The music world lost a legendary artist this past weekend. Keith Emerson was one of the most visible ambassadors of synthesizers in the 1970’s, recording one of the first synth solos on his Moog for the track posted above, the sadly prescient “Lucky Man”. With Greg Lake and Carl Palmer, Emerson formed one of the most popular Progressive Rock bands ever, ELP, becoming known for his huge stage rig which included the “Monster Moog”, a wall-sized modular synthesizer.
Emerson was also known as a talented composer and arranger, creating arrangements of famous orchestral and jazz works for ELP and previous bands. Most notably, while with ELP, Emerson arranged the popular classical piece “Pictures At An Exhibition” by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky and Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man” and “Hoedown”, in some cases recording entire albums of these arrangements.
Moog recently re-released the Monster Moog in honor of Keith Emerson and his many contributions to the music world. The 550-pound synth that Emerson (with his crew of stage techs) hauled around the world was given new life as an astronomically priced recreation, asking a mere $150,000 for one model. Emerson took great pride in the synth, touring with it despite common instabilities that were found in analog synthesizers of the period. Here he describes it to a crowd of fans…
While losing so many great musicians this year has been tragic, the loss of Emerson has been particularly disturbing. Plagued by a nerve condition in his hand that prevented him from performing with the lightning precision he has always been known for, Keith faced a deep depression. Even worse, he read comments and reviews from hyper-critical fans, claiming he had lost his talent and that he should give up. Imagine the personal catastrophe this must have been, to be physically unable to express himself through his instrument and then to be tormented for it. In the end, sadly, Emerson took his own life.
All musicians deal with rejection, failure and the physical challenges of performing an instrument. For many, this is a catalyst, sometimes to improve, sometimes to change their approach, sometimes to move on completely. For Emerson, the idea of continuing to perform below his own expectations was too much.
If you are depressed and considering suicide, don’t wait to talk to someone. Call someone, anyone, and get the help you need. We all need more artistic beauty in this world, not more tragedy. If you need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.