Rick Wakeman in 2012.
|Birth name||Richard Christopher Wakeman|
18 May 1949 |
Perivale, London, England
|Genres||Progressive rock, classical, hard rock, ambient, new-age, Christian|
|Occupation(s)||Keyboardist, composer, song writer, television and radio presenter, author, actor|
|Instruments||Keyboards (piano, organ, synthesizers), Hammond organ, electric piano, Mellotron, Minimoog|
|Labels||A&M, Charisma, President, Voiceprint, Griffin, EMI, Music Fusion, Hot Productions, Studio T|
|Associated acts||Yes, Strawbs, ABWH, David Bowie, Warhorse, Black Sabbath, Cat Stevens|
Richard Christopher "Rick" Wakeman (born 18 May 1949) is an English keyboardist, songwriter, television and radio presenter, and author. He is best known for being the former keyboardist in the progressive rock band Yes and his solo albums from the 1970s. In more recent years, he became known for his contributions to the BBC comedy series Grumpy Old Men, and his radio show on Planet Rock named Rick's Place, which aired from 2005 to 2010.
Wakeman left the Royal College of Music in 1969 to become a full-time session musician, when he played on songs by David Bowie, T. Rex, Elton John, Cat Stevens, and Black Sabbath. In 1970, he joined the Strawbs for three albums before joining Yes for two runs from 1971 to 1980, playing on their successful albums Fragile (1971), Close to the Edge (1972), Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973), Going for the One (1977), and Tormato (1978). In 1988, Wakeman co-formed Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, which led to his return to Yes from 1990 to 1992; he returned twice after that, from 1995 to 1997 and 2002 to 2004.
Wakeman began his career as a solo artist in 1973. His first three albums are his most successful and well known: The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1973), Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974), and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1975). Wakeman has released over 100 solo albums that have sold 50 million copies worldwide, ranging from pop, solo piano, film scores, Christian, ambient, and New-age music. He has made many television and radio appearances throughout his career, and has written three books: an autobiography and two memoirs. He is the father of keyboardists Adam Wakeman and Oliver Wakeman.
- 1 Biography
- 1.1 1949–69: Early life and music career
- 1.2 1969–71: Session work, Strawbs, and joining Yes
- 1.3 1971–74: First Yes run and start of solo career
- 1.4 1974–80: King Arthur, No Earthly Connection, and second Yes run
- 1.5 1980–88: Solo projects
- 1.6 1988–99: ABWH and third and fourth Yes runs
- 1.7 2000–present: Fifth Yes run and solo projects
- 2 Instruments
- 3 Other career endeavours
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Discography
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 References
- 8 External links
1949–69: Early life and music career
Rick Wakeman was born Richard Christopher Wakeman on 18 May 1949 in the west London suburb of Perivale. His parents, Cyril Frank Wakeman and Mildred Helen Wakeman, lived in nearby Northolt. Cyril played the piano in a dance band while he was in the Army, and worked at a building suppliers where he worked up from office boy at the age of 14 to become one of its board of directors. Mildred worked at a removal firm. In 1954, Wakeman attended Little Wood Harden Infants School in Greenford followed by Drayton Manor Park Grammar School in Hanwell from 1959. When Wakeman turned 7, his father arranged weekly piano lessons with Dorothy Symes, which lasted for 11 years. She recalled that Wakeman "passed everything with a distinction" and was an "enjoyable pupil to teach, full of fun and with a good sense of humour", but noted his lack of self-discipline when it came to music practice. Symes entered Wakeman in music competitions around London He nevertheless went on to win 100 certificates and 20 medals and cups.
At the age of 14, Wakeman joined the Atlantic Blues, a local blues band that earned a year's residency in Neasden. During this time, he formed Curdled Milk, a joke on the band Cream, to play at the annual Drayton Manor school dance. In 1966, he joined The Concordes, later known as the Concord Quartet, playing dance and pop songs at local events with his cousin Alan on saxophone and clarinet. Wakeman used the money earned from gigs to buy his first electronic instrument, a Pianet. In his teens, Wakeman attended church and became a Sunday school teacher, and was baptised at the age of 18.
Wakeman described himself at grammar school as "a horror ... I worked hard in the first year, then eased up". He wished to take up music full-time and attend the Royal College of Music in London, but he needed to pass 8 music exams to earn his A-levels, which required him, as his mother remembered, "to do two years' work in ten months". Wakeman's school music teacher gave him the determination to work after betting him ten shillings that he would not succeed. Wakeman passed, and received the money from his teacher. Wakeman studied for his grades after refusing his father's offer to work at his building company if he failed. During his A-level studies, Wakeman played in the Ronnie Smith Band, a dance group at the Top Rank ballroom in Watford. He met singer Ashley Holt, who later played for many of Wakeman's albums and tours.
In 1968, Wakeman secured a place at the Royal College of Music, where he studied the piano, clarinet, orchestration, and modern music. His intention was to become a concert pianist. He began on a performers course before switching to a teachers course. Wakeman took a relaxed attitude to his studies, drinking in pubs and missing lectures. He spent most of his spare time at a music shop in Ealing run by Dave Simms, who knew the saxophonist in the Top Rank band. Wakeman found himself at his first recording as a session musician when guitarist Chas Cronk came in one morning in need of an organist and brass arranger for members of the Ike & Tina Turner band. It was Wakeman's first time in the studio, and he met producers Tony Visconti, Gus Dudgeon, and Denny Cordell at the session. Impressed with his work, Cordell offered him sessions for Regal Zonophone Records.
1969–71: Session work, Strawbs, and joining Yes
Wakeman became a busy session musician, playing keyboards for a variety of artists. He became known as "One Take Wakeman". In June 1969, Wakeman played the Mellotron on "Space Oddity" by David Bowie for a session fee of £9. Wakeman also played organ and piano on the 1969 "Red Wind" by New York singer-songwriter Tucker Zimmerman. The record was Zimmerman's only single.
In 1969, Wakeman played the piano as a session player for the folk rock group Strawbs on their album Dragonfly; this was the first album with his name on the credits. In March 1970, he joined the band as a full-time member and married his first wife, Rosaline Woolford, at the age of 20. The Strawbs went to Paris for a series of dates as part of a rock and roll circus with various bands backing the circus acts. During one performance, Wakeman pushed Salvador Dali off the stage as he made a special guest appearance during his piano solo. He said, "I didn't know who he was. I thought, 'Silly old sod, coming on the stage waving his stick'." Wakeman's first major show with the Strawbs followed on 11 July 1970 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, which was recorded for their live album, Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios. Wakeman performed his solo piano piece, "Temperament of Mind", and it received a standing ovation. The piece originated from an improvisation after the band lost power during a performance, leaving Wakeman to fill time by playing the piano. Following the Queen Elizabeth concert, Wakeman appeared on the front page of Melody Maker which called him "Tomorrow's superstar."
In early 1971, while material for the next Strawbs album was being written, Wakeman returned to session-playing to help pay for a new house in West Harrow. He bought a Minimoog synthesizer at half price from actor Jack Wild, who thought that it was defective because it only played one note at a time. Wakeman played the piano on "Morning Has Broken" by Cat Stevens for Stevens' album Teaser and the Firecat (1971). Wakeman was omitted from the credits and was never paid for the session; Stevens later apologised and paid Wakeman for the error. In 1971, Wakeman played on "Get It On" by T. Rex, three tracks on Madman Across the Water (1971) by Elton John, and "Changes", "Oh! You Pretty Things", and "Life on Mars?" for Bowie's album Hunky Dory (1971). Bowie invited Wakeman to his home, outlining some of the music for him to learn, on guitar. Wakeman described it as "the finest selection of songs I have ever heard in one sitting in my entire life". In 1971, an album compiled of pop tunes played by Wakeman on the piano was released by Polydor Records, produced by John Schroeder and titled Piano Vibrations. Wakeman received no royalties from its sales, and was paid £36 for the four sessions that it took to make.
