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Yes Keyboardist Rick Wakeman

  • Broadcast in Music
Long Live Rock

Long Live Rock


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Rick Wakeman is best known for his groundbreaking keyboard playing in the classic era of the British progressive rock group Yes. Joining the band for 1971's Fragile album, he stayed through Tales From Topographic Oceans in 1973 before departing the group for a solo career. He would re-join and quit the group many times over the ensuing decades.

After leaving Yes in 1973, Wakeman released his first solo album, The Six Wives of Henry VIII. It was an all-instrumental album that pioneered the use of rock keyboards and instrumentation in a compositional setting that was usually reserved for classical musicians, with all of the instrumental pieces tied together conceptually. It became the first keyboard instrumental rock album to succeed commercially, eventually selling 15 million copies worldwide.

In 2009, Wakeman celebrated the 500th Anniversary of Henry's birth by realizing his long-held ambition to perform The Six Wives of Henry VIII live in its entirety at Hampton Court Palace, Henry's old home. Accompanied by a full orchestra and choir, the two concerts were captured for a DVD entitled The Six Wives of Henry VII: Live at Hampton Court Palace.

This interview is from December 2009, when Wakeman was promoting that DVD. We spoke about the original album, his creative process, how it came to be performed live, what he learned from working with David Bowie, and why his record company originally thought The Six Wives of Henry VIII would be a huge failure!