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Keith Emerson (1944 - 2016)

Getty Images / Contributor / Anwar Hussein

Keith Emerson (1944 - 2016)

Keith Emerson, British keyboardist and founding member of progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, died Thursday, March 10, 2016 according to The Associated Press. He was 71.

Emerson formed Emerson, Lake & Palmer, sometimes referred to as ELP, with guitarist Greg Lake and drummer Carl Palmer in 1970. Each member had achieved success with prior bands, so ELP became known as a supergroup. They received a record contract after their breakthrough performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.

Emerson was known for his virtuosity with Hammond organ and Moog synthesizers. He was also a showman who treated stadium-sized audiences to spectacular antics during live performances including sticking knives in keys to hold them down and his famous flying piano, a grand piano he rode as it flipped end over end.

Highlights of his time with ELP included the albums “Tarkus” (1971) and “Brain Salad Surgery” (1973). Other notable groups Emerson performed with include The Nice, The Best with John Entwistle, Joe Walsh, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Simon Phillips, and Emerson, Lake & Powell. He also released six solo albums.

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Born on November 2, 1944 in Todmorden, Yorkshire, Emerson studied classical and jazz music before blending them with rock into the heady style which eventually brought him critical and commercial success.

“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,” Carl Palmer said in a statement on Facebook. “I will always remember his warm smile, good sense of humor, compelling showmanship, and dedication to his musical craft.”


Emerson died at his home in Santa Monica, California. According to the Los Angeles coroner's findings, Emerson died by suicide. Emerson’s girlfriend, Mari Kawaguchi, noted that he had been struggling with nerve and muscle pain in his right hand and had undergone surgery on that hand in recent years. Kawaguchi shared that Emerson had been frustrated with the effect this health issue had on his playing. Statements from Emerson's bandmates emphasized Emerson's life and talent, asking that fans choose to remember him for these things rather than for the manner of his death. Lake wrote, "Music was his life and, despite some of the difficulties he encountered, I am sure that the music he created will live on forever." Palmer's statement included, "I will always remember his warm smile, good sense of humor, compelling showmanship, and dedication to his musical craft."

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