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Music / Rick Wakeman

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"My life revolves around music and always will. I need to be a part of music and not an observer."

Richard Christopher Wakeman CBE (b. 1949), universally known as Rick, is an English Progressive Rock keyboardist best known for his work with Yes, which established him as one of the leading keyboardists in Prog Rock at the genre's zenith in the early 1970s. Classically trained at the Royal College of Music, Wakeman found himself in such high demand as a session player that he dropped out of the College in 1969 to concentrate on his career; he played on a dizzying array of records, probably most notably David Bowie's Space Oddity, Hunky Dory, and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. He achieved some success as a member of Strawbs, but his work as Yes' keyboardist during their classic period truly made his name in the music industry. Wakeman would leave and rejoin Yes five times over the coming decades, but remains the keyboardist to whom all other Yes keyboardists are compared.

Wakeman has also amassed a huge catalog of solo works over the years; while his output in the 1980s and later is considered to be relatively weak, his 1970s work stands as some of the defining music of the progressive rock movement.

Selected solo discography

  • 1971 - Piano Vibrations
  • 1973 - The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • 1974 - Journey to the Centre of the Earth
  • 1975 - The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table
  • 1976 - No Earthly Connection
  • 1977 - White Rock
  • 1977 - Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record
  • 1979 - Rhapsodies
  • 1981 - 1984
  • 1982 - Rock n Roll Prophet
  • 1983 - Cost of Living
  • 1985 - Silent Nights
  • 1986 - Country Airs
  • 1988 - Time Machine
  • 1999 - Return to the Centre of the Earth
  • 2003 - Out There
  • 2009 - The Six Wives of Henry VIII Live at Hampton Court Palace
  • 2014 - Journey to the Centre of the Earth [new studio recording with additional material]
  • 2017 - Piano Portraits
  • 2020 - The Red Planet


  • Canon Discontinuity: An album of covers known as Piano Vibrations was released in 1971 without Wakeman's permission to cash in on the popularity he gained as a member of Strawbs. While Wakeman is ashamed of the project and does not consider it part of his discography, it is technically his debut solo album.
  • Concept Album: Much of his solo output, beginning with the entirely instrumental Six Wives of Henry VIII.
  • Epic Rocking: Common, and taken to an extreme on Journey to the Centre of the Earth (which is essentially a single continuous album-length piece) and the "Music Reincarnate" suite off No Earthly Connection (which doesn't fit on a single side of vinyl!)
  • Hymn to Music: The "Music Reincarnate" suite, rather obliquely.
  • Instrumentals: Frequently, in some cases for an entire album.
  • Live Album: Journey to the Centre of the Earth, recorded live because he couldn't afford to record such an elaborate piece in the studio at the time.
  • New Sound Album: Country Airs introduced a New Age sound, in sharp contrast to his classic material.
  • Pimped-Out Cape: Famous (infamous?) for including long, many-sequined capes in his stage costumes.
  • Re-Cut: The 2009 performance of The Six Wives of Henry VIII uses extended versions of the original pieces, plus a new one entitled "Defender of the Faith", based on Henry himself.
    • The score for Journey to the Centre of the Earth (2014) includes material cut from the original live album due to vinyl time restrictions, and lost for many years.
  • Rock Opera: Several, most notable Journey to the Centre of the Earth and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur.
  • Special Guest: BRIAN BLESSED was the narrator on The Six Wives of Henry VIII Live at Hampton Court Palace.
    Ladies and gentlemen, I'll have to come off the script for a second. There's a man down here keeps saying to me all the time, will I say "Gordon's alive!"
  • Standard Snippet: The opening of King Arthur is frequently used as the Instrumental Theme Tune for the BBC's general election coverage.