Keith Noel Emerson 2 November — 11 March was an English keyboardist, songwriter, and film composer. He played keyboards in a number of bands before finding his first commercial success with the Nice in the late s. Emerson also reunited the Nice in for a tour. During the s, Emerson resumed his solo career, including touring with his own Keith Emerson Band featuring guitarist Marc Bonilla and collaborating with several orchestras.
He died by suicide on 11 March at his home in Santa Monica, California. Emerson was widely regarded as one of the top keyboard players of the progressive rock era. Emerson was born on 2 November in TodmordenWest Yorkshire. They arranged piano lessons for Emerson when he was eight; he received tuition from "local little old ladies" and learned to read music. Although Emerson did not own a record player, he enjoyed listening to music on the radio, particularly Floyd Cramer 's slip note-style " On the Rebound " and the work of Dudley Moore.
He used jazz sheet music from Dave Brubeck and George Shearing and learned about jazz piano from books. Emerson later described himself: "I was a very serious child. I used to walk around with Beethoven sonatas under my arm. However, I was very good at avoiding being beaten up by the bullies. So, they thought I was kind of cool and left me alone. Emerson became interested in the Hammond organ after hearing jazz organist Jack McDuff perform "Rock Candy", and the Hammond became his instrument of choice in the late s.
Emerson acquired his first Hammond organ, an L model, at the age of 15 or 16, on hire purchase. Upon leaving school he worked at Lloyds Bank Registrars where he played the piano in the bar at lunch times and local pubs at nights. He was ultimately fired from the bank.
While performing in the Worthing area, Emerson received an offer to join his first professional group, the T-Bones, the backing band of blues singer Gary Farr. Emerson then joined The V. Instructed by the band to keep playing, he produced some explosion and machine gun sounds with the Hammond organ, which stopped the fight.
His band members told him to repeat the stunt at the next concert. Arnold asked him to form a backing band. The group's sound was centred on Emerson's Hammond organ showmanship and theatrical abuse of the instrument, and their radical rearrangements of classical music themes as "symphonic rock".
To increase the visual interest of his show, Emerson would abuse his Hammond L organ by, among other things, hitting it, beating it with a whip, pushing it over, riding it across the stage like a horse, playing with it lying on top of him, and wedging knives into the keyboard.
Emerson's show with the Nice has been cited as having a strong influence on heavy metal musicians. Emerson became well known for his work with the Nice. Emerson first heard a Moog when a record shop owner played Switched-On Bach for him. Emerson said, "My God that's incredible, what is that played on? Vickers helped patch the Moog, and the concert was a success. Emerson's performance of " Also sprach Zarathustra " a composition most famous for its use in the film A Space Odyssey was acclaimed.
Emerson later explained, "I thought this was great. I've got to have one of these. After six months of focused rehearsal, the band played its first shows and recorded its first album, having quickly obtained a record deal with Atlantic Records.
ELP became popular immediately after their Isle of Wight Festival performance, and continued to tour regularly throughout the s. They seemed harmless enough. Today we would have been arrested as terrorists. ELP's record deal provided funds for Emerson to buy his own Moog modular synthesizer.
He later said, "It cost a lot of money and it arrived and I excitedly got it The Morning Sun - Keith Emerson / Marc Bonilla / Terje Mikkelsen / The Keith Emerson Band* / Münchne of the box stuck it on the table and thought, 'Wow That's Great!
There were all these leads and stuff, there was no instruction manual. While other artists such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had used the Moog in studio recordings, Emerson was the first artist to tour with one.
The Moog was a temperamental device; the oscillators went out of tune with temperature change. He later said, "I had my faithful roady Rocky tune the instrument to A just prior to the audience coming in, but once the audience came into the auditorium and the temperature rose up then everything went out of tune.
His willingness to experiment with the Moog led to unexpected results, such The Morning Sun - Keith Emerson / Marc Bonilla / Terje Mikkelsen / The Keith Emerson Band* / Münchne the time he stumbled into the signature sound for "Hoedown", one of ELP's most popular tunes. He later said, "We'd started working on that arrangement and then I hit, I don't know what, I switched a blue button and I put a patch cord in there, but anyway 'whoooeee'. Even with its unpredictability, it became an indispensable component of not only ELP's concerts, but also Emerson's The Morning Sun - Keith Emerson / Marc Bonilla / Terje Mikkelsen / The Keith Emerson Band* / Münchne.
As synthesiser technology evolved, Emerson went on to use a variety of other synthesisers made by Moog and other companies, including the Minimoogthe Yamaha GX-1 used on ELP's Works Volume 1 album, and several models by Korg see Instrumentation. Emerson performed several notable rock arrangements of classical compositions, ranging from J. Occasionally Emerson quoted from classical and jazz works without giving credit, particularly early in his career, from the late s until On ELP's eponymous first albumEmerson's classical quotes went largely uncredited.
Emerson indicated in an interview that he based his version of Pictures at an Exhibition on Mussorgsky's original piano composition, rather than on Maurice Ravel 's later orchestration of the work.
