Born into a very musical family in West London, England on the 18th of May 1949, Rick studied classical piano from the age of 5 with the late Dorothy Symes, (one of the most highly respected tutors in Southern England), and completed all 8 examination grades of both theory and practical with distinction before gaining a scholarship at the Royal College of Music in 1967.
Prior to entering the College, (where as additional studies Rick also took orchestration, clarinet and modern music), he also spent 8 years studying the techniques of both the church organ and harpsichord as well as having 7 years of private music history tuition.
From 1957 until 1966 Rick was entered for more than 100 classical piano competitions and festivals throughout England, gaining first place in more than 70 of them and only three times failing to finish in the top three.
Encouraged to explore all genres of music by his father, himself an accomplished piano player, Rick formed his first band at school in 1960 at age 11. It was a traditional jazz band and they called themselves Brother Wakeman and the Clergymen.
At the age of 14, he joined a local rock band, The Atlantic Blues and for the next four years continued his “live music apprenticeship” by playing with numerous dance bands, show-bands, rock and blues bands in pubs and clubs throughout southern England as well as performing at all sorts of private functions, playing the organ at both weddings and funerals and earning extra “pin money” by paying the piano in restaurants, hotels and even strip clubs. (He does however own up to perhaps playing the odd wrong note whilst working in the strip clubs due to some on stage distractions)!
Since his early teens Rick had his eye on a career as a concert pianist, but his wide reaching musical adventures throughout the 1960’s soon changed that and Rick left the Royal College of Music college as doors began to open for him in the fast growing studio world as a session player. This opened up even more of the musical world and working with so many different producers and artists certainly added the final touches to his very lengthy musical apprenticeship course.
By his late teens, Rick was already an established session man, and between 1969 and 1972, the name ‘Rick Wakeman’ began appearing on the credits of albums by such artists as Al Stewart, Elton John, Lou Reed, John Williams, Cat Stevens (including the classic piano on Morning Has Broken), Marc Bolan, Marsha Hunt, Mary Hopkins, Black Sabbath, and David Bowie (which included the classic piano work on tracks such as Life on Mars on the Hunky Dory album and the Mellotron on Space Oddity.
Overall Rick performed on over 2000 sessions and played on more than 100 hits around the world which established him with producers world wide as the most sought after keyboard player to have work with them.
In 1969 Rick found himself doing some session work with The Strawbs, a band of folk origins who Rick really felt were moving in new directions under the leadership of Dave Cousins, their singer / songwriter, who has remained a close friend since those early days.
These sessions with the Strawbs led to Rick joining the group in March 1970 and after two albums with the band, (Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios and From a Witchwood), Wakeman joined YES, one of the founders of progressive rock music in the late July of 1971.
Yes had attracted considerable attention with their first three albums and Rick played a key role in the shape of the group's fourth record, ‘Fragile,’ with his now unique array of synthesizers, Mellotrons, electric and acoustic pianos. ‘Fragile’ was a huge worldwide hit, driven in part by the chart success of the single "Roundabout" in America, and Rick Wakeman suddenly found himself elevated to superstar status.
Prior to Yes recording ‘Close to the Edge’ in 1972, Wakeman had been keeping himself busy during the previous 12 months by recording his first solo album in-between touring with YES. An instrumental work entitled ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII, the album consisted of his personal musical interpretations of the lives and personalities of the said six royal spouses. Released in the January of 1973 on A&M Records, (who felt it had little appeal as it was a purely instrumental album), it surprised almost everybody by selling in huge numbers virtually everywhere in the world. It was a Top 20 hit pretty much around the globe and to date has sold in excess of a staggering 10,000,000 copies.
At the same time as YES released their album, ‘Tales from Topographic Oceans,’ Wakeman recorded his new solo album, ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ live at The Royal Festival Hall in January of 1974.
‘Journey…’ was a musical adaptation from the writings of Jules Verne, featuring a rock band, a narrator (David Hemmings), plus The London Symphony Orchestra and The English Chamber Choir, and in April of that same year was released to tremendous critical acclaim throughout the world, where it shot to number one in the charts virtually everywhere. Interestingly, “music history trivia” shows that when ‘Journey…’ topped the UK charts in May 1974 it was also the day that Rick left Yes for the first time.
In 1975, Rick’s 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 with a full orchestra and choir and a cast of more than one hundred ice skaters performing around a giant castle which had been purpose built in the centre of the ice rink! King Arthur was performed for three nights and has become a major part of rock ‘n’ roll folklore.
During this same period, Wakeman began working on film scores, (he has since notched up over 20 scores), which included that of Ken Russell's ‘Lisztomania’, a film in which he also appeared as the God ‘Thor’.
Rick continued to tour extensively in ’76 whilst releasing another highly acclaimed album, ‘No Earthly Connection’. In November 1976 he also returned to Yes to record “Going For The One” in Switzerland, while his solo career continued with A&M until the end of the 1970's, with the release of two further albums, ‘Criminal Record’ and ‘Rhapsodies’.
Leaving YES at the same time as Jon Anderson in January 1980, Rick broadened his musical horizons further through his work with lyricist Tim Rice on a musical adaptation of George Orwell's ‘1984’, and his now blossoming film work, which included composing the music to movies about the 1976 Winter Olympics (White Rock) and the 1978 & 1982 football World Cup competitions (Gole & Hero respectively). Additionally, he started to become a regular guest on major shows on British Television and Wakeman's audience and reputation survived the 1980's better than almost any progressive rock star of his era, as he continued releasing albums on a variety of labels before setting up his own label at the end of the decade.
