Keith Emerson (1944 – 2016) Tributes

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Two geniuses of the keyboard: Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman (photo from Wakeman's Facebook page via Steve Brant)

Two geniuses of the keyboard: Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman (photo from Wakeman’s Facebook page via Steve Brant)

Fellow musicians made tributes to Keith Emerson upon learning of his death. The Emerson, Lake & Palmer keyboardist, who was born November 2, 1944, died at age 71 on March 11, 2016.

We’ve selectively picked only a handful that we thought would be most impactful. And if you’re like us, we think you’ll agree that the progressive rock trio have been way overlooked in the annals of classic rock.

Our obituary appears here

Greg Lake: To all ELP friends and fans all over the world, I would like to express my deep sadness upon hearing this tragic news. As you know Keith and I spent many of the best years of our lives together and to witness his life coming to an end in the way that it has is painful, both to myself and to all who knew him. 

As sad and tragic as Keith’s death is, I would not want this to be the lasting memory people take away with them. What I will always remember about Keith Emerson was his remarkable talent as a musician and composer and his gift and passion to entertain. Music was his life and despite some of the difficulties he encountered I am sure that the music he created will live on forever.

My deepest condolences go to Keith’s family.

May he now be at peace.

Greg Lake
London – March 12, 2016

[Lake died later that same year, on December 7.]

Carl Palmer: I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend and brother-in-music, Keith Emerson. Keith was a gentle soul whose love for music and passion for his performance as a keyboard player will remain unmatched for many years to come. He was a pioneer and an innovator whose musical genius touched all of us in the worlds of rock, classical and jazz. I will always remember his warm smile, good sense of humor, compelling showmanship, and dedication to his musical craft. I am very lucky to have known him and to have made the music we did, together. Rest in peace, Keith.
Carl Palmer
March 11, 2016

Rick Wakeman: Steve Brant kindly tweeted this photo of myself and Keith and it is devastating what has happened and I heard the news shortly after it had happened and that was just before going on stage with my son Adam. Keith and I always got on great and had tried on numerous occasions to produce an album together, but it never happened because of third parties interfering, which upset us both. We did jam together on a couple of occasions and knew we could have produced something quite special, but sadly that was never to be. My heartfelt love goes out to Mari and all the extended family. I will miss you.

Related: Emerson’s grandson and Rick Wakeman performed at a tribute concert

Brian May (edited): Very sad to hear that the brilliant Keys man Keith Emerson took his own life yesterday. How awful that such a life can end in such pain and despair. I only knew him from the point of view of a fan, really, although we did speak a couple of times.

Tim Staffell and I used to go to see The Nice, pretty much every week at the old Marquee Club in Wardour Street, around 1969, it would be, I guess.

The Nice were a truly ‘Progressive’ group, and thrilling to us. …The most dazzling of all was Keith Emerson, a towering virtuoso on the Hammond organ. …He was a stunning star. The Nice broke up, Keith teamed up with star drummer Carl Palmer, and top bassist Greg Lake, and Emerson Lake and Palmer went on to make history as one of the very first Stadium rock acts.

By that time we were out on the road, so I wasn’t so conscious of what they were doing. But most of the rest of the world was.

RIP Keith.

Respects. I hope you still felt proud.

Peter Gabriel: The music world suffered yet another loss last week with the very sad suicide of Keith Emerson.

Tony Banks and I were both big fans of Keith’s first successful group, The Nice. It was sometimes a four piece with Davey O’List, Lee Jackson on bass and Ian Hague on drums. With ‘Rondo’ and ‘America’ and Keith’s theatrics, it was without doubt one of the most exciting live groups in the UK. The group was initially produced and managed by Andrew Loog Oldham, but brought in sports journalist Tony Stratton Smith when they fell out with Oldham. It was because of The Nice that Genesis ended up with Tony Stratton Smith.

Many more people were aware of ELP (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), which played to much bigger audiences, but for me it was the intensity, excitement and musicality of The Nice’s music that was particularly inspiring. Not many people know that Jimmy Hendrix was so impressed that he asked to join the band, and I was always sad I never saw them play together.

It is sad to say goodbye to him.

– pg

Yes: We are devastated to hear the sad news of the passing of the legendary Keith Emerson. Keith has been a close friend and collaborator with many of the YES family over the years, and our thoughts and condolences are with his family at this time.

Geoffrey Downes: Devastated to hear of the death of the greatest rock keyboardist ever, my dear friend Keith Emerson. A true genius and inspiration. ‪#‎rip‬ Farewell dearest ‘Fingers’ – simply the greatest. So sad. Privileged to have known you, sir. ‪#‎keithemerson‬ 🎹 🙏🏼 ”

Alan White: I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the death of my good friend Keith Emerson. It was just over a month ago we sat having a drink and a laugh together at the NAMM show. He was there with Mari, relaxed and in good spirits—we always seemed to have much to discuss.

An amazing showman with unequaled musical talent and energized stage presence, his love for his craft was evident in everything he did. He loved to perform and entertain, he was truly one of a kind.

Keith was also my friend. Going back to late 60’s, early 70’s in England, we were comrades in what became labeled the Progressive Rock movement; Yes, ELP, Genesis; we traveled down similar paths and had many mutual friends.

These early days always bring back fond memories but many of those musicians are no longer with us today. It’s hard for me to believe that Keith is gone, a tragedy for the world but a devastating loss for me and the many who loved him.

RIP Keith.

Keith’s passion for good music, whether it was classical, jazz or rock, was in itself one of the things that led the progressive rock movement.

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Best Classic Bands Staff

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