Following ELP's tour, the members agreed to put the band on temporary hiatus and pursue individual solo projects. During this time, Emerson composed his "Piano Concerto No. Emerson's concerto has since been performed by classical pianists, most notably Jeffrey Biegel, who has performed it several times and recorded it with Emerson's permission.
In addition to his technical skills at playing and composing, Emerson was a theatrical performer. The Morning Sun - Keith Emerson / Marc Bonilla / Terje Mikkelsen / The Keith Emerson Band* / Münchne in ELP, Emerson continued to some degree the physical abuse of his Hammond organ that he had developed with the Nice, including playing the organ upside down while having it lie over him and using knives to wedge down specific keys and sustain notes during solos.
In addition to using his knives on the organ, he also engaged in knife throwing onstage, using a target fastened in front of his Leslie speakers.
Over time, Emerson toned down his act with the organ in response to ELP's greater reliance on spectacular stage props. For example, during the Brain Salad Surgery tour, at the end of the show, a sequencer in Emerson's Moog Modular synthesiser was set running at an increasing rate, with the synthesiser pivoting to face the audience while emitting smoke and deploying a large pair of silver bat wings from its back.
One of Emerson's memorable live show stunts with ELP involved playing a piano suspended 15 to 20 feet in mid-air and then rotated end-over-end with Emerson sitting at it. This was purely for visual effect, as according to Greg Lake, the piano was fake and had no works inside. He explained:. One of my road crew said we found this guy that used to work in the circus and he does a lot of things for TV and special effects and he's made something that might interest you, it's a piano that spins round, and I immediately responded, oh that sounds interesting.
I happened to be within the New York area and I was driven over to Long Island to a guy called Bob McCarthy, and there in the background he had this piano situated. So he called his wife down from upstairs and said, darling could you demonstrate this for Keith?
I looked on, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. His wife comes down and sits on the seat and up she goes in the air and proceeds Muskrat Ramble - Various - American Superstars - Stardust spin around.
I thought, well that's great! Then Bob asked me, do you want to have a go at it? Sophisticated Hula - Amy Hanaialii, Willie K - Nostalgia, okay. You need to understand, below the keyboard there's an inverted-tee, like a bar.
You wrap your legs around the down pipe and put your heels under the inverted-tee. Then you go up in the air and try and do your best to play. It was a little difficult to play at first because of the centrifugal force, so it wasn't easy. I think we actually used it for the first time at Madison Square Gardenit was a Christmas concert. People in the audience were so astounded they couldn't quite believe what they were seeing. Later on that coming year the California Jam came up and I said we have to do that there.
Bob drove the whole contraption down to the California Jam and there was very little space to set it up. There were loads of bands up on that stage, all having to do their set and then getting their equipment off. Now, with the moog, the Hammonds, Carl's gongs and everything, it was hard enough to just get that off stage. We had the spinning piano and everything that went along with it and we tried to find a place to situate it. It ended up going just at the end of the stage, so when the piano went up it was literally over the heads of the audience.
After that every TV show I did came the question Keith, how do you spin around on that piano? I'd say what about my music? When I had the honor of meeting the great jazz pianist Dave Brubeck just before he died, he said, Keith you've got to tell me how do you spin around on that piano? Dave Brubeck was 90 years old then and I said, 'Dave, don't try it! The spinning piano was part of ELP's stage show only for a short time due to the complexity of the Watermelon Man - Various - Jazz Street and the number of injuries sustained by Emerson while performing it, including many finger injuries and a broken nose.
After ELP disbanded inEmerson pursued a variety of projects during the s and s, including solo releases, soundtrack work and other bands, including supergroup the Best.
In the early s, Emerson rejoined the reunited ELP, but the group broke up again by the end of that decade. InEmerson released his debut solo album, Honky. Recorded in the Bahamas with local musicians, it departed from Emerson's usual style in featuring calypso and reggae songs, and was generally not well received,  except in Italy where it was a hit. Starting in the mids, Emerson formed several short-lived supergroups.
Stylistically, it was a departure Do A Bitu Walkin - Noodband With Greetje Bijma - Shiver their s progressive rock peers, Genesis Herb Alperts Tijuana Brass* - Volume 2 Asia.
This project focused on covering songs from each of the members' past bands. The group's name came from the application process for a US work visaand the members included several British musicians Prelude, Act 2 (Les Dragons D Alcala) - Bizet*, Ansermet*, LOrchestre De La Suisse Romande - Carme, like Emerson, had come to Los Angeles to further their careers.
After the tour, Emerson was forced to take a year off from playing due to a nerve condition affecting his right hand see Health issues. Emerson participated in the Nice's reunion tour and a 40th anniversary show for ELP, preceded by a short duo tour with Greg Lake. Apart from these reunions, he continued his solo career, releasing solo and soundtrack albums, touring with his own Keith Emerson Band, and making occasional guest appearances.