FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Farewell to the Wizard: the Music of Keith Emerson

by

emerson

The author and Keith Emerson at Keswick Theatre, 2010.

One of my least favorite words is “late.” I hate people and things being late. And I hate being informed in a Google news feed about the “late” somebody. Generally, it means they died way too soon. Why do I never hear about the “late” Henry Kissinger or the “late” Dick Cheney? Why does festering malignant evil seem to go on and on?

So it was today that I learned about Keith Emerson’s death on March 10. One third of the prog rock supergroup Emerson Lake and Palmer, Emerson was my keyboard hero since I was fourteen years old.

I first saw ELP in 1970 after the release of their self-titled debut. They couldn’t even fill the Hara Arena hockey rink in Dayton, Ohio. Shortly thereafter, however, they exploded and the next year when they came it was sold out. I had a seat on the floor, about ten rows from the stage. After Emerson finished playing the beautiful piano solo in the middle of “Take a Pebble,” a guy sitting in front of me pushed his way through the rows of folding chairs, leapt up on the stage and shook Emerson’s hand, before being hustled off by security guards. I totally understood why this guy did this — the tension, the beauty and the greatness were unbearable without some release. Years later, I read Emerson’s biography, Pictures of An Exibitionist, and he referred to being incredibly sick that night, not remarking on the beside-himself fan at all.

Emerson was responsible for turning a lot of young people on to classical music. Classical music could be exciting — not most of it, but plenty of it if one knew where to look — and Emerson was a great guide. Classical music could rock, whether it was Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” or Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Hoedown.” Emerson was also generous enough to transcribe many of ELP’s greatest songs and his most difficult piano parts, making them available to people like me who could read music but not play by ear. It’s incalculable how much enjoyment Emerson brought me since 1970. To see Emerson in action watch this video.

Back in 2010, after a Philadelphia show with Emerson and Greg Lake, I stuck around outside with dozens of other fans near the tour bus, freezing our asses off and, sure enough, Keith and Greg came out for pictures and autographs. (Wow, this rock god, this guy who gave us the flying piano, this whirlwind of passion and theatricality isn’t ten feet tall!) He was completely gracious and friendly. I never imagined that my little ol’ long-haired, head-banded, blacklit hippy self from Springfield, Ohio would ever get to meet the great Keith Emerson — but it happened. Maybe there’s hope on the Kissinger and Cheney thing yet.

Randy Shields can be reached at music2hi4thehumanear@gmail.com. His writings and art are collected at RandyShields.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail