RIP Keith Emerson
The year of 2016 is sadly going to be remembered as a year many of the figures who shaped the music we love are being taken away from us as news reaches us of the death of another music icon, keyboard player Keith Emerson. For me the music of ELP and the playing of Keith Emerson was iconic and was all that I loved in prog rock music.
Keith Noel Emerson was born on 2 November 1944 in Todmorden and is best known as the keyboard player in Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP).
Prior to ELP he was formerly a member of the Keith Emerson Trio, John Brown's Bodies, The T-Bones, The V.I.P.'s and P.P. Arnold's backing band which morphed into The Nice, their most famous piece being a cover of America. Interestingly Lemmy was a roadie at the time and gave Keith Emerson some German WWII daggers which he subsequently used to stab into the keyboard of a Hammond organ.
Emerson then went on to found “supergroup” ELP with Greg Lake and Carl Palmer in 1970, their formal debut concert being at the Isle of Wight Festival that year and international success followed with multi-platinum albums and over the top stage sets but his large modular Moog was always an integral part of his own keyboard set up. Classics like Pictures At An Exhibtion, Tarkus and Karn Evil 9 were driven by Emerson’s stunning keyboard work not only on that monster Moog but also on his Hammond organs.
ELP imploded and finally split in 1979, partly as a result of punk and partly through burnout – their last album at that time, Love Beach, saw them pose on the front cover like the Bee Gee’s and the album itself was patchy although it did have its moments.
At this point Emerson started working on film soundtracks and completed 8 in total as working on various classical scores.
ELP regrouped in the mid-80’s as Emerson Lake & Powell using the talents of Cozy Powell on drums but success was limited and the other project he was involved in, 3, sadly fizzled into the ether.
The 90’s saw an ELP reunion with the band releasing the album Black Moon and then undertaking a theatre tour of the UK giving many, myself included, their first opportunity to see the band live; the tour was immortalised in a live album along with a video, Live At The Albert Hall. The band split again in the later half of the 90’s.
He took part in The Nice reunion in 2002 and also a 40th Anniversary show for Emerson Lake & Palmer at the High Voltage festival in Victoria Park on 25th July 2010 which turned out to be their final swansong, again immortalised on DVD and CD.
In October 2010 he underwent some bowel surgery which was unsuccessful and then underwent another emergency operation to save his life, all of this sidelined him for sometime whilst he recovered. Subsequent touring was low key and was often with just Greg Lake in a more informal setting.
Keith Emerson passed away on 10th March 2016, aged 71 in Santa Monica, California.
Emerson will be remembered as one of the top keyboard players in the world from the prog era, along with his contemporaries Jon Lord and Rick Wakeman.
RIP Keith Emerson