Norfolk legend Wakeman's epic new journey
Norfolk-based rock legend Rick Wakeman is embarking on a new Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, some 40 years after the epic solo rock album was first released. Kevin Gotts reports.
A 40th anniversary tour begins in April, which is also the 150th anniversary of the Jules Verne novel of the same name.
Former Yes song-writer and keyboard player Rick, along with the New World Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Choir, narrator Peter Egan and the English Rock Ensemble, will celebrate with a state-of-the-art, dramatic, live shows around the country including at the Royal Albert Hall.
Rick's own life journey has also been a bit of an epic, trying to follow his dreams: "David Bowie always told me to be my own man and try wherever possible to make the decision I felt was best for me and that is what I have tried to do," he says.
The world-renowned musician and song-writer has worked with more than 200 different artistes performing on their recordings and these include such stars as Cat Stevens (Morning Has Broken), Cilla Black, Elton John, David Bowie (Space Oddity and Life on Mars), Lou Reed and Ralph McTell.
He joined Strawbs in 1970 and a year later moved to progressive rock band Yes, recording albums Fragile and Close to the Edge which established them as world-wide leaders in contemporary rock music. Both as a solo artist and with Yes Rick has sold an incredible 50 million albums.
Life, however, has not always gone smoothly for Rick who suffered three heart attacks at the tender age of 25, has suffered three divorces, but is now very happy with wife Rachel and they have been together for more than 10 years. But over the years he has certainly felt the stresses of stardom.
He has written three books and in his first, "Say Yes", Rick reveals his sense of humour, passion for golf and his personal belief in God.
"I have a real passion for everything I do. My father instilled in me the need to enjoy the life you are given and God, very kindly and for reasons known only to Him, gave me a musical talent which has shaped much of my life."
Rick is now also well known for cross-over albums and videos inspired by his Christian faith. "The New Gospels is my all-time favourite," he said, "which we have performed with choirs and musicians about 50 times now in cathedrals and large churches.
"I have also made a couple of albums with prayers and Bible readings set to music. I enjoyed doing this and I think churches should employ this idea more often during services. A nice complimentary organ or piano behind the words really add something.
"I feel very strongly that the church is a very important part of the community and with so many village shops closing down I'd love to see more churches used for multi purposes and I know a lot do," he says.
"Most churches have plenty of space and outbuildings which could easily become village shops and manned by the community. Quite a few already have coffee shops and cafes too. I believe a church should be welcoming for all people, all of the time. Not easy I know, but perhaps if a task force were put together it might bring some good results."
Rick has met the rich and famous during his time, dining with Margaret Thatcher and meeting Fidel Castro. But the three people who have most touched his life are: "Mildred Wakeman, who brought me to life, Cyril Wakeman, who shaped my life and Jesus, who gave me life."
So what is next for Rick? "Wherever the good Lord decides really," he says. "I believe we all have a path but we often stray off of it and it's our job to realise this and try and get back on the right one. I believe that when you give your life to God, he gives it straight back to you. He doesn't make your choices for you, but if you believe He is with you, then there's a fair chance you'll make more right ones than wrong ones."