Progressive rock legend Rick Wakeman was awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, which is one rank below a knighthood, as part of the Queen’s birthday honors list for 2021.
The 72-year-old, who was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2017, told the PA News agency upon hearing the news: “It’s a mixture of stunned and genuinely very proud. In a strange way, my first thought was, ‘Gosh, I wish my mum and dad were here to witness this’ but then I realized, of course, that my dad would be 105 and mum would be 103 — so the odds were heavily stacked against that.
“I am quite literally stunned and proud is the only way I can [describe it],” he continued. “Friends who know me and have been in the business know I never expected a thing like this. I can only say thank you very much. I really feel very honoured and proud.
“I have carried on making music but sometimes you are making music and go, ‘Why am I doing this? There is no end in sight as to when we can play live, when we can do stuff’. As a recognition, for me coming out of lockdown, coming out of everything, to get this is even more special.”
Professional musician, keyboard player, songwriter, broadcaster and raconteur, Wakeman‘s career started as a much-in-demand session player, who performed on recordings by David Bowie, Elton John, Lou Reed, Al Stewart and hundreds more artists. His big break came in 1971 when he joined YES, who went on to become the most successful prog rock band in the world, but Wakeman has also always gone his own way outside the framework of that group.
In the seventies, he achieved chart-topping success with solo albums such as “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth”, “The Six Wives Of Henry VIII” and “The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table”, which cumulatively sold over 10 million copies in North America alone.
He has written several film scores, amongst them two for director Ken Russell (“Lisztomania” and “Crimes Of Passion”) and two “Harry Palmer” movies starring Michael Caine (“Bullet To Beijing” and “Midnight In St. Petersburg”), and in the U.K., has built up an impressive reputation as a witty guest and host on shows like “Grumpy Old Men”, “Countdown”, “Watchdog” and the comedy cabaret show “Live At Jongleurs”. His wickedly irreverent acceptance speech when YES was inducted in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2017 nearly brought the house down.
That same year, he made British chart history when his “Piano Portraits” record became the first solo piano instrumental album to enter the U.K.’s Top 10 on release — a feat he then repeated with last year’s “Piano Odyssey”. Both records feature tunes that have a special connection with Rick‘s personal musical journey and his subsequent tours, in which he performs a selection of tracks accompanied by hilarious memories and anecdotes have been instant sellouts in the U.K.
The 2019 North American leg of the “Grumpy Old Rock Star” tour took place in September and October.