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:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail