Legendary Keyboard Wizard: Rick Wakeman – Herald de Paris

BY AL CARLOS HERNANDEZ ON SEPTEMBER 25, 2011

HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) – Richard Christopher Wakeman is an English keyboard player, composer and songwriter best known for being the former keyboardist in the progressive rock band Yes. He is also known for his solo albums, contributing to the BBC comedy series Grumpy Old Men and for Rick’s Place, his former radio show on Planet Rock that aired until December 2010. He still programs Radio out of Dublin on a station called Nova.

Wakeman has produced over 100 solo albums that have sold more than 50 million copies. In November 2010, Wakeman was awarded the Spirit of Prog award at the annual Marshall Classic Rock Roll of Honour awards.

Wakeman was born in West London. He purchased his first electronic keyboard at 12 years of age. In 1968 he studied the piano, clarinet, orchestration and modern music at the Royal College of Music before leaving after a year in favor of session music work. He
went on to feature on songs by artists including Ozzy Osbourne, David Bowie, T. Rex, Elton John and Cat Stevens. Wakeman joined the folk group Strawbs in 1969 and played on three of their albums.

He first joined Yes in 1971 to replace Tony Kaye and left the group in 1974 to work on his solo career. He returned in 1976 before leaving with lead vocalist Jon Anderson in 1980. Wakeman was part of the side project Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, a group of ex-Yes members formed in 1989, and the eight-member Yes line-up that followed until his third departure in 1992. He returned for two years in 1995 and once more in 2002, where he was part of the band’s 35th anniversary tour until its end in 2004.

Wakeman began his solo career during his first run with Yes. His perhaps most known records were his first three: 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).

Much to the delight of fortunate music fans in the Eastern part of North America, music legends and former YES members Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman will be playing a select number of engagements this coming Fall 2011. The legendary duo performed a series of successful concerts in the UK in 2010 in support of their critically acclaimed CD release The Living Tree and are now bringing their highly anticipated show to America. Having worked together on and off since 1971’s groundbreaking YES masterwork Fragile, Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman have traveled similar musical paths that have eventually and happily led their careers back together again. Now, once again, the duo promise a magical evening of music and humor for all who attend. “Expect a night of music, full of YES classics and new adventures in song from The Living Tree album and moments of brilliance, humor and affection born from a friendship and musical partnership that has lasted 40 years,” says Jon. “We knew from the responses on the last YES tour that the acoustic section was extremely popular and that many of the pieces could be re-arranged and adapted to make very interesting and, hopefully, enjoyable new ways of playing YES music and our own music,” adds Rick. The tour is being produced by Metropolitan Talent Presents and is booked by Keith Naisbitt of Los Angeles based Agency for the Performing Arts. John Scher co-CEO of Metropolitan says, “We are incredibly proud to be presenting the North American debut of this legendary duo. Jon and Rick ARE the voice and sound of YES, as well as famously successful solo performers. This tour will be a real treat for their legions of fans.”

UK press recently commented about the Anderson Wakeman tour:

“One of the songs played on the night was the impressive ‘23/24/11′ (from Anderson Wakeman – The Living Tree), the true story of a soldier out in Afghanistan who had that amount of time left to serve as his tour of duty. Looking round at the audience there wasn’t a dry eye left in the house. Once more the combination of Jon’s amazing vocal style and the lyrics work perfectly.” – Ian D. Hall, LS Media, UK

“Anderson showed yet again that he is the true voice of YES…Wakeman provided the keyboard wizardry and a stream of stories.” – Ian Harvey, Express & Star, UK

“Supporters of these two legends can witness, close up, their unique bond which spans almost 40 years; and why these two are being billed as the ‘Heart and Soul’ of Prog giants YES.” -Classic Media, UK

“Constant humorous interludes and witty interjections from the pair helped enliven the show and added a welcomed lightness. Not only were these anecdotes entertaining, they were also insightful…these two are a perfect creative partnership.” – Neil Mach, Staines Weblog

Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez spoke candidly with Rick last week:

AC: You said recently that you had dreams for Yes in the twilight years. Now that it is over forever, are you planning to achieve those dreams though your collaboration with Jon?

RW: I have many different dreams that I want to fulfill, but dreams change all the time as different things occur in your life. I never saw Jon Anderson and I working together as a replacement for the now “dead” dreams I had with the band Yes. What Jon and I do is totally stand alone. I have great affinity and understanding with Jon. Spiritually and musically we work together very well. It is special to find someone with whom you are in tuned on so many levels.

AC: What do you mean when you say that you and Jon have been on a parallel musical journey?

RW: Just that, really, we are from very different backgrounds and different musical upbringings but somehow they both work when they are married tighter. This is because both Jon and I regard music as a gift from another level and that gift comes to us in many different forms. The end game is to proffer that gift in the form of music to share with others. Both Jon and I have that feeling inside of us. We believe that music is another language that can be understood by all and enjoyed by all and some people are the lucky ones, like Jon and I who are transmitters of this gift. We both classify this as an honor that is not to be abused

AC: During the development of The Living Tree album, you and Jon created music at different locations and shared music via computer sharing files. How have computers and New Media, including YouTube, changed the way music is created? Does the process violate the creative process, which many view as organic and/or spiritual?

