Entertainment & Arts

Progressive rock legend Emerson dies

Media captionA look at the career of Keith Emerson

Keith Emerson, the co-founder and keyboardist of progressive rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer, has died aged 71, according to his former band mates.

"We regret to announce that Keith Emerson died last night at his home in Santa Monica, Los Angeles," read a statement on the band's Facebook page.

Yorkshire-born Emerson was one of the top keyboardists of the prog rock era.

He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Santa Monica police confirmed to the BBC.

His death was being investigated as a suicide, police added.

'Gentle soul'

A police spokesman said Emerson's body was found in the early hours of Friday morning by his girlfriend Mari Kawaguchi at their flat in the Californian city.

Former band mate Carl Palmer said: "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.

"I will always remember his warm smile, good sense of humour, compelling showmanship, and dedication to his musical craft."

Image copyright Tony Byers
Image caption Keith Emerson pictured at ELP's first gig, at Plymouth Guildhall in August 1970

Inspired by Jimi Hendrix's theatrics with the electric guitar, Emerson was famous for his showmanship and outlandish on-stage performance style.

"That part of the act was something that just felt natural to do; something that allowed me be more expressive," he told Counterculture magazine.

ELP achieved an international following and were particularly popular in Britain and Japan. Several of the group's albums, including Tarkus, Trilogy, and Brain Salad Surgery entered the top five on the British chart.

Tarkus, released in 1971, featured an opening track lasting more than 20 minutes, inspired by the fictional Tarkus character - a half-tank, half-armadillo creature that would appear on stage at gigs.

Synthesizer tribute

Before ELP, Emerson - who was born in Yorkshire in 1944 - was a member of The Nice, which formed in 1967 but disbanded three years later.

In later life he pursued a solo career and remained active in the music business. He was forced to call off a tour in 2010 due to an abnormal growth in his colon, but had a tour of Japan scheduled for next month.

His last concert took place in July 2015 at the Barbican in London, where he performed alongside the BBC Concert Orchestra in a tribute to Robert Moog, the inventor of the Moog synthesizer.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The band, pictured here in 1970, with Emerson on left, were very popular in the UK and Japan

Comedy writer, producer and radio DJ Danny Baker also paid tribute to Emerson, who he described as "the maestro".

He tweeted: "ELP, Pavilion Piccadilly 1971. Still got the ticket still got the program still got the sound in my ears. RIP Keith."

A message of admiration was also made by chart-topping musician Mark Ronson, who paid tribute to Emerson by tweeting a link to a live video performance of ELP.

Steve Hackett, former lead guitarist with Genesis, praised his talent, saying: "I think a lot of pop stars are there because they've got great hairstyles or could dance wonderfully.

"But he was, above all, a fantastic musician, arranger and writer - and a great showman, of course.

"He was the real thing, the genuine article. "

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