2016 contines to be a complete and utter bastard of a year, as yet another of the giant figues of the progressive rock world passes.
Much like Chris Squire, who died last year, Keith Emerson was one of the defining figures of progressive rock. He was both a virtuoso musician and a showman, combining jaw-dropping keyboard pyrotechnics with sticking daggers into a Hammond organ. In some ways he was to the keyboards what his contemporary Jimi Hendrix was to the guitar.
As this wonderful tribute by Anne-Marie Helder, who knew him, says, he was also a wonderful human being with no trace of rock star ego.
I saw him live the once, when ELP reformed to headline the main stage at the High Voltage Festival at Victoria Park in London in 2010, which turned out to be one of their last gigs together. Even if they weren’t quite the band they had been at their peak, it was still a hugely enjoyable and entertaining show, everything a festival headliner should be.
For some of the punk generation, he represented the antithesis of everything they stood for. But surely his taking avant-garde classical music and performing it in the most rock’n'roll manner imaginable a lot closer to the spirit of punk that much of today’s derivative indie music?
Rest in Rock, Keith, and enjoy jamming up there with David Bowie and Lemmy.
(Slightly revised from yesterday’s post)