The musician Keith Emerson took his own life on this day in 2016. He was 71.
Emerson’s legacy will last far beyond this era. His championing of the moog synthesizer opened a door musicians are still walking through, while the progressive rock output of Emerson, Lake & Palmer will stand forever in the hearts of fans current and fans yet to join them. His uncompromising attitude towards creating music, and good music at that, led to much of his daring being dismissed as pretension. Nothing could be further from the truth.
He is rightfully remembered as one of the finest composers for rock keyboard. His contribution to the symphonic world with his “Piano Concerto No. 1” should not be overlooked either. With any luck, it will make its way into the standard repertoire.
On a personal note, it is Emerson’s music which first led me to my enduring love of rock ‘n roll. A fondness for Godzilla: Final Wars ensured I was vaguely aware of him, but it was when I was fifteen years old in a ceramics class in high school that I really got to know him. My teacher used to play music during class while we were working, and one day late in the afternoon, the then-recently released Three Fates Project came on while I was at my wheel. My musical world shall forever echo with those first moments of wonder.
Later on, it was the reminder of Emerson’s work in ELP with Carl Palmer and Greg Lake which got me through a rough period in my life; if there was something that beautiful in the world, then it was a world worth living in, even when nothing else seemed to hold wonder anymore. I have since discovered more beauty in the world and more inspiration across a few walks of life, all of which I would have missed had I chosen not to continue on. It’s an uphill battle, but it’s a battle I can fight thanks to ELP.
Thank you so much for your music, Mr. Emerson!