Keith Emerson (ELP)

English keyboardist and composer Keith Emerson sadly died 10 March 2016 in Santa Monica, California. Born 2 November 1944 in Todmorden, Yorkshire He grew up in the seaside resort of Worthing, West Sussex. As a child, he learned western classical music, which inspired his own style, combining it with jazz, and rock themes. The Hammond Organ became his instrument of choice and he participated in the 1969 Music From Free Creek “supersession” project, where he performed with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Chuck Rainey covering, among other tunes, the Eddie Harris instrumental “Freedom Jazz Dance”.

He began his career as 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 The Nice. Emerson first found success with The Nice in the late 1960s, before becoming a founding member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), one of the early supergroups, in 1970. Emerson, Lake & Palmer were critically and commercially successful through much of the 1970s, becoming one of the best-known progressive rock groups of the era. His experimental use of the Moog synthesizer became the foundation of ELP’s sound and often had unexpected results, such as the time he stumbled into the signature sound for the song Hoedown. The flamboyance that Emerson came to be known for began quite by chance when a fight broke out during a V.I.P.s performance in France. The band told him to keep playing so he made some explosion and machine gun sounds with his Hammond organ, which stopped the fight; everyone looked on with amazement.

Emerson Lake and Palmer Released many classic Progressive Rock albums including Brain Salad Surgery and Tarkus. Emerson has also performed many rock arrangements of classical compositions, including the Italian Concerto by J. S. Bach, Modest Mussorgsky, Béla Bartók, Aaron Copland, Leoš Janáček Maurice Ravel and Alberto Ginastera. Emerson’s performance of Also sprach Zarathustra from 2001: A Space Odyssey was a show stopper as was the opening track of Brain Salad Surgery, “Jerusalem.” Emerson also quoted from classical and jazz works including”Rondo” by The Nice is a 4/4 interpretation of Blue Rondo à la Turk by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, originally in 9/8 time signature. The song The Barbarian” is heavily influenced by “Allegro barbaro” by Bartók, and “Knife Edge” was influenced by “Sinfonietta” by Janáček. Emerson also provided music for a number of films sincluding Dario Argento’s Inferno (1980), the action thriller Nighthawks (1981), Lucio Fulci’s Murder Rock (1984), Michele Soavi’s horror film The Church (1989), Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and the 1994 US animated television series Iron Man. Following the break-up of ELP in 1979, Emerson had modest success in his solo career and with ELP again in the 1980s, as well as with the short-lived progressive rock band 3, with the album To the Power of Three. In 1990 Emerson toured with The Best, a short-lived supergroup which also included John Entwistle, Joe Walsh, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Simon Phillips.

ELP reunited during the early 1990s, releasing the album Black Moon. Emerson also reunited The Nice in 2002 for a tour. In 2004, Emerson published his autobiography entitled Pictures of an Exhibitionist, which dealt with his entire career, particularly focusing on his early days with The Nice, and his nearly career-ending nerve-graft surgery in 1993. Emerson was the headliner of both the first and third Moogfest, a festival held in honour of Robert Moog at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City in 2004 and 2006 respectively. The album Keith Emerson Band Featuring Marc Bonilla was released in August 2008 featuring the songs “Short And Sweet” and “Heavy Duty” . In 2007 Emerson opened the Led Zeppelin reunion/Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert at the O2 Arena in London , along with Chris Squire and Alan White (Yes) and Simon Kirke (Bad Company/Free). The supergroup played the new arrangement of Fanfare for the Common Man and In 2009, Emerson appeared as a guest during Spinal Tap’s ‘One Night Only World Tour’ at Wembley Arena. In 2010, Emerson received a Frankfurt Music Prize from the city of Frankfurt and the, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra made a premier performance of “Tarkus” arranged by a renowned Japanese composer Takashi Yoshimatsu. Emerson also toured with Greg Lake in the US and Canada doing a series of “An Intimate Evening with Emerson and Lake” duo shows performing newly arranged versions of the music of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Nice, and King Crimson as well as Emerson’s new original composition. In 2010, a one-off Emerson, Lake & Palmer reunion concert closed the High Voltage Festival in Victoria Park, East London commemorating the band’s 40th anniversary.

In September 2011, Emerson began working with the renowned conductor Terje Mikkelsen, along with the Keith Emerson Band featuring Marc Bonilla and The Munich Radio Orchestra on new orchestral renditions of ELP classics. Called, The Three Fates Project, which was released in 2012. In 2014 Emerson was inducted into the Hammond Hall of Fame. Along with contemporaries Rick Wright of Pink Floyd, Tony Banks of Genesis, Billy Ritchie of Clouds, Rick Wakeman of Yes, and Jon Lord of Deep Purple Emerson is widely regarded as one of the top keyboard players of the prog rock era.AllMusic describes Emerson as “perhaps the greatest, most technically accomplished keyboardist in rock history”.


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