Exposé Online banner

Keith Emerson RIP

Former ELP bandmate Carl Palmer announced today that Keith Emerson has died. The keyboard player who was one of the icons of progressive rock and one of the most-imitated innovators on his instrument(s) was 71.

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-03-11

Keith Emerson in concertEmerson's flashy style, love of classical music, and sense of humor set a standard for the keyboards as a lead instrument, and cemented his place alongside Rick Wakeman and Tony Banks as one of the great keyboard players of progressive rock music. He first came to public attention playing Hammond organ in a band called The V.I.P.'s, then founded The Nice, which became a successful "proto-prog" band in the late 60s. It was with the founding of Emerson Lake & Palmer in 1970 that his style of aggressive playing on the organ and Moog synthesizers really exploded into the world's consciousness. He was the first artist to use synthesizers outside the studio, taking a Moog modular setup on the road before such things as the Minimoog became available.

His style encompassed a wide variety of influences, from his noted love of adapting classical music to rock (including Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and works by Antonín Dvořák, Béla Bartók, Leoš Janáček, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and many more) to covering jazz and pop tunes in his own way. ELP became one of the archetypal progressive rock bands, but didn't avoid the genre's downfall toward the end of the 70s, when simpler tastes prevailed and the band's powerful, complex music was considered pretentious and overblown. In spite of the decline of mass support, Emerson became the idol of keyboard players around the world, with generations of emulators, for good or ill.

From Carl Palmer's official statement:

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend and brother-in-music, Keith Emerson. 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. He was a pioneer and an innovator whose musical genius touched all of us in the worlds of rock, classical and jazz. I will always remember his warm smile, good sense of humor, compelling showmanship, and dedication to his musical craft. I am very lucky to have known him and to have made the music we did, together. Rest in peace, Keith.


Filed under: Obituaries

Related artist(s): Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), Keith Emerson, The Nice

Latest news

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Richard Pinhas and Merzbow - Keio Line – Having redefined the scale of sonic monumentalism with the 2006 two-disc set Metatron, Keio Line cleaves to the opposite – a two disc set of comparatively simple instrumentation reliant upon the...  (2009) » Read more

Béla Fleck and the Flecktones - Outbound – I’ve been a big fan of Béla Fleck for quite a while, so I’m not sure how this one slipped under my radar for so long, especially given the stellar list of guest artists....  (2001) » Read more

Enterphase - Phase One – It's been a long three years since Fred Becker's first solo CD release Inner, Stellar. I've been looking for and expecting a new release from him for quite some time. Now we can rejoice. For his...  (1995) » Read more

Spirit - Feedback – There's plenty of good reasons why this is one of the last Spirit albums to receive the digital treatment. After Sardonicus (or more properly during Sardonicus), most of the original lineup flew the...  (1996) » Read more

Headshear - Headshear – Guitar junkies wake up! This one’s for you. I’ve had the good fortune to see this instrumental four-piece play a couple times around the Bay Area, and the varied and mesmerizing...  (2007) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues