Friday, 11 March 2016

Death Of The Day, Keith Emerson, 72, 10 March 2016, Killed By Death

Keith Emerson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Keith Emerson
Keith Emerson StPetersburg Aug08.jpg
Emerson performing in Saint Petersburg, Russia, September 2008
Background information
Birth nameKeith Noel Emerson
Born2 November 1944
TodmordenWest Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died10 March 2016 (aged 71)
Santa MonicaCalifornia, United States
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, composer
InstrumentsHammond organ, piano, keyboards
Years active1966–2016
LabelsEdel Records
Victor Entertainment
Shout! Factory
Varèse Sarabande
Rhino Entertainment
Manticore Records
J!MCO Records
Sanctuary Records
Marquee Inc.
Charly Records
Gunslinger Records
Cinevox Records
Associated actsGary Farr & The T-Bones, The V.I.P.'sP. P. ArnoldThe Nice,Free CreekEmerson, Lake & PalmerEmerson, Lake & Powell3, Keith Emerson Band, Ayreon
Emerson performing in concert withEmerson, Lake & Palmer in 1977
Keith Noel Emerson (2 November 1944 – 10 March 2016) was an English keyboardist and composer. Early in his career he played in the Keith Emerson Trio, John Brown's Bodies, Gary Farr and the T-Bonesthe V.I.P.'s and P. P. Arnold's backing band the Nice. Emerson found his first commercial success with the Nice in the late 1960s, before becoming a founding member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), one of the early supergroups, in 1970. Emerson, Lake & Palmer were critically and commercially successful through much of the 1970s, becoming one of the best-known progressive rock groups of the era.
Following the break-up of ELP, at the end of the decade, Emerson had modest success in his solo career and with ELP again in the 1980s, as well as with the short-lived progressive rock band 3, with the album To the Power of Three. ELP reunited during the early 1990s, releasing the album Black Moon. Emerson also reunited the Nice in 2002 for a tour. His last album, The Three Fates Project, was released in 2012.
Along with contemporaries Rick Wright of Pink FloydTony Banks of GenesisRick Wakeman of Yes, and Jon Lord of Deep Purple, Emerson is widely regarded as one of the top keyboard players of the prog rock era.[1][2][3][4] AllMusic describes Emerson as "perhaps the greatest, most technically accomplished keyboardist in rock history".[5]




Early years[edit]

Emerson was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire, his family having been evacuated there from the south coast of England during the war. He grew up in the seaside resort of Worthing, West Sussex.[6] As a child, he learned western classical music, which largely inspired his own style, combining it with jazz, and rock themes. Emerson became intrigued with the Hammond organ after hearing jazz organist Jack McDuff perform "Rock Candy" and it became his instrument of choice in the late 1960s. This blending of elements was clearly illustrated in his participation in the 1969 Music From Free Creek "supersession" project, where he performed with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Chuck Rainey covering, among other tunes, the Eddie Harris instrumental "Freedom Jazz Dance".
Emerson acquired his first Hammond organ, an L-100 model, at the age of 15 or 16, on hire purchase.[7]
The flamboyance for which Emerson would be later noted began quite by chance when a fight broke out during a performance by the V.I.P.s in France. Instructed by the band to keep playing, he produced some explosion and machine-gun sounds with the Hammond organ, which stopped the fight. The other band members told him to repeat the stunt at the next concert, which he did with success.[8]

The Nice[edit]

In 1967 by Emerson formed the Nice with Lee JacksonDavid O'List and Ian Hague, to back soul singer P. P. Arnold. After replacing Hague with Brian Davison, the group set out on their own, quickly developing a strong live following. The group's sound was centred on Emerson's Hammond organ showmanship and abuse of the instrument, and their radical rearrangements of classical music themes and Bob Dylan songs.
Emerson first heard a Moog when a record shop owner played Switched-On Bach for him. Emerson said, "My God that's incredible, what is that played on?" The owner then showed him the album cover. So I said, "What is that?" And he said, "That's the Moog synthesizer." My first impression was that it looked a bit like electronic skiffle."[8]
Without one of his own, Emerson borrowed Mike Vickers' Moog for an upcoming the Nice concert at the Royal Festival Hall, London with the Royal Philharmonic. Mike helped patch the Moog and the concert was a great success. Emerson's performance of Also sprach Zarathustra from the recently released 2001: A Space Odyssey was a show-stopper. Emerson later explained, "I thought this was great. I've got to have one of these."[8]