In the late Eighties Rick teamed up with three of his former YES compatriots to form Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe to record a new album at George Martin’s Air Studios on the island of Monserat. The album was supported by a hugely successful tour and then during the making of the band’s second album it suddenly found itself amalgamating the YES that was still in existence n the West Coast of America forming an eight piece line up for the Union tour.
At the end of the tour, The management in America deemed that Rick, Steve Howe and Bill Bruford were superfluous to needs and so they left, with Rick and Steve rejoining in 1997 although Rick’s stay was short lived, (just one year), due to many reasons, but suffice to say they were mostly managerial!
As the 1990’s progressed, Rick continued to complete and release a wide variety of solo albums, including the EMI Classics release of ‘Return to the Centre of the Earth’, together with armfuls of TV appearances and live performances. ‘Return…’ was a mammoth undertaking and included the London Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Choir and featured a who's who of musicians and vocalists, including Ozzy Osbourne, Trevor Rabin, Bonnie Tyler, Katrina and Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues.
His television career continues to blossom with regular appearances on Countdown, Have I got News for You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and the hugely successful Grumpy Old Men to name but a few and thanks to this television exposure he has become one of the most in demand after dinner speakers in the country.
Rick Wakeman kicked off the beginning of the DVD era with the release of ‘The Legend Live in Concert 2000’, which received rave reviews and was one of the world’s first DVD music titles to be recorded in Dolby 5.1. Subsequently, Classic Pictures have recently released ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ and ‘Live in Buenos Aires’ on DVD. All of which have been hugely successful.
Throughout 2002, Wakeman was again, extremely active. Rick pleased fans, (and himself as well it has to be said), when he rejoined Yes for an extensive tour of North America which commenced in June of that year. The huge tour brought together again the YES classic 5-piece line-up of Rick Wakeman, Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Alan White.
Just before rejoining the “ultimate YES”, Rick Wakeman and his band, The New English Rock Ensemble, completed the recording of a new studio album entitled ‘Out There’ which was released in March 2003 on the Music Fusion label. This was followed shortly afterwards by a 5.1 surround sound DVD release through Classic Pictures and which features animation and previously unseen bonus material.
In reviews, ‘Out There’ has already been described as a bona fide 21st century prog rock album parallel to that of the highly acclaimed ‘No Earthly Connection’, which was originally released in 1976.
During April and May of 2003, Rick Wakeman and the New English Rock Ensemble completed a highly successful 45-date ‘Out There’ tour of the UK which saw large scale prog–rock production returning to the theatres.
Following immediately on from this solo tour, Rick flew to Dublin to join up with YES and to embark on a summer festival and arena tour throughout Europe, which includes an appearance at the Glastonbury Festival and then continued his punishing schedule by returning to America to perform his one man show on a tour there.
2004 continued with two further tours of America with YES as well as an extensive tour of Europe with other personal appearances thrown in for good measure as well. Add to this a sprinkling of television, which included him presenting the critically acclaimed BBC 1 “Jesus Who?”, and there wasn’t actually a free day throughout the year, a pattern which continued throughout 2005 when he also somehow managed to squeeze in the recording of the highly acclaimed CD, Retro as well as becoming the first western artist ever to play live concerts in Cuba.
His sequel to Journey to the Centre of the Earth , entitled Return to the Centre of the Earth was performed twice in Canada , the second time was a spectacular event and played to an estimated outdoor audience of 82,000 in Quebec.
2006 saw another huge leap forward in his ever expanding career when he became an established television star in the Grumpy Old Men series on BBC television , a series that has been shown all over the world and opened up yet another new territory for Rick . More appearances on the television show Countdown were undertaken and from 2010 to the present day he has had his own slot “Rick’s Rants” on the BBC 1 Watchdog series. He is in constant demand for Radio quiz shows, comedy shows and voiceovers.
Musically things don’t stand still either . He performs a limited amount of concerts these days and these vary considerably in presentation from the shows with his long standing band , The English Rock Ensemble , shows with piano and orchestra , one man piano shows and even comedy stand up shows !
He also teamed up with Jon Anderson to make a highly acclaimed and very successful album entitled The Living Tree and together they toured the UK twice and also the USA in 2011. They have already started on a second album and a live show to be filmed is currently also being put together .
Rick also has his own internet television channel which was formed in 2012 and is growing fast. The channel shows live performances in high definition plus will soon be adding live streams from his studio and other outlets.
His award winning Radio show for Planet Rock ran for 5 years and now he has a show on the Dublin based rock station , Radio Nova , which goes out at 6pm on a Saturday evening . Rick launched a new radio show which was syndicated around the USA in 2012.
The announcement that he is to perform both Journey to the Centre of the Earth and King Arthur with band , choir and orchestra in South America at the end of 2012 has certainly awakened the masses and was another pinnacle in his musical career . King Arthur is also already booked with full entourage for Gloucester Rugby Ground in June of 2013.
Rick’s and his band , The English Rock Ensemble, set themselves a very high standard of performance which is why they only perform a handful of concerts each year . They will not compromise on quality of sound or equipment or indeed performance and so 90% of all offers for the band are turned down because they do not come up to the presentation standard the band have set themselves . The ERE are one of the most respected bands in progressive rock and the line-up is as follows :-)
On a personal front , Rick is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music and also has an honorary doctorate at the London College of Music.
Rick is married to his fourth wife , Rachel and they have been together for 11 years . he has 6 children and 7 grandchildren.
Amazingly considering he is a rock musician, he is teetotal and doesn’t smoke , has never touched drugs of any sort in his life and has a very strong faith.
More information , including a full discography , can be found on his website rwcc.com You can also follow him on Twitter @GrumpyOldRick Please note that Rick does not have any other social networking sites such as Facebook or My Space so any sites alluding to be that of Rick’s are not genuine .