Tuesday, July 26, 2016

R.I.P., Keith Emerson

from: http://users.elite.net/k7xq/Vintage%20keyboards.htm
A couple weeks ago I picked up a copy of "Prog" magazine, the May 2016 issue, which featured Keith Emerson as the cover story. The noted prog-rock keyboard player took his life in March; this article indicates that he was despondent about his ability to play in the face of nerve damage, and about internet criticisms of his playing. The "Prog" article, as well as the Rolling Stone obit, discuss his innovations and accomplishments, first with the group The Nice and then with Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

In the 1970s, I frequently played The Nice's "Elegy" album, as well as ELP's "Tarkus," "Brain Salad Surgery," and "Works, Vol. 1" albums. I don't think I had the "Trilogy" album, for some reason, but I also had the "Pictures at an Exhibition" LP, and their debut album on reel-to-reel. One Friday evening in the early 70s, I stayed up late to see a broadcast of ELP performing "Karn Evil 9", with Emerson's complicated set up of keyboards, synthesizers, and electronics providing a thrilling visual for the dynamic music. He was known for his virtuosity as well as his unorthodox techniques, like holding down keys with daggers and dropping his Hammond organ to produce unusual sounds.

As one who struggles with depression and sensitivity to criticism, I felt terrible that Emerson's sensitive soul was so fatally harmed at the end of his life. To think how many fans and admirers would have rallied to affirm him, had they known his struggles! Thank the Lord for the years he shared his talent with fans, whose lives were made happier by his music. Here is ELP's song "Take a Pebble," with Emerson's lovely piano work:


And the classic suite "Tarkus":


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