Keith Emerson, who achieved notoriety as the founder of progressive-rock innovators Emerson, Lake & Palmer has died of an apparent suicide at the age of 71. TMZ reports that the keyboardist died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Emerson passed away at his home in Santa Monica, where he was discovered by his girlfriend.
The news was shared by his bandmate Carl Palmer, who described his gentle soul, passion for musical performance and his status as an innovative musical pioneer.
I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend and brother-in-music, Keith Emerson. Keith was a gentle soul whose love for music and passion for his performance as a keyboard player will remain unmatched for many years to come. He was a pioneer and an innovator whose musical genius touched all of us in the worlds of rock, classical and jazz. I will always remember his warm smile, good sense of humor, compelling showmanship, and dedication to his musical craft. I am very lucky to have known him and to have made the music we did, together.
While the keyboard may not be the most glamorous instrument in the rock and roll world, Emerson pushed the boundaries of progressive rock with his keyboard and synthesizer playing. Known as a flamboyant performer and a technical virtuoso, he used such outside-the-box techniques as like plucking the piano’s strings and wedging keys down with knives.
Naturally for someone with such a complex knowledge musical of music composition, Emerson also tried his hand at film scores. Films which featured his scores include Inferno in 1980, The Church in 1989 and Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004. He also composed the score for the briefly-aired Iron Man animated television series in 1994.
Emerson was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire, United Kingdom in 1944. As a child he was drawn to the keyboard, becoming fascinated with the Hammond organ. He bought his first Hammond at the age of 16 and it became his go-to instrument throughout the 60s while playing in The Nice. ELP was formed in 1970 shortly after Emerson met Greg Lake, a member of King Crimson. Between his time with The Nice and the formation of Emerson, Lake & Palmer he discovered the newest synthesizer, the Moog. When the band was signed by Atlantic Records, he was able to afford his own Moog and became one of the first artists to tour with the instrument.
ELP was commercially and critically successful, releasing a string of nine studio albums from 1970 to 1994. After the band broke up, Emerson had a moderate amount of success as a solo artist, also releasing several albums.
Watch what is arguably Emerson Lake & Palmer’s most well-known piece of music, “Karn Evil 9” from 1973’s Brain Salad Surgery.
UPDATE (3/14/2016): Emerson, Lake & Palmer member Greg Lake has released a statement about Keith Emerson. In the message he describes his sadness over the loss of his friend and former bandmate. He goes on to urge fans not to remember Emerson through this tragic loss and instead remember his talent as a composer and musician and his passion.
To all ELP friends and fans all over the world, I would like to express my deep sadness upon hearing this tragic news. As you know Keith and I spent many of the best years of our lives together and to witness his life coming to an end in the way that it has is painful, both to myself and to all who knew him.As sad and tragic as Keith’s death is, I would not want this to be the lasting memory people take away with them. What I will always remember about Keith Emerson was his remarkable talent as a musician and composer and his gift and passion to entertain. Music was his life and despite some of the difficulties he encountered I am sure that the music he created will live on forever.My deepest condolences go to Keith’s family.May he now be at peace.Greg LakeLondon – March 12, 2016