Emerson: Loss of another rock icon

Keith Emerson in 2015 (AP/Paul A. Hebert/Inovision)
Keith Emerson in 2015 (AP/Paul A. Hebert/Inovision)

Another rock legend from the 70s died Friday.  His partner, Mari Lawwaguchi, confirmed the death of 71-year-old keyboard artist Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Police said his death came from a gunshot wound and the department is investigating it as a possible suicide.

Along with drummer Carl Palmer and vocalist-guitarist Greg Lake, the trio recorded six platinum-selling albums of progressive rock in the 70s.

As with many popular performers in that period, I had the pleasure of covering Emerson, Lake and Palmer at the Mississippi River Festival, which I covered as a reporter and photographer with The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois.

Emerson’s death comes on the heels of the loss of Glenn Frey of The Eagles in January. The Eagle also performed at the MRF and were the subject of an entertaining and informative interview.

ELP did not grant interviews after their show at MRF.  Their show also restricted how close photographers could be to the stage so my photos were limited to long-range shots with a telephoto.

ELP disbanded in 1971, reunited in 1991, disbanded again and reunited for a 2010 tour.  Emerson wrote a memoir, “Pictures of an Exhbitionist,” a graphic report of a hedonistic life.  He considered himself a fan of classical music and blues and never considered himself a rock or pop star.

Kawagucki said his true love was classical:

All these people from the classical world were playing his music. When he was young, he was using classical music for rock and now the wheel has turned and now the classical world is using his compositions. At home, he either listened to either classical or jazz. We never listened to rock.

In its report today of Emerson’s death, The Washington Post reported:

Although it filled stadiums, ELP also was ridiculed as the embodiment of the pomposity and self-indulgence that rock supposedly stood against.

Perhaps but ELP, the Eagles and other groups were part of a wild ride of the 1970s.  Memories of that period were brought to life for Amy and I this week after The Telegraph published an interview that focused on my days at the paper

In 1973, ELP released “Brain Salad Surgery,” an album that included “Karn Evil 9,” a 30-minute piece with a Moog synthesizer and lyric like:

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside
There behind a glass stands a real blade of grass
Be careful as you pass, move along, move along

Come inside, the show’s about to start
Guaranteed to blow your head apart
Rest assured you’ll get your money’s worth
Greatest show in Heaven, Hell or Earth
You’ve got to see the show, it’s a dynamo
You’ve got to see the show, it’s rock and roll, oh

As noted, the song included extensive use of the Moog electronic synthesizer.  Dr. Robert Moog, creator of the instrument, died at 71 in Asheville, N.C., on August 21, 2005.

He joins a growing list of icons that have lost from the 70s.

 

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