Keith Noel Emerson (born 2 November 1944) is a British keyboard player and composer. Formerly a member of The T-Bones, V.I.P.s and as backing band to P.P. Arnold (which evolved into The Nice), he went on to start Emerson Lake and Palmer (ELP), one of the first supergroups, in 1970. Following the first breakup of ELP circa 1979, Emerson went on to modest success with other bands including Emerson, Lake & Powell, 3 and subsequent ELP reunions during the early 90's. He reunited The Nice in 2002 to go on tour and currently tours (through 2006) with The Keith Emerson Band.
Emerson was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire but grew up in the seaside resort of Worthing, West Sussex, England.
As a child, he learned western classical music, from which he derived a lot of inspiration to create his own style, combining classical music, jazz, and rock themes. Emerson became intrigued with the Hammond organ after hearing jazz organist Jack McDuff perform "Rock Candy" and it subsequently became his instrument of choice for performing in the late 60s. In 1969, Emerson incorporated the Moog modular synthesizer into his battery of keyboards. While other artists such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had used the Moog in studio recordings, Emerson was the first artist to tour with one.
He is known for his technical virtuosity and for his live antics, including using knives to wedge down specific keys of his Hammond organ during solos, playing the organ upside down while having it lie over him and backwards while standing behind it. He also employed a special rig to rotate his piano end-over-end while he's "playing" it (purely theatrical, since acoustic pianos cannot function when turned upside down in this manner). Along with contemporaries Richard Wright of Pink Floyd, Tony Banks of Genesis, Billy Ritchie of Clouds and Rick Wakeman of Yes, Emerson is widely regarded as one of the top keyboard players of the progressive rock era, and was to some observers, one of the most technically accomplished of the lot.
Central to much of Keith Emerson's music are rock arrangements of classical compositions, ranging from (lots of) J. S. Bach via Modest Mussorgsky to 20th century composers like Béla Bartók, Aaron Copland, Leoš Janáček and Alberto Ginastera. Occasionally Emerson has "borrowed" certain classical and jazz works without giving credit, particularly early in his career, from the late 1960s until 1972; the song "Rondo" by The Nice is a 4/4 interpretation of "Blue Rondo à la Turk" by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, originally in 9/8 time signature. Furthermore, on ELP's eponymous first album, Emerson's classical quotes went largely uncredited; "The Barbarian" and "Knife Edge" being notable examples. Note-for-note extracts were taken from pieces by Bartók, Janáček and Bach, mixed in with some original material, and credited completely to Emerson, Lake, Palmer and roadie Richard Fraser. By 1971, with the releases Pictures At An Exhibition and Trilogy, Emerson began to fully credit classical composers.
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