Rick Wakeman has said he is “stunned and genuinely very proud” after being made a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
The former Yes keyboardist, who has recorded with numerous stars including David Bowie, T. Rex and Sir Elton John, is recognised for services to music and broadcasting.
The 72-year-old, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, told the PA news agency he wished his parents were alive to share the achievement.
He said: “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 realised, 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). 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.”
Wakeman, whose solo albums have sold more than 50 million copies, said of the pandemic: “It has been horrendous for all musicians for the last year, year and a half, two years in fact – and for everybody associated with the entertainment industry. It has been really tough.
“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.”
The musician added that he could not “think of anything comparable in my life that has happened that has completely gobsmacked me so much”.
“I have always been very patriotic,” he said.
“I am a devout royalist, a patriot as they say. I feel very proud, and always have been, to be British. I feel proud to be in the profession I am in.”
Wakeman was born and raised in west London and trained to become a concert pianist.
However, he quit his studies at the Royal College of Music in 1969 to become a session musician, with early work including Space Oddity by Bowie.
He was enlisted by The Strawbs in 1970 before joining progressive rock pioneers Yes a year later.
Wakeman played on many of their most successful albums across two stints until 1980, and has since returned to the band on a number of occasions.
His discography spans more than 90 solo albums and in recent years he has appeared on BBC series Grumpy Old Men, Watchdog and his own radio show Planet Rock.