When the news hit that legendary keyboardist Keith Emerson had died, it was bad enough. However, when it was later reported that his death was an apparent suicide, it was all the more sad.
Back when the sounds of “underground FM radio” began on the airwaves out of Detroit in 1968, a whole new world of music was on offer to me. In the midst of all of the interesting new music there was a group from England called The Nice.
Keith Emerson was the keyboardist from this group along with Lee Jackson (bass, vocals), Brian Davison (drums) and initially Davy O’List (guitar). Emerson had already built up a reputation someone who was extremely accomplished at his craft but, also someone with a distinctive stage presence. As such, he was known to rock, kick, punch and inevitably stab his Hammond organ keyboard.
The sounds of The Nice were a staple of the FM airwaves and that continued when they broke up and he formed the trio Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
While their debut single – Lucky Man – was getting airplay on AM radio, other more adventurous tracks from their first LP were being aired on the FM dial. The band progressed with side-long concept works like Tarkus and also re-arranged classical composer Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
It was “progressive rock” at its zenith. It certainly wasn’t suited to everybody’s taste.
Keith Emerson was a masterful musician and one of the guiding lights transitioning from the ’60s to the ’70s. Many of his post-ELP projects involved music for films.
He will long be remembered by his fans as someone who helped fuse rock music with a classical attitude.
Keith Emerson with Robert Moog, the inventor of the Moog synthesizer.