Sunday 18 February 2018

Police probe gun suicide of rocker Keith Emerson at his LA home

Rock star: Keith Emerson Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Rock star: Keith Emerson Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Mesfin Fekadu

Keith Emerson, founder and keyboardist of the progressive-rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP), has died. He was 71.

Emerson's long-time partner, Mari Kawaguchi, called police to his condominium in Santa Monica, California, at about 1.30am on Friday.

Emerson had an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, and authorities are investigating his death as a possible suicide. Kawaguchi told police that Emerson could have died anywhere between Thursday evening and Friday morning.

Emerson, drummer Carl Palmer and vocalist/guitarist Greg Lake were giants of prog rock in the 1970s, recording six platinum-selling albums. They and other hit groups, such as Pink Floyd and Genesis, stepped away from rock's emphasis on short songs with dance beats, instead creating albums with ornate pieces, full of complicated rhythms, intricate chords and time signature changes. The orchestrations drew on classical and jazz styles and wedded traditional rock instruments with full orchestras.

ELP's 1973 album, Brain Salad Surgery, included a nearly 30-minute composition called 'Karn Evil 9' that featured a Moog synthesizer and the eerie, carnival-like lyric: "Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends."

A musical prodigy, Emerson was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire in England. By his late teens, he was playing in blues and jazz clubs in London. He helped form one of the first prog-rock groups, the Nice, before joining Lake and Palmer in 1970. They debuted at the Isle of Wight Festival, shows that also featured Jimi Hendrix and The Who.

Although it filled stadiums, ELP was also ridiculed as the embodiment of the pomposity and self-indulgence that rock supposedly stood against. When the punk movement took off in the mid-70s, the band was a special target, openly loathed by the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten, among others. Years later, Rotten (then calling himself John Lydon) and Emerson became friends.

ELP broke up in 1979, reunited in 1991, later disbanded again and reunited one last time for a 2010 tour.

Sunday Independent

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