THE death of Greg Lake has left me numb.
Kids from my generation all grew up with at least one Prog Rock band as a personal backdrop to adolescence… and for me the choice was simple: it was always Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
Keyboard player Keith Emerson was a local lad from my home area of Worthing and at once drew me and many school friends to his experimental classical, jazz, rock band.
We loved them, and I still treasure one abiding memory of four of us sixth formers cramming into the back row of the Worthing Odeon to watch the movie of their live Pictures at an Exhibition – a glorious pastiche of Mussorgsky’s symphony.
So, Keith Emerson’s untimely death in March this year, hit hard, as part of my youth was lost forever.
Now his band mate Greg Lake has also gone, before his time, after a long and stubborn battle with cancer.
One of the founding fathers of progressive rock, he is known for songs including In the Court of the Crimson King and I Believe in Father Christmas.
But I will remember him and Keith Emerson for much more than that.
Lake’s manager Stewart Young said this morning: “Greg Lake will stay in my heart forever, as he has always been.”
Born in Bournemouth – just along the south coast from Worthing – Lake was given his first guitar at the age of 12 and took lessons from a local tutor.
He formed a close friendship with fellow student Robert Fripp, with whom he formed King Crimson in 1969.
Their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King featured such songs as 21st Century Schizoid Man.
It set a standard for progressive rock and received a glowing, well-publicised testimonial from The Who’s Pete Townshend.
But their success was short-lived. Within a year, founding member Mike Giles quit and Lake refused to work with the band.
He was then approached by Emerson, who had supported King Crimson on a North American tour and needed a singer for his new band.
Joined by Atomic Rooster drummer Carl Palmer, ELP made their live debut at the Guildhall in Plymouth in 1970 before giving a career-making performance at the Isle of Wight Festival.
Unusually, the band combined heavy rock riffs with a jazz and classical influence. They scored hit albums with Pictures at an Exhibition, Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery – many of them produced by Lake.
The band went on to enjoy chart success in 1977 with their version of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.
They sold more than 48 million records, and Lake continued to be an influential and popular touring musician even after the band wound down in the late 1970s.
“The greatest music is made for love, not for money,” Lake said on his official website.
“The early ELP albums were pioneering because there is no standing still; time is always moving forward.”
Although this year has just 23 days left to run, it has been a tragedy for the shocking loss of so many wonderful musicians.
When a musician dies it’s always sad.
No matter what they were like in their personal lives, their music probably helped at least one person get through a hard time.
Music has saved my life more than once.
So I tip my hat to remember some of the horrid losses of some of my favourite musicians from 2016:
7 Dec 2016 Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), 69
22 Nov 2016 Craig Gill (Inspiral Carpets), 44
13 Nov 2016 Leon Russell, 74
07 Nov 2016 Leonard Cohen, 82
21 Apr 2016 Prince, 57,
19 Apr 2016 Pete Zorn, 65
06 Apr 2016 Merle Haggard, 79
05 Apr 2016 Dave Swarbrick, 75
29 Mar 2016 Andy Newman (Thunderclap Newman), 73
10 Mar 2016 Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), 71
25 Feb 2016 John Chilton (The Feetwarmers), 83
18 Jan 2016 Glenn Frey (Eagles), 67
17 Jan 2016 Dale Griffin (Mott the Hoople), 67
10 Jan 2016 David Bowie, 69