Keith Emerson, one of the most legendary keyboardists in rock history, thanks to his work in Emerson, Lake & Palmer and The Nice, died on March 10, according ELP’s official Facebook page. He was 71.
“We regret to announce that Keith Emerson died last night at his home in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, aged 71,” the social media post reads. “We ask that the family’s privacy and grief be respected.”
The death of Emerson has been ruled a suicide, the Santa Monica Police Department confirmed to Billboard. According to the police, Emerson suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend and brother-in-music, Keith Emerson,” Carl Palmer said on his website. “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 humor, 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.”
The British supergroup formed in 1970 and released nine albums over the course of its career, the first five of which hit the top 10 of the Billboard 200. The band’s 1970 self-titled debut is a prog-rock classic; the follow-up, 1971’s Tarkus, reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Brain Salad Surgery (1973) is regarded by many fans as their finest work. Emerson, Lake & Palmer broke up in 1979, with Emerson and Lake continuing on with a new drummer as Emerson, Lake & Powell. The original trio reunited in the early ‘90s to release two more albums.
Prior to his success with the immensely popular and influential outift, Emerson played with British band The Nice, melding rock music with classical and jazz influences. Emerson was classically trained as a child, and one of the most technically proficient keyboard players of his generation. He started experimenting with the Moog synthesizer after hearing the landmark 1968 LP Switched-On Bach. Emerson’s showmanship while performing on the Moog, Hammond organ or piano was one of the trio’s defining elements.
On Sunday, singer Greg Lake expressed his “deep sadness upon hearing this tragic news.”
“As you know, Keith and I spent many of the best years of our lives together, and to witness his life coming to an end in the way that it has is painful, both to myself and to all who knew him,” he said in a statement.
“As sad and tragic as Keith’s death is, I would not want this to be the lasting memory people take away with them. What I will always remember about Keith Emerson was his remarkable talent as a musician and composer and his gift and passion to entertain. Music was his life, and despite some of the difficulties he encountered, I am sure that the music he created will live on forever.”
This story first appeared on Billboard.com
March 11, 2:49 p.m. This story has been updated to include that Emerson’s death is being investigated as a suicide.
March 13, 10:11 a.m. Added statement from Greg Lake.