Emerson, Lake and Palmer[edit]

External video
 Oral History, Keith Emerson talks about acquiring his first Moog synthesizer which formed the basis for Emerson, Lake and Palmer's first record. Interview date August 29, 2009, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library
Emerson with the Moog synthesizer (1970).
Emerson, photographed in the mid-1980s.
With ELP's record deal with Atlantic Records came funds for Emerson to buy his own Moog synthesizer. He later said, "It cost a lot of money and it arrived and I excitedly got it out of the box stuck it on the table and thought, 'Wow That's Great! a Moog synthesizer [pause] How do you switch it on?...There were all these leads and stuff, there was no instruction manual." The patch which had been provided by Mike Vickers produced six distinctive Moog sounds and these six became the foundation of ELP's sound.[8]
In 1969, Emerson incorporated the Moog modular synthesizer into his battery of keyboards. While other artists such as the Beatles andthe Rolling Stones had used the Moog in studio recordings, Emerson was the first artist to tour with one. Emerson's use of the Moog was so critical to the development of new models that he was given prototypes, such as the Constellation, which he took on one tour[8] and the Apollo, which had its debut on the opening track "Jerusalem" on the 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery.
The Moog was a temperamental device; the oscillators went out of tune with temperature change. He later said, "I had my faithful roady Rocky tune the instrument to A 440 just prior to the audience coming in, but once the audience came into the auditorium and the temperature rose up then everything went out of tune."[8]
His willingness to experiment with the Moog led to unexpected results, such as the time he stumbled into the signature sound for "Hoedown", one of ELP's most popular tunes. He later said, "We'd started working on that arrangement and then I hit, I don't know what, I switched a blue button and I put a patch cord in there, but anyway 'whoooeee.'"[8]
The so-called "Monster Moog," built from numerous modules, weighed 550 pounds (250 kg), stood 10 feet (3 m) feet tall and took four roadies to move. Even with its unpredictability, it became an indispensable component of not only ELP's concerts, but also Emerson's own.[9]
Ermerson became well-known for his technical skill as well as for his theatrical performances, including using knives to wedge down specific keys of his Hammond organ during solos, playing the organ upside down while having it lie over him and backwards while standing behind it. He cited guitarist Jimi Hendrix and English organist Don Shinn as his chief theatrical influences. He also employed a special rig to rotate his piano end-over-end while he was playing it, although this was purely for visual effect, as a piano cannot be played while upside down.
The band were not universally popular, with BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel describing their set at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festivalas "A waste of talent and electricity." Recalling the gig in a 2002 interview, Emerson said: "We tried the cannons out on a field near Heathrow airport," says Emerson. "They seemed harmless enough. Today we would have been arrested as terrorists."[10]
In a 2014 interview with Classic Rock Music journalist Ray Shasho, Emerson was asked about the origin of the 'flying piano' and about the difficulty of performing while spinning in the air. He explained:
"I think having a pilot's licence helped a little bit. One of my road crew said we found this guy that used to work in the circus and he does a lot of things for TV and special effects and he's made something that might interest you, it's a piano that spins round, and I immediately responded, oh that sounds interesting. I happened to be within the New York area and I was driven over to Long Island to a guy called Bob McCarthy, and there in the background he had this piano situated. So he called his wife down from upstairs and said, darling could you demonstrate this for Keith? I looked on, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. His wife comes down and sits on the seat and up she goes in the air and proceeds to spin around. I thought, well that's great! Then Bob asked me, do you want to have a go at it? …Yea, okay. You need to understand, below the keyboard there's an inverted-tee, like a bar. You wrap your legs around the down pipe and put your heels under the inverted-tee. Then you go up in the air and try and do your best to play. It was a little difficult to play at first because of the centrifugal force, so it wasn't easy. I think we actually used it for the first time at Madison Square Garden, it was a Christmas concert. People in the audience were so astounded they couldn't quite believe what they were seeing. Later on that coming year the California Jam came up and I said we have to do that there. Bob drove the whole contraption down to the California Jam and there was very little space to set it up. There were loads of bands up on that stage, all having to do their set and then getting their equipment off. Now, with the moog, the Hammonds, Carl's gongs and everything, it was hard enough to just get that off stage. We had the spinning piano and everything that went along with it and we tried to find a place to situate it. It ended up going just at the end of the stage, so when the piano went up it was literally over the heads of the audience. After that every TV show I did came the question … Keith, how do you spin around on that piano? I'd say what about my music? When I had the honor of meeting the great jazz pianist Dave Brubeck just before he died, he said, Keith you've got to tell me how do you spin around on that piano? Dave Brubeck was 90 years old then and I said, 'Dave, don't try it!'"[11]
Emerson performed several notable rock arrangements of classical compositions, ranging from J. S. Bach via Modest Mussorgsky to 20th-century composers such as Béla BartókAaron CoplandLeoš Janáček and Alberto Ginastera. Occasionally Emerson quoted from classical and jazz works without giving credit, particularly early in his career, from the late 1960s until 1972. The song "Rondo" by the Nice is a 4/4 interpretation of Dave Brubeck's 9/8 composition "Blue Rondo à la Turk".[12] The piece is introduced by an extensive excerpt from the 3rd movement of Bach's Italian Concerto. With the additions of Bach and Emerson's own improvisations, the work may be regarded as Emerson's personal arrangement of the Brubeck classic.
On ELP's eponymous first album, Emerson's classical quotes went largely uncredited. "The Barbarian" is heavily influenced by "Allegro barbaro" by Bartók, and "Knife Edge" was virtually a note-for-note restatement of "Sinfonietta" by Janáček. Note-for-note extracts were taken from pieces by Bartók, Janáček and Bach, mixed in with some original material, and credited completely to Emerson, LakePalmer and roadie Richard Fraser. By 1971, with the releases Pictures at an Exhibition and Trilogy, Emerson began to fully credit classical composers, Modest Mussorgsky for the piano piece which inspired the first album, and Aaron Copland for "Hoedown" on the second. Emerson was adamant that he did not use Maurice Ravel's orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition in developing his own version.

