×

Keith Emerson, Keyboardist for Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Dies at 71

Keith Emerson, the flamboyant, English prog-rock pioneer who rose to fame as the keyboardist for supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the ’70s, died in Santa Monica, Calif. on Thursday at age 71.

Update: Emerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, as confirmed by the Santa Monica Police Department. His death is being investigated as a possible suicide.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend and brother-in-music, Keith Emerson,” wrote Palmer in the statement. “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. Rest in peace, Keith.”

Emerson, born Nov. 2, 1944 in Todmorden, Yorkshire, was weaned on Western classical music and was a pioneer in combining classical, jazz and rock themes. The Hammond organ would become his instrument of choice in the late 1960s but he would soon incorporate an entire battery of keyboards, including the Moog synthesizer, the Yamaha GX1 polyphonic synthesizer and the pipe organ, in his performances.

In 1970, he was a founding member of ELP, two years after the formation of Yes and three years after the birth of Genesis, the two other prog-rock giants of the era that achieved similar success.

The nature of progressive rock meant that the group had few radio-friendly singles, but the ballad “Lucky Man” from their debut album did garner some play, as did “From the Beginning” and “Still You Turn Me On.”

The power trio made a huge splash at the Isle of Wight that year, its first proper concert, playing in front of more than a half million people on a bill that included the Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. But ELP’s set was something never seen before, combining classical selections such as Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and an amped-up version of the Dave Brubeck jazz classic, “Blue Rondo ala Turk” with the kind of showmanship that would become the band’s signature. It was a stunning display of virtuosity that would characterize the band’s recording output through the decade.

Those first four albums, “Emerson, Lake & Palmer” (1970), “Tarkus” (1971), “Trilogy” (1972) and “Brain Salad Surgery” (1973) would help set the standard for all prog-rock in its wake, with pristine production, a pronounced level of experimentalism and a high level of musicianship. The recordings were all top five sellers in England, and certified gold in the U.S.

Among his innovations in the pop realm, Emerson would sometimes pluck or strum the strings of his piano, a method evidenced in “Take a Pebble,” from ELP’s debut LP.

The group split in 1979, with Emerson enjoying modest success in his solo career before the band reunited breifly in the 1980s and then again in the early 1990s with the album “Black Moon.”

Emerson also reunited the first notable group in which he was a member, the Nice, in 2002 for a tour. His last album, “The Three Fates Project,” was released in 2012.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • U2, Seattle 14 May 2017

    U2 to Finish 'Joshua Tree' 2019 Tour With Band's First Gig in India

    U2 is wrapping up its 2019 “The Joshua Tree” tour with a concert at Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium, on Dec. 15 – the first time the group will have performed in India. The newly added date comes at the end of an Asia-Pacific tour that was announced months ago. The tour is a continuation of [...]

  • Crime Placeholder

    Former AEG, First Access Exec Adam Lublin Charged With Sexual Abuse, Burglary

    Adam Lublin, a former executive at AEG and First Access Entertainment, was arraigned Monday morning in Manhattan Criminal Court on two counts of burglary and one count of sexual abuse, according to the New York Post. The executive allegedly snuck into a neighbor’s apartment, sexually abused her and stole her undergarments. According to the report, [...]

  • Kendrick Lamar House Manhattan Beach

    Kendrick Lamar Drops Nearly $10 Million on Manhattan Beach Mansion

    When he’s not performing to packed arenas worldwide — the international “Damn” tour wrapped up last year with over $62 million in gross receipts — Kendrick Lamar has long resided in L.A.’s South Bay region, specifically in the posh seaside city of Manhattan Beach. And after a reported long spell as an area home renter, [...]

  • Benjamin Wallfisch - scoring session, Abbey

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch Signs With Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch has signed with the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency (GSA) for worldwide representation, in partnership with London-based agency COOL Music Ltd. A top composer, whose scoring credits include “It Chapter Two,” Shazam!” Hellboy,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hostile Planet,” among others, Wallfisch has worked on over 75 feature films and is a member of the BAFTA [...]

  • Spotify logo is presented on a

    Spotify VP Paul Vogel Talks Subscription Prices, Label Licenses, Podcasts

    The annual Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference gives representatives from major companies the opportunity to present to the investment community, and Paul Vogel, Spotify’s VP and head of financial planning & analysis, treasury and investor relations, spoke on the streaming giant’s behalf on Tuesday morning. While many of his comments were statements frequently heard in the [...]

  • Def Jam, Astralwerks Launch Label Divisions

    Def Jam, Astralwerks Launch Label Divisions in South East Asia

    Universal Music Group today announced what it calls a significant expansion of its recorded music operations across South East Asia with the launch of two new label divisions: Def Jam South East Asia, to focus on the hip-hop scene within the region, and Astralwerks Asia, a label “with a true focus on nurturing talent within Asia across [...]

  • WME Nashville Promotes Becky Gardenhire to

    WME Nashville Promotes Becky Gardenhire to Co-Head

    Becky Gardenhire has been elevated by WME to the role of co-head of the Nashville office, making her the woman holding the highest rank at any agency rooted in the city. Gardenhire joins three other co-heads of WME Nashville, Scott Clayton, Joey Lee and Jay Williams. While Nashville agencies have been caught up in a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content