The final Straws album on which Wakeman played, From the Witchwood, was released in March 1971. The album marked the start of growing differences between himself and the band, making the better-paid sessions a priority and lacking contributions to the material. The album peaked on the UK chart at number 39. Wakeman wanted to leave the band as he was not earning enough money to cover bills and a mortgage. In July 1971, he was faced with "one of the most difficult decisions" of his career, after Bowie invited him to play keyboards for his new backing band, The Spiders from Mars, with guitarist Mick Ronson. Wakeman then received a phone call at two in the morning from Chris Squire, the bass player of the progressive rock group Yes, who explained that the band wanted a new keyboardist as Tony Kaye resisted learning instruments other than the piano and organ. Wakeman agreed to meet the band as they rehearsed for their fourth album, Fragile. He recalls that in his first session the basis of "Heart of the Sunrise" and "Roundabout" were put together. He chose to join Yes as it presented more favourable opportunities, and he played his final gig with the Strawbs at a live BBC recording for John Peel's radio show. Wakeman appeared on the front cover of Melody Maker for the second time in a year, under the headline "Wakeman joins Yes". His earnings increased from £18 to £50 a week.
1971–74: First Yes run and start of solo career
Fragile to The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Yes made Fragile in five weeks to help finance a new set of keyboards for Wakeman. The album features five tracks written by each member of the group; Wakeman recorded "Cans and Brahms", an adaptation of the third movement of Symphony No. 4 in E minor by Johannes Brahms. Wakeman has called the track "dreadful" as contractual disputes between Atlantic Records and A&M Records, who he was with as a solo artist, prevented him from writing his own composition. Wakeman claimed his contributions to the group written tracks were not credited, that management had agreed to "sort something out on the publishing side" but never took care of it. Wakeman said, "I enjoyed the music too much to want to create a tremendous hoo-hah about it, although it was a fair bit of money." Fragile was released in November 1971 and peaked at number 4 in the US and number 7 in the UK. It went on to sell over two million copies in the US. The Fragile Tour lasted from September 1971 to March 1972 and spanned the UK and North America.
The success of Fragile led to Wakeman buy a large house in Gerrards Cross and start a collection of cars, which he rented out through a company he formed, the Fragile Carriage Company (founded 1975 - dissolved). In late 1971, Wakeman played two noted sessions: piano on "It Ain't Easy" on Bowie's album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and on Orange by Al Stewart. In the 1972 Melody Maker readers poll, Wakeman came second in the top keyboardist category behind Keith Emerson.
Yes recorded their fifth album, Close to the Edge, in 1972. The album showcases the band producing long tracks with multiple sections, exemplified by the 18-minute title track. It features Wakeman on church organ at St Giles-without-Cripplegate in London and a Hammond organ solo. Wakeman receives a writing credit on the third track, "Siberian Khatru". Close to the Edge was released in September 1972 to critical and commercial success; it peaked at number 4 in the UK and number 3 in the US where it sold over one million copies. Wakeman singled out Close to the Edge as "without doubt one of the finest moments of Yes's career." The Close to the Edge Tour ran from July 1972 to April 1973 and featured the band's debut shows in Japan and Australia. The tour marked the first time Wakeman wore a cape on stage. His first, made with sequins by Denise Gandrup in two weeks, cost US$300. In December 1972, Wakeman took part as a guest performer in The Who's performances of Tommy accompanied by an orchestra.
