Keith Emerson, the co-founder and keyboardist of progressive rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer, has died aged 71, according to his former bandmates. The band’s official website stated that Emerson died at his home in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, on 10th March. Emerson was considered one of the top keyboard players 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. 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.
Emerson found his first commercial success with the Nice in the late 1960s, before becoming a founding member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), one of the early supergroups, in 1970. Emerson, Lake & Palmer were critically and commercially successful through much of the 1970s, becoming one of the best-known progressive rock groups of the era. Following the break-up of ELP, at the end of the decade, Emerson had modest success in his solo career and with ELP again in the 1980s, as well as with the short-lived progressive rock band 3, with the album To the Power of Three. ELP reunited during the early 1990s, releasing the album Black Moon. Emerson also reunited the Nice in 2002 for a tour. His last album, The Three Fates Project, was released in 2012. Inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s theatrics with the electric guitar, Emerson was famous for his showmanship and outlandish on-stage performance style.
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. 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.