2016 has already proven to be the year of the dead rock star. Especially if you happen to be a male, say 68-72. We’ve lost some greats: David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Dale Griffin, Paul Kantner, Natalie Cole, Maurice White, and, this one hits closest to home, Jimmy Bain, long time bassist to Rainbow and Ronnie James Dio. My blog threatens to become an obituary column, which I NOT want, yet how can we allow these greats to pass without a note?
Friday, as I eagerly looked forward a superb evening with my dear friend Michelle (aka “Mitch”) which entailed a dinner out and a concert, translation food, wine, and heavenly music, I heard yet another piece of terrible news. Keith Emerson died.
Three words, but unless you are a music fan, geek, aficionado such as myself, you can’t know the pathos laden in those sixteen letters. Keith Emerson is likely the greatest keyboard player of our time. No, he is, or was, that good. I remember seeing Yes (many times) with my amazing friend and college roommate, Jim. Rick Wakeman’s keyboard skills amazed me to such an extent that I said, “Surely, he has to be the best there is?” Jim turned to me and said, “No, because Keith Emerson exists.”
It was a couple of years until I got to see Emerson one summer night at Cal Expo in Sacramento, CA. At the time he played in Emerson, Lake and Palmer. However, my favorite lineup remains the Emerson, Lake and Powell- they rocked a bit harder. Substitute the perennial Carl Palmer for the late, lamented Cozy Powell (awesome drummer!!!). Five minutes into the show, I remember turning to Jim and saying, “Because Keith Emerson exists.” Jim smiled. “Yep,” he said.
And that pretty much summed it up. Keith Emerson towered above the other rock keyboardists of the century. As good as they were, and some are VERY good, Alan Parsons, Jens Johansen,the above mentioned Rick Wakeman, Jon Lord, Rod Argent, Mark Kelly, and Tony Banks among others. If you were unfortunate enough to miss his time, Google it- you’ll see.
To top sadness off with tragedy, Emerson shot himself. One bullet to the head. He was 71. I don’t know what demons he fought, the dragons he failed to slay. I only know that the world is bleaker for his passing. Music lights our lives, inspires us to seek the road ahead, and coaxes us to dream anew.
So Mitch and I sat at dinner, with our very nice bottle of wine and toasted to the genius, the amazing proficiency, passion, and gift that Emerson brought to rock. There was mourning as well to be sure. But if you have to lose someone so great, an artist of such power then at least have the right way to honor him. For Michelle and I after we toasted the man we went to a concert. We saw Nightwish, a band from Finland whose keyboardist, Tuomas Holopainen, comes from the neo-classical, power rock tradition that the great man so loved. Hearing one Emerson’s heirs on stage? Well, it wasn’t the man himself but the passion lived on.
We listened to metal with a driving keyboard edge, metal that owed something to Keith Emerson’s genius and followed his tradition. Click here for a sample of Tuomas Holopainen’s solos.
Keith Emerson- R.I.P. Much love.
This post was written by Erika Gardner. She’s a native Californian, lifelong lover of fantastical adventures, and a dedicated Whovian. If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on www.erikagardner.com Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner, “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.Or check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.