Wakeman began his career as a solo artist during his first run with Yes. He released his first studio album, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, in January 1973. Recording took place from February to October 1972 with an advance of £4,000 from A&M Records. The album is instrumental with its concept based on Wakeman's interpretations of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII. He used seven musicians from Yes and the Strawbs to play on the record that cost around £25,000 to make. On 16 January 1973, the album was previewed with Wakeman performing excerpts of the album on the BBC television music show, The Old Grey Whistle Test. An audience of around 10 million planned to watch a controversial film about American pop figure Andy Warhol, but was temporarily banned for broadcast. Wakeman said, "It seems most of them, rather than watch repeats, switched over to 'Whistle Test' and saw my preview of 'Henry' ... and suddenly it seemed as if the whole country had discovered my music ... it was a tremendous break." The album was released on 23 January and reached number 7 in the UK and number 30 in the US. Time magazine named the record one of the best pop albums of the year.
Yessongs to Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Wakeman's success with Yes continued to grow in 1973. Their first live album, the triple-LP Yessongs, was released in May and went to number 7 in the UK and went on to sell one million copies in the US. The album includes his solo spot, "Excerpts from 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII'". Wakeman is featured in the band's concert film, Yessongs, filmed in 1972 at the Rainbow Theatre. At the 1973 Melody Maker readers poll awards, Wakeman came out first in the top keyboardist category.
Yes started work on their sixth studio album, Tales from Topographic Oceans. Its concept originated from Anderson, who located a footnote from Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda that described the four classes of Hindu scripture, collectively known as the shastras. Anderson and Howe proceeded to write the basis of four 20-minute tracks based on each of the shastras. Wakeman questioned Anderson's understanding based on a single footnote, and spent more time in the studio bar and playing darts. The album was a commercial success, reaching number one in the UK for two weeks and number 8 in the US. Wakeman has explained his total dislike of the album is "not entirely true"; he recognises some "very, very nice musical moments" but because of the [...] format of how records used to be we had too much for a single album but not enough for a double [...] so we padded it out and the padding is awful [...] but there are some beautiful solos like "Nous sommes du soleil" [...] one of the most beautiful melodies [...] and deserved to be developed even more perhaps."
Wakeman embarked on Yes's Tales from Topographic Oceans Tour, spanning Europe and North America from November 1973 to April 1974 with a two-hour set of Close to the Edge and Tales from Topographic Oceans played in their entirety. During a concert in Manchester, Wakeman proceeded to eat a curry on stage. He recalled, "I had become so frustrated from playing Topographic Oceans, and this night I got really bored on stage ... So I whispered to John Cleary, who looked after my keyboards, 'Go and get me a curry, John'. He looked rather astonished ... he returned with the hottest bowl of curry." When the tour reached the US, Yes played three sides of Topographic Oceans album instead of four, leaving space for more popular songs.
During a break in the Topographic Oceans tour, Wakeman performed his new work, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, a piece based on Jules Verne's same-titled science fiction novel. He came up with the idea in November 1971, but put the project on hold until recording for The Six Wives of Henry VIII had finished. After speaking about his idea to Lou Reizner, he worked with conductor David Measham who agreed to take part. Wakeman worked with Wil Malone and Danny Beckerman to help arrange the orchestral score. Producing the shows was, who learned about Wakeman's idea for Journey and put him in contact with Measham. Wakeman met with his manager Brian Lane to pitch the idea of performing Journey in concert with an orchestra, choir, and a rock band. As the cost of producing the album in a studio was too high, A&M Records agreed to record the album live. To help finance the project, Wakeman sold a few of his cars and "mortgage[d himself] up to the hilt to help finance the whole thing," which cost around £40,000. Wakeman held two concerts at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 18 January 1974 with the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Choir, actor David Hemmings as narrator, and a five-piece band formed of musicians that Wakeman once played with in a pub: vocalists Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford-Hopkins, drummer Barney James, bassist Roger Newell, and guitarist Mike Egan. Management at A&M wanted more well known players, but Wakeman wanted the album to be known for its music, rather than the performers.
When Journey to the Centre of the Earth was complete, the album was poorly received among A&M management who refused to sell it. However, as Wakeman was under contract with A&M in the US, a cassette was sent to co-founder Jerry Moss who subsequently agreed to have the album released. On 18 May 1974, his twenty-fifth birthday, Wakeman confirmed his departure from Yes to manager Brian Lane. He had heard some of the band's material for what became Relayer and felt unable to contribute to the music. Later in the day, he received a call from A&M Records, informing him that Journey to the Centre of the Earth had just entered the UK charts at number one. The album reached number 3 in the US. Wakeman received an Ivor Novello Award for the album and a Grammy Award nomination. The album went on to sell 14 million copies worldwide.
1974–80: King Arthur, No Earthly Connection, and second Yes run
Solo tours to Lisztomania
After his departure from Yes, Wakeman headlined the year's Garden Party concert at Crystal Palace Park on 27 July 1974, performing selections from The Six Wives of Henry VIII and the whole of Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Wakeman's health had deteriorated; he had not slept in five days prior to the show and had injured his wrist after he fell. A doctor treated him with morphine to help him through the gig. A few days later, he suffered a heart attack. During his recovery in Wexham Park Hospital, he wrote the first song for his next concept album, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Wakeman decided to continue with his career and continued to smoke and drink. In September 1974, Wakeman embarked on his first solo tour of North America across 20 dates, with the National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Choir of America, and his rock band. As per doctors orders, Wakeman was required to pass a heart monitor test before each performance. The show featured selections from The Six Wives of Henry VIII with Journey to the Centre of the Earth performed in its entirety. Wakeman revealed the tour cost him £125,000.
Wakeman recorded King Arthur at Morgan Studios from October 1974 to January 1975, with the New World Orchestra, English Chamber Choir, and Nottingham Festival Vocal Group. The album was released in April 1975 and peaked at number 2 in the UK and number 21 in the US. It earned Gold certifications in Brazil, Japan, and Australia. A month later, Wakeman performed the album live for three sold out shows at Wembley Arena to a total of 27,000 people. As the arena floor was set up with ice, Wakeman decided to present the show on ice with fourteen dressed ice skaters and a castle in the middle for the orchestra, choir, and his band. The shows were well received but expensive to produce, consuming much of the income from the album's sales. The event came in at number 79 on the 100 Greatest Shocking Moments in Rock and Roll program by VH1.[dead link] The album has sold 12 million copies.
In 1975, Wakeman and his English Rock Ensemble toured the US and Brazil for a series of successful concerts. The tour marked his first association with drummer Tony Fernandez, who would perform on many of his future albums and tours. In late 1975, Wakeman produced the soundtrack for Lisztomania, a biography film about composer Franz Liszt written and directed by Ken Russell. Wakeman appears in the film as Thor, the god of thunder.
No Earthly Connection to second Yes run
In January 1976, Wakeman started recording his next solo album, No Earthly Connection, at Château d'Hérouville near Paris. He proceeded to take a year out of the UK as a tax exile. The album's highlight is "Music Reincarnate", a 28-minute track split into five sections. The album reached number 9 in the UK and number 67 in the US. Wakeman's world tour to support the album was a scaled down production due to insufficient funds. Wakeman recorded the soundtrack to White Rock, a documentary film about the 1976 Winter Olympics directed by Tony Maylam, in 1976. The film premiered in 1977 as a double bill with the Genesis concert film, Genesis: In Concert. The album was released in the same year. The song "After the Ball" was a track Wakeman forgot to write; he proceeded to play it as a completely improvised song in one take, rather than confessing he forgot.
Following his No Earthly Connection tour, Wakeman was invited by Brian Lane to meet Yes in Switzerland as they worked on Going for the One in Mountain Studios in Montreux. Wakeman's replacement, Swiss musician Patrick Moraz, had left the band due to the "enormous psychological pressures within the group." Wakeman heard the band's new material of shorter, more concise songs and felt Going for the One was "the album Yes should have made instead of 'Topographic Oceans'." Wakeman was booked to play on the album initially as a session musician; in November 1976 he was convinced by Squire and Lane to rejoin full-time. Released in July 1977, Going for the One spent two weeks at number one in the UK and number 8 in the US. Wakeman has considered its 15-minute track "Awaken" as one of the band's best songs. During Yes's 1977 tour, Wakeman released Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record, a solo album loosely based on criminality with Squire on bass, Alan White on drums, Frank Ricotti on percussion, and Bill Oddie on "The Breathalyser". The album went to number 25 in the UK.
In 1978, Wakeman, along with musicians Mick Jagger, Peter Frampton, and Paul Simon, invested in the formation of the Philadelphia Fury, an American soccer team that ended in 1980. Wakeman funded the development of the Birotron, a tape replay keyboard that used 8-track tape cartridges, made by Dave Biro.
1980–88: Solo projects
Following his departure from Yes, Wakeman reformed his English Rock Ensemble in 1980 and completed a European tour. He came close to forming a band with drummer Carl Palmer, bassist John Wetton, and guitarist Trevor Rabin, but opted out "on a matter of principle" to as the record company was prepared to sign them without hearing any of the group's music. He recalled, "I basically sealed my financial fate, and things went downhill fast." His father's death in November 1980 prompted his return to the UK and sign a record deal with Charisma Records to avoid bankruptcy. In June 1981, Wakeman released 1984, a concept rock album based on George Orwell's eponymous dystopian novel with a band including Steve Barnacle on bass, Gary Barnacle on saxophone, and Frank Ricotti on drums. The album features tracks with Chaka Khan, Jon Anderson, Kenny Lynch, and Tim Rice on lead vocals with Rice the album's lyricist. 1984 reached number 24 in the UK. Plans to have the album worked into a 1984 musical were cancelled after lawyers from Orwell's estate blocked its development. During Wakeman's 1981 tour of Europe and South America, he first met Nina Carter. In the same year, Wakeman recorded the soundtrack to the slasher horror film The Burning.
In 1982, Wakeman hosted the Channel 4 music show Gastank with Tony Ashton that aired in 1983. He released a second album for Charisma, Cost of Living, a mixture of instrumental and rock tracks with Tim Rice on vocals, which "did nothing" to improve his financial situation. He then released Rock 'n' Roll Prophet, a spoof on the pop duo The Buggles that was recorded in Switzerland in 1979 and reissued in 1991 with four additional tracks. The album was not well received; Wakeman remembered his situation by 1983 had got to the point where he was "managerless, penniless and homeless." He and Carter moved to Camberley in Surrey after the birth of their daughter Jemma. Wakeman took up work by recording the soundtrack to the official 1982 FIFA World Cup documentary film G'olé!, and his second Ken Russell film, Crimes of Passion (1984), with Fernandez on drums and Strawbs member Chas Cronk on bass. He then toured Australia in early 1984 with Sky as a guest musician.
In 1984, Wakeman signed a deal with President Records and recorded Silent Nights with Fernandez, Cronk, and Rick Fenn on guitar. The track "Glory Boys" was released a single and became a minor hit. Wakeman took the band on a tour of the UK, the US, and Australia to promote Silent Nights, which spawned a live album, Live at Hammersmith. The tour cost him money, leaving him "seriously in debt" and forced to remortgage his Camberley home. In September 1985, during the tour's Australian leg, Wakeman fell ill from his alcoholism and has been teetotal since. Wakeman produced his first of a series of New age albums titled Country Airs, a solo piano album released in 1986 that topped the UK New age chart. This was followed by The Family Album in 1987, featuring tracks dedicated to each of his family members and pets. Also in 1987, Wakeman recorded and released The Gospels, a Christian album based on the four Gospels for Stylus Records, with tenor vocalist Ramon Remedios and actor Robert Powell as narrator. The music was originally written for a concert as part of a fund raising event for a church. Wakeman played the album with Remedios and his band in Caesarea, Israel in the following year. Wakeman recorded Time Machine, a concept album based on the science fiction novel The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, featuring Roy Wood and Tracey Ackerman as guest vocalists. The album was released in 1988; Wakeman intended to record it with an orchestra and choir and put on an ice show, but the idea was cancelled due to lack of funds.
