even Roxy Music, but he takes #3 for me in the Wakeman/Emer s o n / J o b s o n showdown.
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Wakeman or Emerson, the eternal question. Taking their entire bodies of work as a whole, I may agree with Peter Fithian a bit. Though his playing is always excellent, writing-wise Wakeman has turned out some less than stellar compositions . But in my opinion, everything on Six Wives holds up to Emerson quite well, and generally speaking Wakeman touches my emotions more often than Emerson. If I'm listening to Six Wives, Wakeman is king; Brain Salad Surgery, I'll say Emerson.
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Loved his work with Yes- Always thought his best solo work was Six Wives, amazing stuff there, even so- I must agree with pmfifth- Emerson was better.
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he is fantastic-an d he is touring now and I am sure he will put on a great show
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Rick Wakeman can be considered; even though not his preferred composer the W. A. Mozart of Classic Rock of the twentieth Century.
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@Rage Cage - thanks, man... ;D
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Same here Steve. Saw Tales tour in Memphis in 74'. Wakeman was there.
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@Peter Fithian - i gotta say, it is SO refreshing to hear criticism that actually has some competent thought behind it. i totally agree with you. and props on your shoutout to Tarkus. it's to die for.
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While Wakeman's technique was impressive, his writing ability (or creative talent) was far inferior to the likes of Emerson or (Eddie) Jobson. He never wrote anything that wasn't in standard time or didn't use mundane chord progressions . You listen to something like 'Tarkus' and it's obvious...
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saw Rick doing Journey to the center of the earth in Detroit Cabo arena then again doing the Round table at that concert Gary Wright open up for him he was great also ....
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Bio correction correction, apparently Rick left Yes during the Tales tour because I went to a Yes concert later that same year (1974) and was quite disappointed to realize that Rick Wakeman was NOT performing. Today, after getting up to identify the piece I was hearing on Ambient Radio (Pandora) I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was Whispering Cornfields (from Sunrise) by Rick Wakeman. I'm sure we can all agree that Rick Wakeman is an artist of incredible creative 'depth'.
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Bio correction - Rick didn't leave "before" the Tales tour, but afterward. My first Yes concert was the Tales tour in March 1974, and Wakeman was there in all his sequined glory. Fantastic show!
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Wakeman marks an era ; that started as young man playing for London Phylarmonic Orchestra.Al o n g with Steve Howe ; Jon Anderson ; Bruford and Obviously the magnificent bass player whose name does not come to mind was part of the best progressive rock group ever. But to listen to this virtuoso as a soloist is just breathtaking
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