Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer found dead aged 71

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Keith Emerson, the keyboardist with the progressive rock supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer, has died at the age of 71.

Emerson was known as one of the most successful and experimental musicians of his era, with most of his work with the band being released in the 1970s.

Police found Emerson’s body at his home in Santa Monica, California. Sergeant Rudy Camarena said it appeared Emerson had taken his own life.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the group wrote: “We regret to announce that Keith Emerson died last night at his home in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, aged 71. We ask that the family’s privacy and grief be respected.”

His former colleague Carl Palmer wrote on the social network: “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.

“He was a pioneer and an innovator whose musical genius touched all of us in the worlds of rock, classical and jazz. I will always remember his warm smile, good sense of humour, compelling showmanship, and dedication to his musical craft. I am very lucky to have known him and to have made the music we did, together. Rest in peace, Keith.”

Along with Greg Lake, they formed one of the most successful progressive rock bands of the 1970s. In his own words, Emerson said the band was “out on a limb” from the outset.

In an interview with the Guardian in 2002, he said: “I’d wanted to create a three-piece band with the biggest sound possible, a kind of three-man electric orchestra. We had an ambitious repertoire of rocked-up classics based on Bach, Bartok, Janacek, Mussorgsky and Ginastera intercut with blues, boogie, rock’n’roll, and we’d experiment, extemporise, anywhere in between.

“We’d play this multi-layered stuff – complex time changes and a lot of stage theatrics, like me spinning into space while playing the piano – without anyone working tapes or pulling strings behind the scenes. We were a live band. We could play anything we recorded. I’ve never liked being stuck in studios.”

A Rolling Stone readers’ poll ranked the band as the seventh-best prog rock group, although noting that it sometimes suffered from an image problem.

“Emerson, Lake and Palmer get a bad rap,” the magazine said. “Some critics (particularly punk rock fans) say their name makes them sound more like a law firm than a rock band, and that they signified everything wrong with the bloated arena rock of the late 1970s. People say they single-handedly inspired the punk revolution.

“That’s an awful lot to pin on a single rock group, and even if that’s true – it’s quite the accomplishment. Haters aside, it’s hard to deny songs like Lucky Man, Karn Evil 9 and their rendition of Fanfare For The Common Man.”

Emerson, who was born in Yorkshire, was also a member of the Nice, his first commercially successful musical outfit.

Emerson later worked as a solo artist and wrote an autobiography, Pictures of an Exhibitionist, in 2004.

With Reuters

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Kevin Rawlinson and agencies, for theguardian.com on Saturday 12th March 2016 03.15 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010