1988–99: ABWH and third and fourth Yes runs
In March 1988, Wakeman and Carter sold their Camberley home and moved to the Isle of Man to improve their finances. To save money, Wakeman set up his own recording studio named Bajonor in a converted coach house next to his home. Wakeman released two New age albums recorded at Studio House in Wraysbury: A Suite of Gods, based on Greek and Roman mythology with Fernandez and Remedios, and Zodiaque with Fernandez featuring tracks dedicated to each of the twelve signs of the zodiac.
In late 1988, Wakeman received a call from Brian Lane who invited him to form Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe with former Yes band members Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford and Steve Howe. Anderson wished to make an album that reflected Yes's 1970s sound and wanted to record on the island of Montserrat. The album was released in June 1989 and sold 750,000 copies. The band's world tour ran from July 1989 to March 1990. During the tour, Wakeman released two more solo albums: Black Knights at the Court of Ferdinand IV with Italian musician Mario Fasciano and a sequel to Country Airs named Sea Airs.
Work on a second Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe began in France in 1990. Development was interrupted when it was decided to merge their tracks with an in-progress Yes album to create Union. Wakeman, along with the combined members of both bands then joined to form a Yes supergroup (made up of past and present members of Yes) for the subsequent tour in 1991. When the tour ended a year later, Wakeman left again.
In 1993, Wakeman embarked on a world tour with his son Adam Wakeman. He recorded a solo piano album about the Isle of Man named Heritage Suite, and an album with Adam named Wakeman with Wakeman. Later in 1993, Wakeman's financial situation worsened when he was ordered with a payment from the Inland Revenue close to £70,000 for interest charges and unpaid penalties for tax he had paid for the past six years. He paid it by, as he wrote, "...with help from Brian Lane's office and Yes's accountants, in my signing away all publishing income from everything I had ever written ... Twenty-two years' work had vanished in the three seconds it had taken to sign my name."
In 1995, Wakeman wrote music for the Cirque Surreal. The same year he scored the soundtrack to Bullet to Beijing, a made-for-television film starring Michael Caine and Jason Connery, and also scored the sequel, Midnight in Saint Petersburg, the following year.
In late 1995, Wakeman returned to Yes for a fourth time. Yes then played three nights at the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo, California from 3–6 March 1996. The Keys to Ascension albums but left in 1997 before the band could tour with him.
In 1998, Wakeman started work on Return to the Centre of the Earth for the original album's twenty-fifth anniversary. Recording was disrupted after Wakeman suffered from a serious case of double pleurisy, pneumonia, and a case of Legionnaires' disease. In December 1998, Wakeman was featured on an episode of This Is Your Life.
2000–present: Fifth Yes run and solo projects
In 2000, Wakeman was invited to reform his English Rock Ensemble and perform in Argentina following a renewed interest in progressive rock there. Wakeman noted his playing was "...the best in a long time." In 2001, Wakeman was offered to play with Yes in Amsterdam during their 2001 Symphonic Tour in support of Magnification, but his solo tour dates clashed with the concert. Initial plans for a project involving Wakeman and Keith Emerson were shelved in early 2002.
On 16 April 2002, Yes management announced Wakeman's return to the band. Wakeman remembered it took "...eight months to get the paper work together." Yes completed a 2002 North American tour that ran from July to December 2002 and a world tour from June to October 2003. Yes completed a 35th Anniversary Tour from April to September 2004. Wakeman was advised by doctors that it would be best to not do lengthy touring. Due to this, he left Yes because they said that they will continue lengthy touring, something Wakeman wanted nothing to do with any more.
In October 2006, Wakeman and Anderson began a UK tour.