1990s and later[edit]

In 1990 Emerson toured with the Best, a short-lived supergroup which also included John EntwistleJoe WalshJeff "Skunk" Baxter and Simon Phillips.
In 2002 Emerson re-formed and toured with the Nice, though performing a longer set of ELP music using a backing band including guitarist/vocalist Dave Kilminster.
In 2004, Emerson published his autobiography entitled Pictures of an Exhibitionist, which dealt with his entire career, particularly focusing on his early days with the Nice, and his nearly career-ending nerve-graft surgery in 1993. Emerson was the headliner of both the first and third Moogfest, a festival held in honour of Robert Moog at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City in 2004 and 2006 respectively.[13][14]
Emerson opened the Led Zeppelin reunion/Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert at the O2 Arena in London on 10 December 2007,[15] along with Chris Squire and Alan White (Yes) andSimon Kirke (Bad Company/Free). The supergroup played a new arrangement of "Fanfare for the Common Man".
The album Keith Emerson Band Featuring Marc Bonilla was released in August 2008. He toured with his own band in Russia, the Baltic States and Japan between August and October 2008. The tour band members were Marc Bonilla, Travis Davis and Tony Pia. On 30 June 2009, Emerson appeared as a guest during Spinal Tap's 'One Night Only World Tour' at Wembley Arena, during the songs "Short And Sweet" and "Heavy Duty".
In March 2010, Emerson received a Frankfurt Music Prize from the city of Frankfurt. In the same month, the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra made a premier performance of "Tarkus" arranged by a renowned Japanese composer, Takashi Yoshimatsu.
Keith Emerson and Monster Moog synthesiser, May 2010
Emerson toured with Greg Lake in the US and Canada during spring of 2010, doing a series of "An Intimate Evening with Emerson and Lake" duo shows in which they performed newly arranged versions of the music of Emerson, Lake & Palmerthe Nice, and King Crimsonas well as Emerson's new original composition. On 25 July 2010, a one-off Emerson, Lake & Palmer reunion concert closed the High Voltage Festival as the main act in Victoria Park, East London, to commemorate the band's 40th anniversary.[16]
In September 2011, Emerson began working with the renowned conductor Terje Mikkelsen, along with the Keith Emerson Band featuringMarc Bonilla and the Munich Radio Orchestra on new orchestral renditions of ELP classics and their new compositions. The project "The Three Fates" were premiered in Norway early September 2012 supervised and some performed by Norwegian professor and musicianBjørn Ole Rasch for the Simax label. Recent years, several notable classic music composers, conductors and musicians have been performing various orchestral versions of Emerson's compositions, such as "Tarkus" and "Piano Concerto No.1", around the world. As of 2012, the documentary film about Emerson "Emerson: Pictures of an Exhibitionist" was in post production. He occasionally sits in with jazz orchestras performing new arrangements of ELP pieces as well as standard jazz pieces.
In 2014 Emerson was inducted into the Hammond Hall of Fame.[17]


On stage Emerson started out on Hammond organ, with a grand piano toward the back of the stage. By the end of his time with the Nice, the standard arrangement was two Hammond organs, a C-3 (only cosmetically different from a B-3) and an L-100, placed facing each other with the C-3 to the left from the audience point of view. The L-100 took plenty of abuse during the stage act and was usually reinforced, to the point where it weighed so much that, on at least one occasion, Emerson became trapped beneath it and had to be rescued by a roadie. At any given time Emerson owned several L-100 models, in various stages of repair, to support his act. The C-3, in contrast, seems to have lasted for years.[citation needed]
Although the Hammond L-100 with its shorter manuals is considered a "poor man's" Hammond, Emerson not only played much of the early Nice music on his L-100, but also made good use of some of its unique features which his bigger Hammond C-3 does not provide. The L-100 has a self-starting motor, which – if turned off and on in short intervals once the organ is up and running, renders the higher notes into a wailing howl because the tone generating mechanism is tied to a synchronous motor, which then tries to re-synchronize to the mains line frequency with every interruption of the power. The L-100 also features a spring-loaded reverb tank, which produces bomb-like noises if shaken. Both effects can be heard in abundance on "Rondo 69". On Ars Longa Vita Brevis Emerson uses the reverb tank as a musical instrument, tapping the internal spring against the tank bottom in an effort to create a chromatic scale of "boings".[citation needed]
With ELP, Emerson added the Moog synthesiser behind the C-3 with the keyboard and ribbon controller stacked on the top of the organ. The ribbon controller allowed Emerson to vary pitch, volume or timbre of the output from the Moog by moving his finger up and down the length of a touch-sensitive strip. It also could be used as a phallic symbol, which quickly became a feature of the act. When the Minimoog entered the act it was placed where needed, such as on top of the grand piano. The same location was also used for an electric Clavinet keyboard, used almost exclusively for the encore piece "Nut Rocker".[citation needed]
During the Brain Salad Surgery tour of 1974 (one show of which was documented on the 3-LP set, Welcome Back My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends), Emerson's keyboard setup included the Hammond C-3 organ, run through multiple Leslie speakers driven by HiWatt guitar amplifiers, the Moog 3C modular synthesiser (modified by addition of various modules and an oscilloscope) with ribbon controller, a Steinway concert grand piano with a Moog Minimoog synthesiser on top of it (used for the steel drum part on Karn Evil 9, 2nd Impression), an upright acoustic-electric piano that was used for honky-tonk piano sounds, a Hohner Clavinet and another Moog Minimoog synthesiser. Emerson also used a prototype polyphonic synthesiser produced by Moog, which was the test bed for the Moog Polymoog polyphonic synthesiser. The original synthesiser setup as envisioned by Moog was called the Constellation, and consisted of three instruments – the polyphonic synthesiser, called the Apollo, a monophonic lead synthesiser called the Lyra, and a bass-pedal synthesiser, called the Taurus. Moog eventually produced the Moog Taurus bass pedal synthesiser as a separate instrument, as well as the Polymoog Synthesiser and Polymoog Keyboard. The Apollo polyphonic synthesiser is currently at a keyboard museum in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Emerson still owns the Lyra synthesiser.[citation needed]
Occasionally Emerson used a pipe organ, when available. In particular, at the Newcastle City Hall he used the Harrison & Harrison pipe organ for the introductory section ofPictures at an Exhibition. The organ is located at the rear above the stage, at the top of a series of steps where choirs can stand. The end of the introductory passage is followed by a drum roll, covering the time while Emerson descended the steps. While all went well for the recording used to produce the album, the debut tour performance at the same venue ground to a halt as the power failed, just as Emerson arrived at the Hammond organ to open the next part of the piece. After a lengthy delay the performance continued with only the Hammond L-100 functioning.[citation needed]
Emerson also used the organ at the Royal Festival Hall for "The Three Fates" from the eponymous debut album by the group. He also used another pipe organ for "The Only Way (Hymn)" from Tarkus. Emerson used the Royal Festival Hall pipe organ again in October 2002 for the introductory quotation from Dvořák's 9th Symphony ("From the New World"), before running back to the stage and performing "America (2nd Amendment)".[citation needed]
Amplifiers and speakers behind Emerson became more elaborate, including a Leslie unit. There was also a board attached to the front of the stack, intended as a target for his knife throwing. He was given his trademark knife, an authentic Nazi dagger, by Lemmy, who was a roadie for the Nice in his earlier days.[18] During the Brain Salad Surgery tour, at the end of the show, a sequencer in the Moog Modular synthesiser was set running at an increasing rate, with the Moog Synthesiser pivoting to face the audience while a large pair of silver bat wings was deployed at the back of the synthesiser.[citation needed]
As the technology of electronic keyboard instruments became more sophisticated, Emerson was quick to adopt new instruments, such as the Yamaha GX1 polyphonic synthesiser, one of which can be seen on the video promoting "Fanfare for the Common Man". Emerson was reported to have spent $50,000 to buy the Yamaha GX-1 synthesiser at the time of the Works Volume 1 album. Emerson later bought a second GX-1 from John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, to use to repair his GX-1, which was damaged by a tractor crash into Emerson's home studio. At the time that Emerson left England in the early 1990s to move to Santa Monica, California, he sold the majority of his keyboard equipment, though not the modular Moog. The original Yamaha GX-1 was bought by Hans Zimmer of movie soundtrack fame, while the John Paul Jones GX-1 was bought by a collector in Italy.[citation needed]
In 1978 Emerson became the official endorser of the world's first fully polyphonic synthesisers, the Korg PS-3300 and PS-3100. He started recording with them around this time too and the Korg PS-3300 was heavily used on the ELP album Love Beach. He carried on using it into the 1980s, the instrument dominating the 1981 film soundtrack for the filmNighthawks which starred Sylvester Stallone.