RW: Jon and I have a great understanding musically which is as close to telepathic as you can imagine. True we were thousands of miles apart, but Jon was “in the studio with me” while I was putting the music together to send to him to work on, and so it worked fantastically…

AC: How has Christianity formed the music now and over the years?

RW: I write quite a lot of Christian and multi-faith music. I believe that at the end of the day, all those who believe worship the same God. It does not directly influence everything I write certainly, because Jon is extremely spiritual as well. It does portray itself in many aspects of our writing without being dictatorial. It may make you think a bit, but it will never lecture.

AC: I was told once by guitarist Carlos Santana that there is music that inspires and music that incites. Would you say that the type of music you have created over the years fits into this prescription?

RW: That is interesting. He has a good point. I would prefer to think that anything I have been involved with inspires rather than incites.

AC: You have produced over 100 solo albums with over 50 million units sold. What do you consider your best work so far and what is the vision of your music for the future?

RW: Impossible question to answer, to be honest, as there are so many different styles of music over the forty years plus I have been recording. I would probably give you a different answer every day to this one!

AC: You have played on some of the most popular recordings with rock royalty over the years. What are a few of the highlights and low lights?

RW: No low lights at all, to be honest. You can learn from everything you do. Music is a never ending apprenticeship course and the day you stop learning is the day they band the final coffin in. High lights are many. Working with David Bowie on Hunky Dory was an honor, as was recording Morning Has Broken with Cat Stevens. Working with Ozzy on Osmosis in New York was fantastic and also performing with some of the world greatest orchestras too, boy, I have been blessed!

AC: Anyone who you would have liked to work with but have never been afforded the opportunity?

RW: Quite a few really: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, this list could go on and on…

AC: If you were to put together a super group of all the artists you worked with over the years, what would that line up look like?

RW: Depends on what kind of music we are going to play, to be honest with you. The guys I have in my own band would be my first choice. Great players and we have a great understanding of how we play tighter. For the record, that’s Lee Pomeroy on bass, Dave Colquhoun on guitars, Tony Fernandez on drums and Ashley Holt on vocals.

AC: What was the best performance experience ever?

RW: Probably at Hampton Court two years ago performing the Six Wives of Henry VIII. Then, perhaps, it was performing Return to the Centre of the Earth in Quebec five years ago. Or maybe it was Journey to the Centre of the Earth at The Hollywood Bowl in 1974. Or maybe it was Tokyo, or Australia, or Moscow, or Poland…there are too many highlights to list!

AC: You are touring with Jon Anderson. What is your ultimate goal in this tour?

RW: My goal is simply to send people home with smiles on their faces, having enjoyed a really nice night of music and fun.

AC: Are you still passionate for live performance?

RW: Yes! I am as passionate as ever, but I will admit to not enjoying the traveling anymore. I have had enough of hotel rooms after forty plus years. That is why I tour so little these days.

AC: Who do you listen to?

RW: There’s quite a mixture really. I pull something at random off the shelf and put it on, or randomly hit buttons on my old Wurlitzer jukebox which is fill of Soul Music.

AC: Where do you get your inspiration?

RW: Who knows? I never question where it comes from but I’m grateful that it does!

AC: You did radio for a while?

RW: I still do. I have a radio production company and, at the moment, I broadcast a show on Saturday for a Dublin based radio station called Nova.

AC…and some acting?

RW: Still do. I do a lot of mainstream television in the UK – either acting or being a presenter or host. And very little playing music, would you believe?

AC: Would you ever consider pursuing other theatrical arts to the exclusion of music?

RW: I could never have a life without music. I’m lucky I can mix the two – and long may that continue!

AC: Why is soccer the best sport in the world?

RW: I think any sport where you can link yourself to a team is special, whether it is soccer, American football, baseball, rugby or whatever. As long as it is something you can latch onto. I have two soccer clubs that I am passionate about: Manchester City and Brentford. I am also passionate about the Chicago Cubs, would you believe?

AC: Tell us about your work with The Heritage Foundation and how our readers from around the world can help.

RW: I am involved with quite a few charity organizations and I get a lot of pleasure from that involvement. Probably the best way to get information, if anyone is interested, is to check the websites on some of the places I support and see if you can help in a small (or large!) way. They are: Helen House, The Heritage Foundation, The British Forces Foundation, Help For Heroes, Kids ‘n Cancer, UK Masonic Charity, Friends of the Animals, Cats Protection, Oldham Cats.

AC: And in the end, what would you like your legacy to be and how would you like history to remember you?

RW: Oh Crikey! That’s a tough one. My father once said to me “Son try to leave this world a slightly better place than the one you were brought into by contributing, for the good of mankind, whatever small gift you may have been given. I suppose that is what I can hope for really.

Edited by Susan Aceves

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