For Yes's 2008–2010 In The Present Tour, Wakeman was replaced by his son, Oliver Wakeman. In 2008, Wakeman toured with a solo show named Rick Wakeman's Grumpy Old Picture Show, featuring an evening of music and stories.
In May 2009, Wakeman performed The Six Wives of Henry VIII live at Hampton Court Palace for the first time, for two nights. The performance was recorded and released as The Six Wives of Henry VIII Live at Hampton Court Palace.
In 2014, Wakeman completed a 14-date UK tour to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Although Wakeman is a noted player of the grand piano, electric piano, pipe organ, Hammond organ, Minimoog and many later models of synthesiser, he is well known as a proponent (for a time) of the Mellotron – an analogue electronic musical instrument that uses a bank of pre-recorded magnetic tape strips, each of which is activated by a separate key on its keyboard and lasts approximately 8 seconds. Wakeman featured playing this instrument, to varying degrees, on the David Bowie track Space Oddity, the Yes albums Fragile, Close to the Edge and Tales From Topographic Oceans, as well as the solo albums The Six Wives of Henry VIII and White Rock. An urban legend claims that Wakeman got so frustrated with one Mellotron that he poured petrol on it and set fire to it, but this was debunked in a 2010 interview.
He subsequently worked with David Biro to develop the Birotron, which used the then popular 8-track cassette format rather than tape strips. Because of the advent of digital keyboards at that time, and expensive components used in the instruments' manufacture, the Birotron was never a commercial or technical success. Only 35 Birotrons were produced. These days, he can be found with more modern instruments such as the Roland Fantom, Korg Kronos, Korg M3, and the Korg Oasys.
Other career endeavours
Wakeman has been married four times and has six children. On 28 March 1970, at the age of 20, he married Rosaline Woolford and they had two sons, Oliver (b. 26 February 1972) and Adam (b. 11 March 1974). The couple divorced in 1977. He married studio secretary Danielle Corminboeuf in January 1980, in the West Indies, and they had one son, Benjamin (b. 1978). He had a daughter, Jemma Kiera (b. 1983), with former Page 3 model Nina Carter; they married in 1984 and had a son, Oscar (b. 1986).
He had a renewal of his Christian faith which began at around the time of his marriage to Carter. He and Carter divorced in December 2004. He had a daughter, Manda (b. 9 May 1986), with his long-time friend, designer and seamstress Denise Gandrup, whom he first met in 1972. She designed many of Wakeman's stage outfits, including his famous capes. In 2011, Wakeman married Rachel Kaufman.
In his twenties, Wakeman suffered three heart attacks. The first occurred after a performance of Journey to the Centre of the Earth at Crystal Palace Park on 27 July 1974. In 1980, he was misdiagnosed as having rheumatoid arthritis in his hands; he discovered in 2008 that the pain he was suffering was simply due to overwork after a period of lack of keyboard practice.
A Master Freemason, he is a member of Chelsea Lodge No. 3098, the membership of which is made up of entertainers. In 2009, Wakeman became a patron of Tech Music Schools. As of 2014, he is the King Rat of the showbusiness charity the Grand Order of Water Rats.
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- The Birotron
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- Kaufman, Rachel. Rick Wakeman hid his crippling 'arthritis' for 30 years fearing it would ruin his rock career. In fact, he didn't have it at all... dailymail.co.uk. 23 September 2008. Retrieved on 25 December 2011.
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- Snider, Charles (2008). The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock (1st ed.). Lulu.com. ISBN 061517566X.
- Wooding, Dan (1979). Rick Wakeman: The Caped Crusader. Granada Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-0-586-04853-5.
- Wakeman, Rick (1995). Say Yes! An Autobiography. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-0-340-62151-6.
- Welch, Chris (2008). Close to the Edge - The Story of Yes. Music Sales. ISBN 978-1-84772-132-7.
- Rick Wakeman's Communication Centre
- Rick Wakeman's Official Press Photos
- Rick Wakeman at the Internet Movie Database