Tag Archives: Keith Emerson

Keith Emerson and Reviews

Some words following the tragic death of Keith Emerson ought to be pause for thought for those of us who review things:

Emerson’s girlfriend said at the weekend that he’d become “tormented with worry” about upcoming show in Japan, after suffering a nervous problem that made it difficult for him to play.

Mari Kawaguchi told the Daily Mail: “His right hand and arm had given him problems for years. He had an operation a few years ago but the pain and nerve issues were getting worse.

“Keith was worried – he read all the criticism online and was a sensitive soul. Last year he played concerts and people posted mean comments such as, ‘I wish he would stop playing.’

“He was planning to retire after Japan. He was a perfectionist and the thought he wouldn’t play perfectly made him depressed, nervous and anxious.”

Yes it can be cathartic to read highly negative reviews, and even more so to write them. It’s especially true when the subject is somebody you never really liked in the first place. But just as it’s unfair on audiences to pull too many punches, no reviewer should be so lacking in empathy that they completely ignore the effect that reading those reviews might have on the artist.

Critical reviews are an important part of any cultural ecosystem; many artists will never fulfil their full potential if all they hear is fannish cheerleading. But if you can’t frame criticism constructively, directed at an artist you believe can do better, what is the purpose of your criticism?

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RIP Keith Emerson

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)

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