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Keith Emerson Dies: Rockers React

Michael Putland, Getty Images
Michael Putland, Getty Images

Yesterday (March 11), it was reported that Keith Emerson, the keyboardist of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, died at the age of 71. Since then, many of his friends and admirers in the rock community have expressed their thoughts about him on social media.

Police in his hometown of Santa Monica, Calif., have ruled his death a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot. It is believed that he was suffering from depression as a result of nerve damage in one hand that had restricted his ability to perform.

Born in England in 1944, Emerson was a classically trained pianist who also loved rock and jazz. His arrival on the London rock scene in 1967 as a member of the Nice coincided with the birth of progressive rock and the advent of synthesizers. After three years, which saw them raise eyebrows with a controversial cover of Leonard Bernstein’s “America” from West Side Story, the Nice broke up, and Emerson joined forces with former King Crimson bassist/vocalist Greg Lake and drummer Carl Palmer.

Throughout the ’70s, Emerson, Lake and Palmer combined rock with classical structures and jazz improvisations. In addition to their own compositions, they adapted works by such composers as Modest Mussorgsky, Aaron Copland and Bela Bartok for their own sound and performed them in concert with a flamboyant, over-the-top style that drew heavily on theatrics. Following their breakup in 1979, Emerson composed film scores, reunited with Lake and Palmer on several occasions – both as a trio and in offshoot bands – and remained an active touring musician.

Lake shared an emotional message today in remembrance of his fallen bandmate:

To all ELP friends and fans all over the world, I would like to express my deep sadness upon hearing this tragic news. As you know Keith and I spent many of the best years of our lives together and to witness his life coming to an end in the way that it has is painful, both to myself and to all who knew him.

As sad and tragic as Keith’s death is, I would not want this to be the lasting memory people take away with them. What I will always remember about Keith Emerson was his remarkable talent as a musician and composer and his gift and passion to entertain. Music was his life and despite some of the difficulties he encountered I am sure that the music he created will live on forever.

After Emerson’s death became public, many other classic rockers – including hard rock and prog giants like Paul Stanley, Rick Wakeman of Yes, Brian May and Geezer Butler – likewise paid tribute to Emerson on Twitter. Read what they have to say below.

Rockers We’ve Lost in 2016

Next: Top 10 Keith Emerson Songs

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