Prog-Rock Pioneer and Composer Keith Emerson Dead at 71

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The world says farewell to one of electronic music’s most important architects: Keith Emerson.

In what is becoming a sad, grim ritual ’round these parts as of late, SHOCK is miserable to report the passing of a true legend. We have learned that electronic music and progressive rock pioneer Keith Emerson died Friday at the age of 71.

A visit to Emerson’s own website reveals his haunting tributes to other fellow icons we lost recently.

As the story goes, Italian horror film maverick Dario Argento, a huge fan of the prog-rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer, witnessed Keith Emerson in one of his patented, plastic ivory-mashing fits on stage, climaxing an ELP performance by “murdering” his keyboard, stabbing it to death with large daggers whole flailing around, spastically.

Argento’s mind was blown.

This is what he saw:

It was that encounter that led Argento to seek a more progressive, edgier sound for his PROFONDO ROSSO (DEEP RED) score, cherry-picking Italian rock band Cherry Five and helping to mold them into the band Goblin, effectively turning them into Italy’s version of ELP and forever defining the “sound” of the giallo film.

Later, Argento would call on Emerson to fully score one of his own movies, the sequel to SUSPIRIA, 1980’s INFERNO.

Emerson also worked with Goblin keyboardist Maurizio Guarini on the score for Lucio Fulci’s 1984 slasher MURDEROCK.

Other film credits for Emerson include his blistering score for the Sylvester Stallone/Rutger Hauer vehicle NIGHTHAWKS and working on the Argento/Michele Soavi horror film LA CHIESA (THE CHURCH).

Of course, even though his film work is the strongest point of entry for readers of this news site, Emerson’s impact on the world of popular music cannot be easily measured. The British born musician first made a name for himself with the UK space rock band The Nice before co-founding ELP with King Crimson vocalist Greg Lake and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown drummer Carl Palmer. ELP found immediate success with their eponymous debut 1970 album, a major release whose use of Keith Emerson’s delirious “moog” solos and soaring Hammond organs helped shape the sound that bands like Pink Floyd and Gentle Giant and, yes, Goblin, would continue to pursue and evolve.

That album yielded ELP’s first and perhaps biggest hit, the gorgeous and haunting anthem “Lucky Man”:

Later years saw Emerson in and out of ELP, composing for film and television (he even made the music for the 2004 animated IRON MAN series) and, in 2014, after a lifetime experimenting with sound, he was inducted into the Hammond Hall of Fame for his innovative use of the Hammond organ and keyboard-based music in general.

Emerson was found in his home on Friday, dead via a single bullet to the head. No confirmation as of this writing as to whether or not the artist died by his own hand, but it sadly looks likely.

Rest well, warrior of weird rock. Your music lives on for as long as the world spins.

 

 

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