O anúncio do falecimento do músico foi feito pelos seus companheiros nos ELP, o guitarrista Greg Lake e o baterista Carl Palmer, na página da banda no Facebook.
A nota afirmava: “Lamentamos anunciar que Keith Emerson faleceu na noite passada, na sua casa, em Santa Mónica, Los Angeles, aos 71 anos. Pedimos que respeitem a privacidade e luto dos familiares”.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer were the quintessential progressive rock band of their time and had filled arenas with fans before ever releasing their first official album.
Back in 1969 Keith Emerson, keyboard virtuoso, was working with the group The Nice and was performing alongside new progressive band King Crimson at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. The bass player for King Crimson, Greg Lake, decided that he and Emerson might create music together and the end result was to conclude the need for a drummer. The new drummer search began with the potential candidate, Mitch Mitchell, who had been the drummer for Jimi Hendrix in his recently folded group The Experience.
The audition was proposed yet never occurred and for over forty years fans and journalist continued the audition rumor. Finally, the former manager of Cream, Robert Stigwood, offered the name of Carl Palmer, not yet 20 years old and playing with a group called Atomic Rooster and formerly with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Palmer was not enthusiastic about leaving a band he had spent a great amount of effort to help create but he was convinced to join after the experience of playing with Lake and Emerson.
There were two reasons for the name Emerson, Lake & Palmer, first, to remove the focus on Emerson who had a larger name recognition at the time than the other two and second, to diminish the erroneous idea of being the “new Nice”. The new group performed their first show in Guildhall, Plymouth, on August 23, 1970 and six days later, at the Isle of Wight festival, an appearance that was a monumental event and garnered massive attention for the young musicians. “It was the biggest show any of us had ever done. The next day we were world-famous.” -Greg Lake They had signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records due to the “drawing power as a live band.” Emerson provides the story,”The president of Atlantic, Ahmet Ertegun, tells me the reason he signed us is because we could sell out 20,000-seaters before we even had a record out.
That was enough for him to think that a lot of people would go out and buy the record when it did come out.” Emerson, Lake & Palmer, their debut album was released about a month after the astonishing live performances and was mostly a selection of solo pieces. Emerson provide his arrangement of a series of classical pieces(Bach’s French Suite No. 1 in D minor, BWV 812 and Bartok’s ‘Allegro Barbaro’) along with an original organ/piano piece called the “The Three Fates”. Lake offered two ballads, the first being an extended folky work “Take a Pebble”, and the other, “Lucky Man”, a song he wrote at the age of twelve on his very first guitar. Palmer’s contribution was a drum solo called “Tank”. Due to Lake’s “Lucky Man”, the album received inordinate radio airplay and combined with the Isle of Wight performance, it became a surprise hit in America and soon their commercial success was rapidly producing international acclaim.
The only competition remotely close to this level of achievement was their come-lately future rivals progressive rock band Yes. The signature styles of Emerson, Lake & Palmer were nailed down as progressive rock, symphonic rock and art rock and variations therein.
In 1973, ELP formed their own record label, Manticore, and purchased a cinema to use for their rehearsals and subsequently released what was to become their most well known studio album, Brain Salad Surgery. This collection was considered their most ambitious album yet. It was one of the first recordings to use synthesised percussion in the form of pick-ups fitted on an acoustic drum kit that triggered electronic sounds. The soon to follow tours were documented on an expansive three album live recording Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends. ELP was almost tied with Led Zeppelin for highest grossing live band in the world near the end of 1974.
Knowing that what goes up must come down, the pendulum would soon swing toward the mirror of ELP’s success. The band had become so extravagant by 1975 and after the tours concluded in 1978, the band was no longer the “darling” they had been for the public or the critics. Emerson conceded the loss of millions of dollars during their last musical projects and stated, they(Lake and Palmer)still blame him for it, “you and your bloody orchestra”.
What ever the blame the gentlemen had an extraordinary run of success and achievement and are wise to be grateful for the time they were “THE” international Super Group for Progressive Rock. In the mid 1980’s the band tried a new ELP as Emerson, Lake & Powell, this drummer was former Rainbow and session musician Cozy Powell. Although the group was still outstanding as performers, the original rise to fame would not be the same path for this second incarnation.