Playing style[edit]

He would sometimes reach into the interior of his piano and hit, pluck or strum the strings with his hand. The introduction to "Take a Pebble" included chords and arpeggios played by pressing down on keys, to raise the dampers from the strings, and playing the strings inside the piano as one might play the autoharp. In the live performance of "Hang on to A Dream" with the Nice, recorded for the post-breakup album Elegy, he performed a cadenza of sorts hitting the piano strings with a small hammer, followed by a lengthy wind-down, returning to the song in which he alternated keyboard arpeggios with blows directly on the bass strings.[citation needed]
In addition to his experimentation and innovation listed above, Emerson also incorporated unique musical stylization into his work. Emerson is recognized for integrating different sounds into what he would write, utilizing methods of both horizontal and vertical contrast. Horizontal contrast is the use of distinct styles in a piece of music, combined by alternating between two different segments (most frequently alternating classical and non-classical); this technique can be seen in numerous works, such as "Rondo," “Tantalising Maggie," “The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack" and others. Vertical contrast is the combination of multiple styles simultaneously; Emerson would frequently play a given style in one hand, and a contrasting one in the other. This structure can be seen in works such as "Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite," “Rondo," and others.[19]

Film and television scores[edit]

After 1980 Emerson provided the music for a number of films, including Dario Argento's Inferno (1980), the action thriller Nighthawks (1981), Lucio Fulci's Murder Rock (1984),Michele Soavi's horror film The Church (1989) and more recently Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). He was also the composer for the short-lived 1994 US animated television seriesIron Man.[20]

Personal life and death[edit]

Emerson married his Danish girlfriend, Elinor, around Christmas 1969. They had two sons, Aaron Ole Emerson and Damon Keith Emerson, but later divorced.[21]
In September 2010, Emerson released a message stating: "During a routine medical examination, a colonoscopy revealed a rather dangerous polyp in my lower colon. It is the conclusion of the doctors here in London that I must undergo surgery immediately. Unfortunately, the timing of this urgent surgery does not allow me to start touring in early October because of the required period of hospitalization and recuperation. I must remain optimistic that all will turn out well".[22]
Emerson died on 10 March 2016 in Santa Monica, California of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.[23]
Former ELP bandmate, Carl Palmer said, "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."[24]



  • Honky (1982)
  • The Christmas Album (1988)
  • Changing States (aka Cream of Emerson Soup) (1995)
  • Emerson Plays Emerson (2002)
  • Keith Emerson Band featuring Marc Bonilla (2008)
  • The Three Fates Project (with Marc Bonilla, Terje Mikkelsen) (2012)
Live albums
  • Boys Club – Live From California (with Glenn HughesMarc Bonilla) (2009)
  • Moscow (with Keith Emerson Band Featuring Marc Bonilla) CD & DVD (2010)
  • Live From Manticore Hall (with Greg Lake) (2014)
Soundtrack albums
  • Chord Sampler (1984)
  • The Emerson Collection (1986)
  • At the Movies (2005)
  • Hammer It Out – The anthology (2005)
  • Off the Shelf (2006)
  • "Honky Tonk Train Blues" (Lewis) b/w "Barrelhouse Shake-Down" (1976)[25]

As part of a group[edit]

For Emerson's work with the Nice, see The Nice Discography. For Emerson's work with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, see Emerson, Lake & Palmer discography. For Emerson's work with Emerson, Lake & Powell, see Emerson, Lake & Powell Discography. For Emerson's work with 3, see 3 Discography.
Emerson also appeared with the short-lived group Aliens of Extraordinary Ability with Stuart Smith, Richie Onori, Marvin Sperling and Robbie Wykoff.[26][dead link]

Partial list of pieces based on other composers' works[edit]

Note that lack of credit does not imply plagiarism. It is certain that, where required, royalties were paid to composers or their estates. Permission to use pieces was sometimes denied by the composer's family or estate, as for instance with Gustav Holst's Mars, the Bringer of WarAaron Copland was said to be somewhat puzzled by Emerson's take onFanfare For the Common Man, but approved its use. Alberto Ginastera, on the other hand, was thrilled by Emerson's electronic realisation of his first piano concerto, the fourth movement of which appeared on their album Brain Salad Surgery under the title "Toccata," and declared that he wished he could have done it in that fashion.

With the Nice[edit]

With ELP[edit]

With Billy Sherwood[edit]

Contemporary usage[edit]

The surreal comedy series Big Train featured Emerson portrayed by Kevin Eldon, as a Roman slave fighting his enemies with progressive rock.[28]
The long-running comic-strip character Keef da Blade in the Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, student newspaper Lachesis (1970s)[29] is based largely on Emerson, the character's name being presumably a reference to the musician’s trademark stage antics with knives.

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