Another of the greats passes; Greg Lake, bassist and vocalist of ELP and King Crimson has left us at the age of 69.
He’s best known of course for Emerson Lake and Palmer, though his short tenure in the first incarnation of King Crimson runs it a very close second. “In The Court of the Crimson King” is one of those ground-breaking records that sounded quite unlike anything that had come before, and his soaring vocals were a big part of that. He also contributed to the follow-up “In the Wake of Poseidon” even though he’d left the band to join ELP at that point.
The wider public who aren’t familiar with the 1970s progressive rock canon probably know Greg Lake for his 1976 Christmas single “I Believe in Father Christmas”. Compared to the typical saccharine seasonal fare it’s surprisingly deep and thought provoking. It often gets described as dark and cynical with lines like “But instead it just kept on raining, a veil of tears for the virgin birth”. But I think there’s a positive message at the heart of it; Christmas is what we make of it.
So rest in peace, Greg, and thanks for all the music
I have spent part of Saturday morning reading the comments against The Guardian’s obituary of Keith Emerson and reporting trolls to the moderators. It rather confirms my belief that the media narrative surrounding Punk was the worst thing to happen in the entire history of British popular music.
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)
A thought. The Libertines are to indie what ELP are to prog. Loved by their fans but epitomising everything non-fans loathe about their entire genre.